Grief and Bereavement: New kinds of loss in the age of COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis presents us all with emotional and practical challenges, both personal and professional. Of all these challenges, none is more difficult to face in social isolation than loss, grief and bereavement. 

Grief and Bereavement: New kinds of loss in the age of COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis presents us all with emotional and practical challenges, both personal and professional. Of all these challenges, none is more difficult to face in social isolation than loss, grief and bereavement. 

Our support systems and rites of passage used to cope with these experiences are no longer available to us in their usual forms. As a result, processing experiences and emotions around grief and bereavement is even more complex. 

Cruse Bereavement Care estimates that, owing to the pandemic, 180,000 extra people are grieving in isolation in the UK alone. 900,000 people have been unable to attend funerals, or hold a funeral in the way they would have wanted to. To date, it is believed that 3.5 million people have been affected by a bereavement during the crisis. 

Unfortunately, as the virus continues to spread, we know that these numbers will increase.

 

Connecting around grief and bereavement

The Connection Coalition has recognised the clear need for additional support in this area right now. In response to requests from our members, we convened a webinar on 5th May focused on sharing the knowledge and expertise of Coalition members with expertise in supporting those experiencing loss. The webinar also offered a safe, welcoming space for their fellow members, many of whom have not previously worked with grief, to share the related challenges they’re facing, 

Our contributing speakers who made this possible included Alex Evans and Ivor Williams, authors of This Too Shall Pass. Alex and Ivor shared their insights from this valuable report, including the context of loss in our society and eight lessons to remember when dealing with grief. 

We were also joined by Andy Langford, Clinical Director at Cruse Bereavement Care. Based on Cruse's extensive experience of working on grief and bereavement with people of all ages, Andy shared 3 key principles:

  1. It is important to recognise the individual nature of grief: everyone will experience it differently at different times. 
  2. Think about how you manage exposure to the broader COVID-19 context to avoid being overwhelmed, as well as balancing this with self-care. 
  3. Finally, social support remains vital. This can be continued through small acts of compassion as simple as delivering a card or food shop to someone who you know is grieving. 

 

You can find more of Cruse Bereavement’s support resources here. 

 

Talking to children about grief

Suzie Phillips, Head of Clinical Governance at Winston’s Wish also offered valuable advice on supporting children and young people who are grieving. 

Suzie recognised that many people feel afraid of talking to children about death, but that it is important for parents and carers to remember that they don’t need to have all the answers. Children value the truth. Being there and listening is the best thing that you can do to comfort and support a grieving child. 

You can find out more and access support from Winston’s Wish here.

 

Adapting traditional ways of communal grieving

Poppy Mardall, Founder and CEO of Poppy’s Funerals, shared her valuable experience of working with grief and how we can adapt our traditional ways of communal grieving to the current crisis.  

Whilst many people may sadly be unable to attend a funeral in person, there are still many things we can do to hold someone we have lost near to us. Online vigils, lighting candles, writing letters, making their favourite food or planning for future memorials can all help the grieving process right now.

 

Dying to be Heard

Finally, we also heard from Toby Scott, Head of Communications and Campaigns at Hospice UK and Dying Matters. Toby kindly shared information about Dying Matters Awareness Week, which will take place next week, the 11th - 15th May. The theme this year is ‘Dying to be Heard’ and aims to promote the value of both talking and listening in conversations about dying, death and grief. 

It is more important now than ever that we build connections that can support those facing grief and bereavement in isolation. As Alex and Ivor’s report recognises: 

“Although grief is painful, we must recognise the importance of honouring it, both individually and collectively, and of allowing it to unfold in its own time.” 

 

Giving vital support for individuals processing loss

Stronger communities can offer the vital support individuals need to process loss. We would like to once again thank all of our speakers for sharing their expertise, and over sixty Connection Coalition members who participated. We hope this knowledge offers support in your current work. 

If you were unable to join us, you can access a recording of the Connection Coalition’s Grief and Bereavement webinar here

As always, you can get in touch with the Coalition team with any questions or feedback at hello@connectioncoalition.org.uk or join the Connection Coalition here.


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