Blog: Coping with bereavement during the Covid-19 pandemic
Published: 7 Dec 2020
For the past 10 years, the charity I founded has been providing bereavement support to people who lose a loved one to cancer. The whole premise of our support at The Loss Foundation is about connecting together people who have had similar losses.
"Grief is a human experience that we will all encounter and what we need more than anything is love, kindness and compassion." - Erin Thompson, Fellow
Fears of burdening people or upsetting them can stop people from opening up about their loss, as can the worry that people will think you are not coping if you admit to struggling with grief. All of these factors can make grief a very isolating experience. Add in a global pandemic where you cannot meet people in person, and the experience becomes even more isolating, scary and potentially dangerous.
When the pandemic hit, our charity moved all of its support groups online. We also opened up our support to those bereaved by Covid-19. The average person leaves behind 15 close loved ones, and with hundreds of people dying from Covid-19 in a single day, thousands were left to grieve alone.
For those experiencing bereavement during Covid-19, we suggest:
- Take care of the basics. For example, try to eat well, sleep and provide basic self-care. When these things are off kilter, everything else is so much harder.
- Allow space for difficult feelings. Sometimes we have the tendency to push difficult thoughts and feelings away, but it’s important to make room for those things too.
- Seek connection to others who have been through something similar, so you don’t feel alone in grief.
- If you didn’t get to be with your loved one at their death, write down what you would have liked to have said to them and let yourself be with all the emotions that come with that.
- Treat yourself as you would others in this situation. You need kindness and compassion.
We have been running weekly support groups online for people bereaved by cancer or Covid-19 since April 2020. The demand has been exponential and the feedback hugely positive. So we are doubling our number of volunteers and services in the coming months, and introducing online social events and workshops. This will allow us to shift from supporting 80 people a month to 160 people a month.
We miss running in-person services, but we also know that shifting our support online has made it accessible to people across the whole country. My Churchill Fellowship was focused on learning about good practice in bereavement support, which included making it scalable and accessible. Shifting support online has allowed us to take the first steps in that process.
We often judge ourselves for not doing things better in life and this happens in grief too. But grief is a human experience that we will all encounter and what we need more than anything is love, kindness and compassion - not just from others but from ourselves too.