Grief and coronavirus lockdown

The coronavirus lockdown has had a huge impact on people who are grieving. Maybe you have lost someone directly due to the Covid-19 virus, or maybe the lockdown has prevented you from seeing someone at the end of their life, affected the funeral or affected your access to bereavement support. This page explains how you might be affected and some ways to cope.

Not being able to say goodbye to someone

When someone dies it can feel very unreal and it takes time for someone to accept that the person has died.

Not being able to see the person who is dying or only being able to speak to them on the phone or video call, may make the situation feel more unreal, which in turn makes it more difficult to accept. 

The level of emotional distress at not being able to be with a loved one in their final moments may be psychologically overwhelming and could lead to lasting trauma for some people. The grieving process may be interrupted and harder to work through.

Changes to funerals

Funerals can mean a lot of different things to different people. There are a wide range of practices across cultures, but one thing that remains the same is some form of ritual marking the transition from life to death. These rituals can help to accept the reality of the death. 

A funeral is an important event which helps people adjust to the loss. It can also be an opportunity to connect with the memories of a person’s life, a time and place to share stories and remember. 

If your loved one’s funeral has taken place during lockdown, you may not have been able to attend, or may have been there with only a few others, and have had to keep physical distance from them.

The effect of this could be that you feel more isolated, and miss out on a chance to outwardly express your inward grief and be comforted by others.

Access to support

Some of your ways of getting support, such as meeting friends and family or going to support groups or places of worship are not available right now. You may have lost your usual routines of school, work or activities, which normally provide a sense of safety or consistency, like an anchor to life before our loss.

The inability to have physical contact with people can also be very difficult. Not being able to hug or hold a loved one who is sharing your grief can feel particularly cruel and difficult to bear.

Some people who may be further along in their journey with grief, who have found ways to grow a life around their loss, have now had to stop taking part in activities which have been helping provide structure and meaning, maybe even losing sources of support. 

Living with this loss of our normal way of life is something we are all experiencing; this shared sense of loss may be bringing to the surface grief for those who have died in the past. This is not unusual when we experience a loss, as our feelings around past losses often surface again like a blow to an old wound.

Coping with the news

With the Covid-19 virus discussed so much on the news and in daily conversation, death is so much now in our shared consciousness. This can be scary and upsetting, on top of your grief. Some people find it helpful to limit the amount of news that they read, watch or listen to.

Ways to cope

If you have experienced bereavement and you are now grieving in lockdown, here are some examples of things you could do to help.

Practise good self-care

Try to keep to a routine and if you’re struggling to do this, create a list of ‘basic needs’ and tick them off as you go – or have reminders set to pop up on your phone. This list could include things like drinking a glass of water, taking medication, brushing your teeth and hair, having a shower and having something to eat. 

Try something creative

Some people find it helpful to do something creative such as a jigsaw, painting, colouring in, creating a memory or hope box, drawing, photography, creating a collage, listening to music, playing an instrument, singing or writing.   

Try something active

Try something that you might not have done before or something that is familiar. There are lots of videos on YouTube with yoga classes, dance classes or meditation to try.   

Try something practical

Practical activities such as a household project, cooking, baking or gardening can help occupy your mind.

Try something fun

Activities such as playing computer or video games, a board game or online games can be a welcome distraction.

Try something sociable 

Try something sociable like phoning or writing to a loved one. You could also set up a group video call with your loved ones and arrange to have a virtual dinner together.  

Try something relaxing

Try something relaxing such as a duvet and pyjama day, binge watch your favourite TV show or film, or have a bath.  

Try something therapeutic

Try something therapeutic such as joining the Sue Ryder Online Bereavement Community or read a book about loss and coping with loss; write a journal of thoughts and feelings. Express your emotions; cry, laugh, talk out loud to yourself or your loved one.

Try something educational

There are lots of TedTalks on almost every topic – you could tune in and learn something new! There are also great TedTalks on grief. You could also read your favourite book or learn a new skill by searching the internet for video tutorials.

Find support online

Some counsellors, support groups and bereavement support services have moved online in response to the lockdown by using telephone or video calling services. There are also dedicated online support services.

Sue Ryder’s Online Bereavement Support makes it easy to connect with the support that’s right for you, even during lockdown. This can be professional counsellors, a community of others who understand, or reliable information and resources.

Visit our Online Bereavement Support to find out more.