Kids grapple with the human cost of coronavirus after 1M American deaths

The Koehne's on vacation before Eric's death.
The Koehne's on vacation before Eric's death. Photo credit Courtesy of Janice Koehne

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- President Joe Biden marked the millionth American coronavirus death on Thursday, and, almost two-and-a-half years into the pandemic, about 215,000 children have lost a caregiver to COVID-19, a group of education and healthcare experts called the COVID Collaborative estimated.

Tuesday’s Children, a non-profit formed to help children after 9/11, is now stepping up to help COVID victims with a new initiative dubbed the Covid  Response Project.

“We’ve been doing this work for over two decades, and we know when a child loses a parent it can have a long-term impact,” Sallie Lynch, a senior program and development consultant for Tuesday’s Children, told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell. “As children go through different developmental stages, they re-grieve and they experience their grief differently, so we know that these children who have lost a parent or caregiver to covid are going to need long term support.”

The non-profit is working to form a support network for children impacted by coronavirus by connecting them with other families that have lost a loved one, providing mentors and connecting them with a community that can fulfill some parental roles.

It also provides guidance for surviving caregivers so they can know what to expect as children grow.

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Bergen County resident Janice Koehne’s husband Eric died when they both contracted coronavirus in April 2021.

Now she’s raising two children, 13-year-old Colton and 15-year-old Kylie, on her own.

“Since Eric died, it’s definitely been a challenge dealing with our grief, dealing with raising children, raising teenagers by myself has been incredibly challenging,” said Janice. “I’m so grateful I have my children, and the three of us really connect and support each other. But it’s difficult.”

She said her children have been taking their father’s death differently, though both are coping okay given the circumstances.

Colton was despondent the first two weeks, but now seems to feel an obligation to the family to be strong in the face of grief, according to Janice.

Kylie is more expressive with her emotions. Some days are easier than others though, and she struggles with anxiety and depression as she processes her loss, Janice said.

Eric, Kylie and Colton when the kids were younger.
Eric, Kylie and Colton when the kids were younger. Photo credit Courtesy of Janice Koehne

“I think a lot of people are like ‘Yeah, it’s time to move on now,’ and you really don’t move on from this kind of thing,” said Kylie. “It sticks with you forever.”

Janice also expressed frustration at the omnipresence of COVID discussions, which has made her grief feel impossible to escape.

Friends and family have helped the Koehne’s through their grief though — bringing food, helping with the tasks of child rearing and providing emotional support.

“When Eric passed away we were overwhelmed with the amount of support that we got, and we were so so grateful for it,” said Janice. “We have this incredible group of friends that we’ve met over the years here in Lyndhurst that really were there for us.”

“To know that I have a network of friends that I can bounce ideas off of or ask them what I should do, and they’re able to help or they're able to take my kids and do things with my kids that I wouldn’t be able to do by myself — it’s been so, so important,” she continued. “I’m so grateful.”