According to a study published today (Tuesday 15 June) by Cardiff University's Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Centre and the University of Bristol, many people struggling after a bereavement faced long waiting lists for support or were told they were not eligible.
The survey, of 711 adults bereaved between March and December 2020, is believed to be the first to highlight the experiences of those trying to get support after the death of a loved one during the pandemic.
The survey found that the pandemic has had a major impact on quality of support and has “disrupted collective mourning practices”, which has increased people’s feelings of isolation.
The authors are calling for information on grief and bereavement services to be proactively provided after a death, and for GPs to be better resourced so they can signpost people to such support. They also want to see more help to combat isolation, including flexible support bubbles for the recently bereaved if restrictions on social contact are in place.
It comes as the Government is due to launch a UK Commission on Bereavement. Minister for bereavement, Nadine Dorries, will respond to the research during a keynote speech at a virtual panel event on Tuesday.
Heidi Travis, Chief Executive at Sue Ryder, said:
“As a society, the grief those around us are experiencing right now is unlike anything we have ever witnessed before. Sue Ryder is supporting families who have been devastated by Coronavirus and their grief was intensified and compounded by lockdown and social distancing restrictions.
"Many people have been unable to be at their loved one’s bedside when they died; to hold their hand or say goodbye. People have not been able to attend funerals or find solace and comfort, physically, in the arms of their support networks.
"Sue Ryder's Online Bereavement Counselling Service with trained counsellors saw an increase of 119% in 2020 compared to 2019 and our Online Bereavement Community, which offers peer-to-peer support for those who are grieving, saw an increase of 47% in visitors year on year.
“Sue Ryder welcomes the launch of the Commission on Bereavement, at a time when people need support from specialist services more than ever. We look forward to collaborating with the organisations involved to support people to get back on their feet after experiencing a bereavement."
The survey is published as a pre-print on the MedRxiv website and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.