During the coronavirus pandemic people are experiencing death of family and friends in very difficult and painful circumstances. It is affecting families bereaved by COVID-19 and also people bereaved by other means. It is very likely that due to the restrictions people may not be with their loved ones at the time of their death. They may have witnessed traumatic scenes and it could have happened very quickly. Restrictions mean that the usual practical and emotional support people can physically get from family and friends following a bereavement may not be there.
Every death is a tragedy and for those family and friends it does not matter how their relative or friends have died. It may be that deaths from COVID-19 are receiving more attention at this time but the death of your family member or friend is no less important.
Bereavement is experienced differently by everyone. There are a range of emotions people may go through. Some people may find they want to talk about it, others may feel numb, guilty or angry. Isolation during this time may make dealing with these feelings worse which is why it is so important that you keep talking to others, this could be friends, family or contacting one of the services listed below.
Be kind to yourself and don’t feel guilty if you are struggling. Don’t keep your feelings bottled up.
Some people find it helpful to keep a routine; getting up and going to bed at the same time, eating regular meals. If you have a garden, go out and get some fresh air. If you can’t do this, open a window, breathing in the fresh air and listening to the sounds outside may help.
Listening Ear Service
Listening Ear is the bereavement helpline service operational across Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield and Bassetlaw offering timely support for people affected by COVID-19.
The aim of the service is to provide practical support and emotional health and wellbeing support to residents of South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw bereaved during COVID-19, offering timely and practical information and guidance following a sudden bereavement. The service also can signpost residents to ‘other’ support available as required.
The service provides:
- One to one telephone support from an qualified Worker
- Information, emotional and practical support
- Practical support dealing with healthcare agencies
- Local information with regards to the current funeral process
- Help overcoming any feelings of isolation
- Referrals and signposting to other services as required.
Listening Ear Helpline is free of charge and does not have a waiting list. To refer a person who has been affected by bereavement, please contact the team by calling.
Amparo is the suicide liaison service operational across South Yorkshire offering timely support following a suspected suicide. the service offers listening and emotional support to those bereaved, affected or exposed to suicide. Call 0330 0889255 or go online for further information.
Services available for adults
It is important that we still look out for each other and know that we can support people emotionally at this time by ringing them or through the use of social media. Allow that person time to open up about how they are feeling and to talk about the person who has died. If you are worried about them, you can let them know about some of these national organisations who can help.
There are the following national organisations which are offering support at this time:
- Age UK – bereavement
- Age UK – funeral advice
- Childhood Bereavement Network
- Winston’s Wish
Supporting Children and Young People
Children are likely to be more worried at this time. The usual things which provide children with a sense of security, routine and support are not there, for example schools, time with friends and other family members.
Children will pick things up from anxious and worried adults and reports they see and hear on television and social media. They need reassurance and honesty to help them interpret this at a level they can understand and cope with.
As adults we may not have all the answers, but we should be as honest as possible, letting the child know that they can talk about their fears and worries.
For children already bereaved their anxiety may be worse, leaving them worried that this may happen to other people. We cannot make promises that everyone we love will be all right, but what we can talk about is the measures we are taking to keep people safe and why these things are important.
How do I tell my child that someone has died?
If parents and carers find themselves in the position of having to tell their child that someone has died, then the advice remains the same at this time:
- use simple, direct language appropriate to their level of understanding
- use the terms ‘died’, ‘dead’, and ‘death’ rather than euphemisms such as ‘we’ve lost Grandpa’ or ‘they have gone to sleep forever’
- listen to them and allow them to express their own feelings
- you may find that you have to tell them again, and it is helpful to check that they have understood what you are telling them
- let children know what will happen about the funeral or memorial service
- share happy memories of the person who has died
Make sure that you are also looking after yourself, allowing time for you to grieve too.
Parents and carers can access help from Winston’s Wish, a national charity.
Freephone National Helpline is currently continuing to operate as normal. If you need advice on supporting a bereaved child or young person you can call 08088 020 021 (9.00am – 5.00pm, Monday – Friday) or email [email protected].
Children up to the age of their 19th birthday can access help through Childline.
Or they can call 0800 1111
Hope Again is the youth website of Cruse Bereavement Care. It is a safe place where you can learn from other young people, how to cope with grief, and feel less alone.
Funerals are a way of saying goodbye to the person we have loved and they serve to bring people together to support each other. However, funerals are changing because of coronavirus and there are limits to the number of people who can attend. This can make it more distressing for people who feel that they haven’t been able to say goodbye.
The Cruse website has some helpful information on how to cope with this. You might plan your own private way of saying goodbye or decide with family and friends to hold a memorial in the future when restrictions have relaxed.