Covid: How can I help someone who's been bereaved?

To help somebody who is grieving for a loved one, lost to Covid-19, you need to understand a bit about grief, and appreciate how loss and bereavement have been different during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Grief is personal

There is no fixed pattern to how someone will feel and when they'll feel it, says counsellor Jackie Rogers.

You can help someone by reassuring them that what they're feeling is ok, and totally normal, and there is no timeline. They won't feel a certain way a week later, a month later, or a year later.

People may compare themselves, believing others are coping better than them. Or feel that they're making a fuss, because thousands of other people have died from Covid.

You can reassure them that every single loss is individual, and their grief is valid.

Covid is new

Because Covid is a new cause of death, grief may be delayed because first of all, people have to come to terms with how the person died.

The actual grieving process may not happen until they've accepted and understood what took their loved one away.

Separation at the end

Being present when a loved one passes away normally helps people to accept the death, says Jackie. And it's often reassuring to know that the person was at peace in their final moments, and friends and relatives did what they could to help.

Those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 have often been separated from them at the moment of death, or only present through a screen. That detachment can make people feel that it hasn't really happened, and it can be a struggle to accept.

It can be particularly tough if one minute the person was at home, then they were taken away in an ambulance, and they never saw them again. There's a feeling of emptiness and incompleteness.

Support afterwards

If someone dies in a hospital or a hospice with their loved ones by their side, there is support on hand straight away for the bereaved, from the nurses and doctors, and time and space to talk and reflect. Now loved ones are either not present, or are rushed away.

There may be support groups that you could encourage them to explore, where people who are grieving during lockdown can share their experiences, even if it is virtual to begin with.

Credit: PA

Different funerals

Fewer guests at funerals mean less social connection and less support for those who attend - it's often not what people say, but the non verbal gestures you pick up in other people's presence, their concern, their sympathy, and hugs.

If someone hasn't been able to attend the funeral, they may watch it completely alone at home, via a screen, and have to deal with their emotions alone.

The wake afterwards is normally a more positive time, where the person's celebrated. Without the wake, there is no contrasting, more uplifting part of the ritual, and once the service is over, people may simply turn off the device and return straight away to life.

Continued triggers

If someone died at the start of the pandemic, and particularly if they were a key worker, their face may have been on the news.

In fact, any faces of the deceased can bring back memories of a loved one.

The end of lockdown

People may have developed some sort of coping mechanism or routine for dealing with their loss during the lockdown. They may feel safe, alone in their home. They may be hiding away, not talking about their grief, or not accepting the death.

As society begins to gradually reopen, they will have to meet other people, interact again, and maybe tell people about their loss for the first time.

It may be very scary to renter the world without the loved one, and it may be very painful