Covid: Bereavement charity reports 68% rise in calls for help as families struggle with grief

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken the lives of more than 125,000 people in the UK, leaving each victim with a family dealing with grief while in lockdown.

With many feeling alone and isolated due to social restrictions, bereavement charity Cruse reported an enormous rise of 68% in calls for help last year,

ITV News brought together two women – strangers – who are now united in their grief.

Zahara Sonawala’s husband and father to her two teenage children, Sohail, died in October at the age of 49.

“There was nothing, nothing, we could do for him and he cried like a baby,” she said.

“He was then put into an induced coma and he was in the coma for maybe a week… we were allowed to go in and see him and say our goodbyes to him.”

She was speaking to Vicky Chadwick, whose husband, Kevin, died almost a year ago, aged 47.

“He called me from hospital, saying that he wasn’t going to make it, but Kevin joked all the time so I thought at the start he was joking,” she said.

“It just didn’t feel real, it was so fast. It went from him being taken on an ambulance on the Thursday – to Friday being gone.”

She added: “When you’ve lost someone, you just want a hug, you just want to fall into somebody and hug them… and we still haven’t been able to have that.”

If you are trying to cope with the loss of a loved one and feel you need support, you can visit Cruse’s website or give them a call on 0808 808 1677.

Who else you can contact if you or someone you know needs help

  • Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at

  • Papyrus offer support for children and young people under the age of 35 over the phone on 0800 068 41 41 between 9am – midnight every day of the year. If you would rather text you can do so on 07786 209697 or send an email to

  • Rethink Mental Illness offer practical advice and information for anyone affected by mental health problems on a wide range of topics including treatment, support and care. Phone 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-4pm) or visit

  • Mind also offer mental health support between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. You can call them on 0300 123 3393 or text them on 86463. There is also lots of information available on their website.

  • Campaign Against Living Miserably's (CALM) helpline and webchat are open from 5pm until midnight, 365 days a year. Call CALM on 0800 58 58 58 or chat to their trained helpline staff onlineNo matter who you are or what you're going through, it's free, anonymous and confidential.