Covid 'bereavement crisis' as thousands endure loneliness and social isolation

Tap above to watch video report by Ria Chatterjee

If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues in this article, you can find details of help and support from the At A Loss website here.

Exclusive figures obtained by ITV News London show the devastating impact of Covid on the UK's 'bereavement crisis' as thousands of people endure loneliness and social isolation.

New research by Marie Curie's Palliative Care Research Centre and the University of Bristol showed two thirds of bereaved people experienced isolation.

The study revealed those who lost loved ones to coronavirus found it difficult to arrange funerals and have close contact with relatives or friends.

Speaking to reporter Ria Chatterjee, Laura Dickinson described how she lost her 58-year-old mum after she contracted Covid while being treated in hospital for severe stomach pain.Laura and her family weren't allowed to visit and rarely spoke to her doctors because they were so busy.

Her condition deteriorated rapidly, she was placed in a coma, and passed away within 24 hours.

"I don't think people would relate grief to mental health but my brain is always turning and always thinking," Laura said.

"Sometimes you wake up and you think it's all a dream or I'll see a car that looked like my mum's, or a message will come up and it will look like it says her name - it messes with your head," she added.

London Ambulances lined up in London during the pandemic

Laura said at first she didn't know where to turn for help to deal with her loss, but eventually found support on social media.

"You need coping mechanisms. I think Instagram is the thing that probably saved me finding these companies and charities that share their experiences," Laura said.

"I found a lot of people on Instagram sharing their stories and that was the first thing that made me feel I wasn't alone.

"I don't have many friends who have been through this and no one who has been through this in a pandemic.

"To try and get help from people was really tricky," she added.

The study also found when deaths were unexpected the bereaved were less likely to be involved in care decisions. 

Almost half said a care professional had not given them information about relevant bereavement support services.

"It's saddening to learn that many people who have experienced a bereavement during the pandemic did not receive the emotional support they needed, and many more of those people were not told about the options available to them," said Dr Emily Harrop, from the Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Centre.

"It’s vital that as a country, we learn lessons from the experience of mass bereavement during Covid-19. Health and social care providers must prioritise communication with relatives and help to ensure that people can have contact with their dying loved ones, even in the context of a pandemic.

However, this can only happen if resources for staff caring for the dying are also prioritised," she added.