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Viral TikTok video shows family hugging through plastic screen after uncle’s death

He died of COVID-19, and the family didn’t want to risk further exposure.


Rachel Kiley


Perhaps the most difficult thing people have had to deal with during the pandemic is the inability to say goodbye to their loved ones as they are dying from COVID-19. And that difficulty is usually compounded by the subsequent inability to properly grieve with their families after the fact, due to the risk of exposure often being too great.

For one Michigan family, staying apart after the death of one of their own just wasn’t an option, and the lengths they went to in order to ensure they stayed safe while mourning together is really driving home the toll this pandemic is taking on people.

Nichole Thompson’s Uncle Tommy died from complications due to COVID-19 this month, and her father was forced to come up with a creative solution to allow the family to comfort each other while mitigating exposure risk, as some of them had been in contact with Tommy while he was sick.

A video Nichole posted to TikTok shows how her dad hung up a large plastic tarp outdoors and added arm sleeves on both sides so that people standing on either side of the contraption could give each other a hug.

While the footage begins with Nichole’s dad and aunt laughing over the ridiculousness of the situation, that laughter soon turns to tears as the communal mourning and comfort begins.

“I love you so much,” he says. “This was so worth it. I don’t want to let you go.”

As the video shows, it’s an unwieldy and imperfect solution to an unprecedented problem in this lifetime, but it exemplifies the sort of crisis families are facing across the world, and especially in the United States, where the spread of the virus only continues to get worse in many areas.

“It’s hard to understand what is truly going on until you start to lose the people close to you. It really made it feel real,” Nichole told BuzzFeed News.

The footage and the story behind it struck a chord with people who stumbled across Nichole’s video on TikTok.

“Wow I am a nurse and still can’t believe this is happening… I keep going but [it] hurts to see these realities and the patients I can’t help,” wrote @angelito775or.

Another user said the video “broke” them. “This CAN’T be the way we are living in this World. Why??? I’m still lost as to why.”

New COVID-19 cases in Michigan, where Nichole’s family lives, have increased by 45% in the past two weeks, with more spikes expected as we move into the holiday season. 

“Take the necessary precautions not only for yourself but for your loved ones,” she said, encouraging anyone moved by her TikTok to “think about the people around you” so that nobody else has to go to such extreme lengths to grieve the loss of a family member from this virus.

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