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August 20, 2020

Covid-19: the devastating reality of bereavement

Every day we hear that the death toll from Covid-19 around the world has risen again. Tens of thousands of people have already been taken by this cruel virus in the UK; numbers so huge that it’s hard to get your head around. In this world of 24/7 news we must pause to remember that behind every statistic is a person lost, a family devastated, friends acutely aware of their grief and loss.

Three years ago, at the age of 102, my Granny died. I remember the profound sadness I felt and the need to celebrate the long and interesting life of this wonderful woman. Grief, loss and bereavement is difficult to bear even in the best of times when, pre-Covid, extended families met to support each other, funerals were large, everyone was welcomed to the wake and friends popped in regularly for a hug and a chat. The pain of losing someone close must be magnified in this dystopian world we’re currently living in, when established rituals surrounding death and bereavement have changed beyond recognition.

What doesn’t change is the need for bereaved people to feel cared for, supported and understood. To talk to others with similar life experience, share stories and be listened to. To get through each day at their own pace and on their own terms, accepting that some days will feel worse than others.

Since 2015 Time to Shine projects have provided flexible, person-centred support and have, to a greater or lesser degree, supported older people through loss and bereavement.

We’ve learnt that providing a variety of approaches gives people a choice in how and when to connect with others who have also experienced bereavement. This can be a mixture of bereavement-specific and bereavement-friendly projects, formal and informal interventions, group and one-to-one support. Staff and volunteers need to be trained and supported to choose the right words to help people process their thoughts and feelings relating to bereavement and to signpost to suitable sources of support.

Time to Shine has recently produced two learning reports on this subject:

  • Grief Takes Many Forms shares learning and quotes from older people to help others start conversations about death, grief and loss and understand some of the complexities around bereavement.
  • Life, Loss, Learning and Legacy is an emotional insight into older men’s experiences of bereavement, using video storytelling to tell and share their stories and lived experience.

Fifteen video stories created by Lippy People as part of the Life, Loss, Learning and Legacy project at Time to Shine are available on Lippy People’s YouTube channel to watch, share and use, free of charge.

Lisa Fearn
Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Time to Shine