It’s a tough time right now for everyone. But for those dealing with loss, it’s even harder since they can’t give their loved ones a proper send-off.

“I lost the love of my life of 30 years because of this virus and he’s gone now,” said Maria Santiago, the wife of Nelson Reyes.

For every Western New Yorker who dies from COVID-19, they leave behind a devastated family. 

“I wanted to be by his side so I can pray with him, tell him how much I love him, how much he’s done for me as my stepfather, it just hurts, that feels like a closure we’ll never have,” said Anna Marie Coleman, Nelson Reyes’ stepdaughter.

Nelson Reyes, 57, of Buffalo started feeling unwell in late March and then things quickly took a turn for the worse.

“We rushed him to the emergency room at Kenmore Mercy and they immediately took him to the ICU because he stopped breathing and they called my mom that night and they told my mom they had to put him on a ventilator,” Coleman said.

After being diagnosed with COVID-19, Reyes passed away in April. His loved ones are still in shock over the loss and even more hurt over not having a proper funeral for him.

“We come from a really big family and his family is in Puerto Rico, they’re poor and they don’t have money to come down here and also with the pandemic going on no one would have been able to come,” Coleman said.

Lynne Shine, a local mental health counselor, recommends finding other ways to grieve and remember your loved ones. You can set up Zoom meetings with family and friends to talk about your loved ones or even have socially distant drive-by processions.

“Sharing song lyrics or stories or pictures, that’s really important because someone needs to be able to remember their loved ones and hear how other people felt about their loved ones because the mourning time and grieving time are so very important,” she said.

The family plans to have a memorial for Reyes when the pandemic is over. They plead for people to continue to practice social distancing and take all precautions.

“We see too many people complaining way too much and they’re going to the stores, they’re not having any masks on, they’re not washing their hands properly, this is real and people are taking it as a joke,” said Ariana Coleman, Nelson Reyes’ granddaughter.

“I don’t think I’m ever to go to be the same again, I really don’t,” Santiago said.