Everyone will experience the death of a loved one at some point in their lives. Grief is a universal response to a bereavement and it affects all people differently. There is no right or wrong way to feel.
When a person is bereaved, they often have to cope with a world that can feel as if it’s fallen apart and as such their grief can affect them emotionally, physically and / or mentally. Their life may change dramatically (e.g. living alone, having less money, being faced with household tasks they haven’t done before, etc).
Prolonged and/or undealt grief can:
- Lead to exhaustion
- Interfere with a person’s ability to think clearly (make decisions / judgements and problem solve)
- Leave the person with feelings of loneliness or isolation all of which can affect their immune system, trigger anxiety attacks and depression; and in some cases trigger substance misuse.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has, for some people, intensified their grief. For example:
- The death of a loved-one may have been sudden and unexpected
- Restrictions on care home visiting, hospital visiting and funerals may have limited or prevented a person being able to give support, say goodbye or complete cultural and religious practices
- Social distancing and lockdown restrictions have limited access to the usual coping mechanisms such as work, entertainment, socialising, travel, sport, exercise, etc.
Coping with bereavement
Talking and sharing your feelings with someone can help. It is important not to try and cope with grief alone.
It is also important 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 or text your family or friends 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. The Newham Bereavement Service have published a useful guide about bereavement.
There are also a number of self-referral services in Newham and nationally, which can support you with bereavement. Please see COVID-19 Bereavement Fact Sheet (PDF).
How can you help another person who is bereaved?
You may have family or friends who have experienced a loss during the pandemic. You can help them by staying in regular contact (phone, text, video call) and giving them the opportunity to talk about their feelings and about the person who has died.
How can you help children cope with grief?
All children will have questions about the pandemic and its impact, but some children may have experienced loss of a loved one or have a family member who is ill. Children who experience death of a family member will be worried about the health of their surviving family.
It is important to acknowledge their feelings of anxiety and worry and reassure them by talking to them honestly and calmly about what is happening around them and their feelings. They should be encouraged to come and talk to you whenever they are worried or upset so that they don’t feel they are on their own.
There are some common reactions observed in children who experience the loss of a loved one. For example, sleep difficulties or nightmares, change in appetite, loss of interest in usual activities, difficulty concentrating, refusal to do schoolwork and / or disruptive behaviour. 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 okay;
- Talking and making conversations with them, including about what has happened and about the person who has died, 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.