Bereavement is a difficult experience under any situation and is even more distressing with the challenging circumstances of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
We recognise that the death of a loved one can be a sad and difficult time and that you, your family and friends may need additional help and support particularly when some families may not have the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones before they died.
What happens when someone dies during COVID-19 pandemic?
Please telephone the hospital bereavement office where your loved one died.
Newham University Hospital
Tel: 020 7363 8056 or 020 7363 8055
St Bartholomew’s Hospital
Tel: 020 3465 5889 or 020 3465 6892
The Royal London Hospital
Tel: 020 3594 1050 or 020 3594 2030
Whipps Cross Hospital
Tel: 020 8535 6628
Unfortunately, face-to-face meetings are not available at this time. During the pandemic the death certification process has been simplified, however deaths still need to be registered within five days from the date of death in England. Registrations are now taking place remotely, mainly by phone.
Being bereaved can be one of the loneliest experiences you or someone you love may go through and talking or being with family and friends is one of the most helpful ways to cope with this. However, because of the current situation of COVID-19, being physically isolated from others is necessary and this could make the bereavement experience more intense and harder to cope with.
How can you help yourself during bereavement?
It is important that during this difficult time to take good care of yourself by eating healthily, and establishing a routine of sleeping, exercise and relaxation. If you are allowed, go outside for a walk or run and get some fresh air, or do home workouts if not. You may also want to call and text your friends and family and explain that you need to connect with someone and share your thoughts and feelings. Some people have found it helpful to talk to other people that have been through a similar experience or a professional, for example a counsellor or a chaplain.
There are also a number of free and confidential self-referral services in Newham, which can support you with bereavement during this period. Please see this list of bereavement services which you can contact (PDF).
After the death of loved ones, some people may find that life no longer makes sense or has meaning. This can contribute to feelings of despair, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. This can be part of the normal grieving process; however, please seek help from your GP or other professionals if you are worried about having suicidal thoughts or if you feel like ending your life.
How can you help another person who is bereaved?
You might have friends or family that have experienced loss as a consequence to COVID-19, or loss due to other causes and may experience intense trauma particularly when being cut off from their usual support network. You can help them by staying in contact more than ever – whether by phone, text or video call. As their friend, partner or colleague, give them the opportunity to talk about their feelings and about the person they lost.
How can you help children cope with grief?
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools in the UK are closed and children are staying home and unable to see their friends or relatives. All children will have questions about the Coronavirus and its impact, but some children have experienced loss of their loved ones or have a member of their family who is ill and their stress/anxiety will be intense.
Children who experience death of a family member will be worried about the health of their surviving family. It is important to reassure your child by talking to them honestly and calmly about what is happening around them. Acknowledge their worries by having a gentle conversation and reassure your child that they should come and talk to you when worried so that they do not feel they are on their own.
There are some common reactions observed in children who experience the loss of someone they know. Examples include sleep difficulties or nightmares, change in appetite, loss of interest in usual activities, difficulty concentrating, refusal to do schoolwork and/or disruptive behaviour etc. These are typical reactions and reflect the child’s attempt to deal with a traumatic situation. There are a number of actions you can take to help your child through these difficult times. Examples include:
- Reassuring them that they are not to blame and that different feelings are ok
- Talking and making conversations with them, including about what has happened, asking questions and building memories
- Limiting the amount of time they hear or check the news
- Distracting them by doing other activities
- Maintaining a daily routine
- Demonstrating that adults are there to look after them
You can find out more about bereavement support in this useful MIND guide.