Bereavement and COVID-19

This post is written by Priya Vithani, NLMT music therapist

Following my last post about loss, I wanted to specifically address bereavement, arguably the most difficult loss to face.


Losing a loved one at any time is hard; there is never a ‘right’ time for it. Whether you lost your loved one years, months, weeks, or even days ago, it’s fair to say that the current situation will bring up some difficult and perhaps even confusing feelings, conceivably even more so than what might be considered ‘usual’. You may also be feeling lonely, a feeling that might be intensified if you’re isolating alone. Depending on where you’re living, there may also be painful reminders that are difficult to avoid at times. It may be that with many other concerns and worries right now, you’re not able to process or express your grief as it might emerge normally.


If your loss occurred before lockdown, you might find yourself feeling grateful that your loved one isn’t around to see the state of the world right now. If their death was expected, this might be an amplified feeling with the knowledge that had they been around during this time, they might not have had the goodbye they deserved. This goodbye could include their last moments, as well as their funeral, and perhaps other cultural or religious practices. Although this feeling may be accompanied by guilt, it is a perfectly reasonable and justified one.


If your bereavement happened during lockdown, due to Covid-19 or other causes, it’s very probable you’ll be experiencing even more complex feelings, likely a feeling of unjust among others. You may not have had an opportunity to say goodbye, which can feel particularly distressing. This may also have an effect on cultural practices that would usually be carried out after someone passes away, including religious services and funerals.


These are very challenging feelings to sit with. It’s important you’re able to seek support, whether that be psychological and/or moral. Usually, isolation would not be recommended at all, so it might feel really unfair that during a difficult period in your life it’s what is being asked of you.


The lack of touch is particularly challenging, as the most comforting thing to you might be something as simple as a hug. As restrictions ease, it’s important that you maintain safe practices. You are now allowed a support bubble with another household if you live alone, or if you are a single parent with dependent children. However, if you do not fall into this category, a safe distance of 2 metres will have to be observed in an outdoor space in groups of up to 6 people, and your contact with other people should remain limited. It is therefore quite likely that the majority of your support will be sought via phone, video, or other online technological means. It might not be the same as face-to-face support, but for now it’s the best we’ve got.


Sometimes you may not receive the support you need from friends or family, and if their responses aren’t helpful it’s important that you express what you need from them right now. The grief is yours and not someone else’s to dictate how you should be dealing with it, as long as you’re coping with it in a safe way.


Most importantly, look after yourself. If you’re finding yourself feeling unmotivated, create a structured routine and do your best to stick to it. Lists are a good way to do this, and even if you don’t manage to tick everything off, you’ll at least be able to track what you have been able to manage. If creating a list feels too daunting, take a leaf out of Mrs Hinch’s book by creating a ‘Ta-Da’ list: write down everything you have managed to do - after you’ve done it. A good time to do this might be the end of the day as part of your bedtime routine. This can be a really helpful way to visualise your achievements. You washed the dishes? Great, add it to the list. You replied to that week-old email you’ve been putting off? Excellent! You washed your hair? Wonderful, another tick. Whatever you manage to do, big or small, is an accomplishment and something to be celebrated.


Another idea, when you feel ready to do so, would be to create a playlist of your loved one’s favourite songs. When you feel able to listen, this can be an intimate, healthy and safe way to release pent-up emotions. Certain songs may be triggering when they come on unexpectedly, but if you curate the track listing yourself they can be easier to listen to.


Self-care is really important; make sure you’re well rested, and prioritise time to treat yourself.


For more information about how we can help, contact NLMT here.


Additional Resources

Free bereavement support: https://www.cruse.org.uk/

Find bereavement support local to you: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/other-services/Bereavement%20support/LocationSearch/314


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