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Friends, Family Who Have Lost Loved Ones To COVID-19 Finding Comfort, Support With Others Amid 'Tsunami Of Grief'

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Across America, families are remembering loved ones lost to COVID-19, and despite the sorrow, many find comfort and support with others.

From the steps of Newark City Hall, candles flickered in the cold, end-of-December darkness Wednesday night.

"This is my candle in memory of 761 people. Hopefully all over the city, people are burning their candles," Mayor Ras Baraka said.

The citywide remembrance of the residents who died from COVID this year also honored family members left behind. Walter Andrews lost four people he loved, starting with his father-in-law.

"My wife, my daughter and my brother in Florida," Andrews said.


Earlier in the day, the soothing sounds of bells rang out from the church of St. Paul the Apostle as churches in the New York Archdiocese honored the 335,00 Americans who have passed during the pandemic.

Any comfort in this year of crisis is appreciated by those who have felt the unimaginable loss.

"It's been really hard to wrap my head around the fact that he's gone," Jersey City resident Sabila Khan told CBS2's Jessica Layton.

Khan's 76-year-old father died at Jersey City Medical Center in April.

The hospital is three blocks away from Khan's Jersey City home, but nobody in the family got to say goodbye.

"The fact that he died alone and scared ... it's making it really, really difficult for me to find closure," Khan said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

She started an online support group for those who have experience similar trauma. Nearly 5,000 have joined, and they add 100 new members a day.

"There are nine close family members that are left behind in the wake of every COVID death. This is a literal tsunami of grief," Khan said.

The page offers a place for people to share stories and mental health resources. It's a project that's given Khan purpose in her pain.

"It has become, as I've said, a life saver for me. It's keeping me afloat," she said.

She's grateful to give an outlet to the grieving and heartbroken that more people will need the group in 2021 as the COVID pandemic continues.

Jessica Layton contributed to this report.


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