bereavement - Bereavement support during the COVID-19 Pandemic

30 April 2020

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, many, many people are going to be affected by the impact of someone passing away. This may or may not be related to COVID-19.

Individuals, families, cultures, religious beliefs or none, when someone close to you dies, there are certain rituals that are part of your process of mourning. In these times of Coronavirus many of the ritual we would associate in the first few weeks when someone has died are not currently possible, and this makes managing grief at this time more difficult.It may help to know how grief will impact on you.

Grief is a natural reaction when someone has died. You may experience a range of rawness of emotions that you haven’t felt before, or that you weren’t expecting. At times these may feel over whelming and unbearable. These may include:

o Shock – that the person has died, that you didn’t get to see them before they died and the speed of the virus.
o Numbness and disbelief, the sense that it doesn’t feel real.
o Anger – with what’s happened, sometimes with those around you.
o Sadness – and emptiness
o Guilt – there may have been things you didn’t get to say, you weren’t able to be with the person when they died.
o Loneliness and longing – this may feel even more intense given the situation with lockdown
o Meaninglessness – what meaning does life hold and questioning this

Physically you may notice:

o Your sleep is affected, getting to sleep or staying asleep
o You may notice your dreams are more vivid
o A change in appetite
o More aches and pains in your body. You may notice you feel more anxious or panicky
o It’s much harder to concentrate or remember things

However it’s also important to remember this isn’t the same for everyone. We grieve differently, in different ways. Grief is draining both physically and emotionally and day to day life often feels much harder.

When someone is ill and in hospital

– Have you had a conversation beforehand to know what their wishes are? Although this is a conversation that there never seems to be the right time to have, if you know your loved ones wishes it will make it clearer for you and them if they are taken into hospital

– You may be able to telephone the ward or your family member/friend directly. Leave a message or text if you can’t get through.

If your family member or friend dies

There are currently restrictions on some of the rituals such as the washing of the body in Muslim faiths, open caskets or restrictions on the numbers of people attending funerals. With such a limited number of people able to attend a funeral or cremation you may want to consider ‘streaming’ the service so that others are able to witness it remotely.

You may also want to consider holding a memorial service at a later date so that those who didn’t attend are able to attend a service in the future. You may wish to plan or be part of a remote wake so you can raise a glass, share stories and connect with those who you would have been with at the burial.

In the days and weeks that follow

Talk to those around you, reach out to those who are grieving. It’s ok to cry down the phone and to have silence. This may well have happened if you were face to face with the person too.

Write things down whether it’s a memory, how you’re feeling, something you would like to share. If you prefer to draw or voice record, some people find this easier.

Some people find it comforting to have photos around. You may want to compile an album or print some off (Snapfish or Freeprint allows you 50 free photos a month)

You may want to light a candle

Friends and family may still offer practical support such as food shopping, meals. If this feels too much or you can’t get out, accept people’s offers of support.

Keeping a regular routine will help. Try and have a time for fresh air, tasks that you need to do, and things to look after yourself.

Each day try to rest and try to ensure you are getting some fresh air.

Support Lines

If you don’t feel able to talk with family of friends there are a number of support lines:

o CRUSE – 0808 808 1677 (free to call)

o Child Bereavement UK offers support to young people and parents – 0800 028 8840

o Anxiety UK, offering support with anxiety

o Bereavement Advice Centre, offering practical information and advice soon after a death, 0800 634 9494

o CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) 0808 802 5858

o GriefChat, a free space for grieving or bereaved people to text or talk online, Mon-Fri 9am-9pm

o The Loss Foundation, offering virtual groups:

o Samaritans: 116 123 (freephone number) or email:

o SHOUT, a 24/7 UK text service for people in crisis, on 85258.

o Silverline, a helpline for anyone over 55 years of age, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year: 0800 4 70 80 90

o Julia Samuel MBE, bereavement specialist, TedTalk on the power of pain