Dying and Bereavement during the coronavirus pandemic
Bereavement is a universal process and is a time of adjustment to any kind of loss, including death of a person. In the first few days, it is usual to feel disorientated and isolated from normality. There can be feelings of anger and frustration and deep sadness, the intensity of which will vary according to everyone’s individual circumstances.
The social distancing measures can be difficult in a loved ones final days
Some of the particular issues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic result from the social distancing measures that are in place. For example, during the final days of a person’s illness, if they are not at home, they may be unable to have visitors, so communication and support will need to happen in a different way. If they are at home, the same restrictions will apply. This could mean the usual network of supports may not be as readily available. People within teams may change because team members may themselves be ill or self-isolating . Your usual arrangements for medication, prescriptions, and seeking health care advice may be different.
Bereavement during the coronavirus pandemic raises particular challenges. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic means that some of the usual things that may help in the grieving process, such as sitting with a dying relative and holding a family gathering at a funeral, will not be able to happen because of the social isolation that the necessary spread of infection measures has brought. This may result in the more complex and intense reactions of anger, frustration and guilt adding to the usual responses to grief. It can be difficult, especially if this may not be what your loved one would have wanted.
This may all feel very strange and very isolating. However, there are some things that may help you through this particularly challenging time.
What you can do
Everyone’s experience of grief is unique, yet everyone will be affected in the same way by the pandemic. The restrictions on visiting and social interaction are based on the best available public health advice of the time.
You can keep in communication with people, it will just be different to the usual face to face contact. This is important though, to help reduce the sense of isolation.
This may be a time for families to talk together about what they may or may not want to happen in this time of changed arrangements, and also in the event that others in the family might become unwell. Family discussions and setting realistic expectations may help in the future when looking back at this time.
In the time before death, try to keep contact with the person who is ill via phone, video messaging, or letter or card. If as a family or care giving group you use a video messaging, set up group chats to keep in contact with family members and your usual support networks to keep people updated.
Thinking through a simple funeral and then planning a future celebration of life when the isolation restrictions are lifted may be something you would like to think about.