This period of social distancing and associated restrictions, necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has created many challenges to our normal way of life. And we are all grieving the loss of many things we have quite rightly taken for granted. This creates inconveniences, anxieties and tensions for all of us that are of course challenging in many ways.
But for those who have already lost or are facing the imminent loss of a loved one during this period the impact on their grieving and mourning is compounded. Grief can make you feel isolated in normal circumstances. Physical distancing and the restrictions make this more intense. It is a very sad fact that grieving and mourning in ways that people are accustomed are just not possible at this time.
The restrictions now placed on visiting hospitals and care homes, attending chapels of rest and funeral services are compounding the pain of loss. But it is heartening to see how creative social media is being used to keep people connected and help alleviate the increased pain and distress caused by social distancing.
The role of the Hospital and Hospice Chaplains is often overlooked. Yet it is so important at this time as they minister to those dying and their families in their time of need. It is heartening to read that many clergy are training up to assist in this too. They can offer much needed support to both staff and families both pre and post death, whilst keeping social distancing guidelines in place. They could be the conduit to your loved one before they die. From personal experience, back in 2007, I gained some solace from knowing that the Hospital Chaplain had visited my first wife Joanne, every day in the week before she died, to provide comfort, kindness and a listening ear from a person who had become a trusted friend.
Once the funeral is over it is important for the grievers to have connections with trusted friends and family in some way. The majority of us are relational people and need each other in our lives. It’s so important to talk and cry with one another. So in the absence of a hug or face to face contact, be proactive and connect with family and friends. Whether it be in old ways such as a telephone call, text, a card or newer ways such as video messaging or face time.
Most hospitals and hospices have a Bereavement Services Office to help relatives and carers when a patient has died. They will give guidance on the necessary practical aspects following the death of a loved one.
Many bereavement support organisations offer a telephone helpline. At Care for the Family we offer this too, plus befriending services and online Facebook groups.
Please don’t try to do this on your own. There is help for you out there from the many bereavement support organisations. As well as us at Care for the Family.