When Clients Die – How COVID-19 Has Affected Me and How I Am Learning to Cope


With COVID-19 raging in India, on April 26th, my law office got an email from a client that went something like this:

The Chennai Consulate has canceled all appointments from today due to COVID. I am not feeling well and was admitted to a local hospital yesterday.

My office responded on the same day:

Wishing you a full and speedy recovery – aware of the situation in India…very dire. For now, we will reschedule the biometrics appointment in the US for a later date.

On May 6th, we received the following from the corporate employer:

Sad news. Just learned that [client’s name] passed away in India…not sure what needs to be done here.

On May 5th, we had received another email from yet another client whose parents were waiting for an interview after immigrant processing had been completed at the NVC:

My Mother passed away due to Covid last week. My parents were waiting for their final interview to be scheduled at the Consulate. Would it be possible to apply for visitor visa for my Father?[1]

More emails have followed, and we have been fielding calls from clients who either wish to travel abroad or arrange for loved ones to return. I am sure I am not alone in experiencing this. Many of you reading this article, I am sure, have your own stories to tell. Two recent articles drive home the impact of the pandemic. The first one was featured on AILA’s LinkedIn feed and the other is on this very blog Think Immigration . I wrote my own firm Blog post dealing with traveling during this pandemic and how to apply for a National Interest Exception (NIE) waiver. Professionally, I have dealt with this situation as best as I could. However, the emotional strain is something else.

Unlike medical practitioners who develop a certain ability to cope with emergencies and have groups dedicated to palliative care, I was not prepared to deal with so many end-of-life situations in such a short period of time. I can tell I am not alone in feeling this way, or for that matter isolated in dealing with these circumstances. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website has a page dedicated to coping with the grief and loss many people are experiencing during this pandemic. AILA has done a wonderful job putting together the lawyer well-being center with resources designed to help in just this kind of a situation, which is exactly where I turned a few weeks ago.

The Visualization Meditation session with Diana Santos was excellent and I cannot tell you how therapeutic it can be to take the time to simply meditate. I have increasingly felt the need to find some sense of normalcy amidst the chaos and a feeling of overall helplessness.

Reading also helps. I just finished this wonderful autobiography of Alex Trebek entitled “And the Answer Is…Reflections on my Life”. Given that the book deals with end-of-life decisions and coping with terminal cancer, it may feel like the wrong choice for a time like this. But believe me, Trebek does a fine job of discussing his life and its end like it was nothing more than another clue on Jeopardy. He does not sound at all preachy and is an excellent raconteur. Again, I found the book exceptionally satisfying and highly recommend it.

These past few weeks have been extremely stressful, but with a little practice and training, I believe I can work through my stress and find a way to cope with and overcome this very unusual year.

I want my fellow AILA members, our clients, and everyone who has dealt with this pandemic and its immense impact on our lives to know that you are not alone. We need to offer grace to ourselves, show empathy and understanding towards our fellow human beings, so we can come through this crucible perhaps somewhat altered, but certainly stronger and very much at peace

[1] All identifying details in the above examples have been changed to protect client confidentiality.

by Vaman Kidambi