Coping with grief during the coronavirus pandemic
Grief can be hard to cope with at any time. If you have lost a loved one during the coronavirus pandemic, the restrictions around funerals and social contact may make the situation especially difficult.
Here are some ways to take care of yourself or help a family member or friend experiencing grief during the coronavirus pandemic and ideas on how you can commemorate your loved one’s life.
Why might grief be harder during coronavirus?
Because of the current restrictions around the coronavirus pandemic, you may not be able to say goodbye to the person in the way you wanted to while they were still alive.
If there is a funeral, you may not be able to attend, or other family members or friends may not be able to go. These things would have been outside of your control.
You may be feeling angry and upset, which is a normal response to very difficult circumstances. You may be feeling lonely or isolated, if you aren’t able to see your loved ones like you normally would. You might feel like your grief is not important right now, or that you are unable to talk about it because of coronavirus.
If you are experiencing any of these emotions, it’s important to remember that your feelings are valid and important. Grief is a natural response to losing someone that’s important to you. Everyone grieves in their own way; there is no right or wrong way to grieve as long as you are not harming yourself or those around you.
For many of us, the natural response after losing someone important to us is to turn to and be with friends and family for comfort. But, when we are being asked to limit our social contact with others, you may feel like you are having to cope by yourself. This can be especially difficult if you have lost someone you shared a home with and you are adjusting to living by yourself.
There are some things you can do yourself which may help you cope with grief during the coronavirus pandemic.
What might help with my grief?
Stay in touch with friends and family - whatever your circumstances, it can really help to talk about how you’re feeling. If the death was recent, you might not feel ready to yet and that’s OK. But do try to stay in contact with your friends and family. Even though it is harder, there are still ways to stay in touch with people. If you aren’t able to meet up, try to stay in touch online or over the phone.
Take care of your health – although it may feel difficult, eating well, trying to get enough sleep and exercise can you give you energy and help you feel better. Some people lose their appetite when they’re grieving, while others might feel like eating unhealthy foods or not feel like cooking. Even if you don’t feel like it, try to eat as healthily as you can.
Grief can also make you feel tired. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can speak to your GP. If exercise was part of your wellbeing routine before, you can still do this at home or in the garden.
Get help if you need it – You don’t have to go through bereavement alone. If traditional face to face counselling is not currently available to you, there are still many telephone and web-based services that may help.
Simplicity offers grief help and support through the National Bereavement Service's (NBS) webchat. It is a free online service which connects you to a trained advisor.
The service is available Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm and Saturday 10am to 2pm and you can benefit from it by clicking on the chat box at the bottom of this page.
Expect bad days and better days – You may find you have days when you have more energy and the grief isn’t as consuming – this is completely normal. You should not feel guilty when this happens, it is all a normal part of grieving. Equally, if you have days which feel particularly difficult, that is also normal.
Commemorating your loved one’s life during the coronavirus pandemic
If you lose someone you cared about during this time, you may be unable to attend their funeral or celebrate their life in the way you would like to. If a funeral is taking place than you are unable to attend, you could ask other people attending the funeral to record the service so that you can watch it or ask for a copy of the order of service and chosen funeral readings to be sent to you. Some crematoriums may also be able to offer streaming services, so you can watch the funeral from home.
If you can’t attend the funeral, you may like to set aside some time (perhaps when the funeral is going ahead) to have your own memorial. Some people find it comforting to spend time remembering the person they have lost and reflecting on their memories together. You could even light a candle, look through photos, or listen to your loved ones favourite songs. Here are some other ideas for how you could commemorate your loved one from home.
Record a message – if there is a funeral service that you are unable to attend, you could record an audio or video message to be played to other mourners or ask if someone could read a poem or reading on your behalf.
Plant a flower or tree - you could plant a flower or tree in memory of your loved one.
Create a photo memorial – you could create a photo memorial, scrapbook of their life or memorial box with everything they loved.
Write your loved one a letter - some people also like to write a poem or letter to the person, expressing how they’re feeling.
Set up a social media memorial - you could create a private Facebook event or group and invite only close friends and family that would have ordinally attended the funeral. If your loved one was part of a larger social circle or community, you may decide to create a public post, explaining that everyone can use that space to pay their respects. This may give loved ones the opportunity to share videos, photos, stories and cherished memories of the person who has passed away.
Although things are different to usual at the moment, it’s important to remember it won’t always be like this. When lockdown and social distancing restrictions are eased, you could hold a memorial service or celebration of life in your loved one's honour. Holding a memorial would allow for a larger group of people to say goodbye, particularly if there were no mourners present or the number of attendees at the funeral were limited due to COVID-19. Many people also choose to hold a memorial service with their loved one’s ashes present, prior to their scattering or interment.
How to support a grieving friend or family member
When someone you care about is grieving, it can be difficult to know what to say or do to help. This is even harder when you are not able to visit them or give them a hug.
People who are grieving during the coronavirus pandemic may feel isolated or alone. Try to stay in touch with them as much as you can by ringing, texting, video calling or even sending gifts or cards in the post.
Some people will want to talk about the person they have lost and will benefit from a listening ear, whilst others may not want to talk about their grief. Just letting them know that you are thinking about them and are there for them when they feel ready, can be a big reassurance for them.
When someone has recently experienced a bereavement, they may struggle to stay on top of things. See if you can help by picking up food, prescriptions, or other essentials or cooking for them a dropping it at their doorstep. They may not feel comfortable asking for help, so don’t wait for them to ask you.
Visit our grief & loss support page if you would like further advice on how to help someone who is grieving or for help with personal grief. You'll also find a list of helpful organisations that may be able to help someone who has suffered a loss. Alternatively, if you need help arranging a funeral for a loved one, contact us.