Coping with bereavement as lockdown restrictions ease

In the UK, some COVID-19 lockdown restrictions have ended. As summer continues, further relaxations are imminent or already underway. Some of the coverage on television, in the papers, or photos on social media can make it seem that the world is slowly going back to normal, and that people are already enjoying a return to their usual way of life.

It’s not the same for everyone though. It can be very hard to feel that other people are celebrating new freedoms when you feel worse than ever.

Some people remain isolated because they are vulnerable, or because they are protecting a family member. Restrictions are easing for those who have been shielding. But even when activities are allowed, not everyone will want to take the risk of seeing more people.

Some people will find the uncertainty of changing rules more difficult to deal with than a simple lockdown. If you've been bereaved making the change to re-engage with life can be particularly difficult.

For many people, life will never be the same again.

You may have been bereaved during or shortly before the period of lockdown. You may not have been able to say goodbye the way you wanted, and this might have made dealing with your experiences very difficult. Alternatively, you might have felt numb while everything is on hold. You may now be able to start thinking about planning a memorial service for someone if their funeral wasn’t how you wanted. This might be a relief and a help, or it might make everything feel newly raw.

Even if you were bereaved some time before the current crisis, you may have found that the lockdown period and the current pandemic raised some very difficult memories and feelings. If you are not ready to ‘move on’ and return to normal, you are not alone, and there are many charities and organisations, including us, who are here to help you. We have listed some below.

“I lost my mum the week of lockdown to an 18-month battle to cancer. The lockdown meant we couldn’t be with her. I coped well until people started returning to work but now I cry daily. The thing I find the hardest is now this is starting to lift people are able to see their mums and hug them. I will never get that back. Because I’m a keyworker I can’t even see friends and family due to risk. I just don’t go out. It’s a very lonely time.”

How you can help yourself

Talking to friends and family can help. Explain how you feel and don’t feel pressured to return to your usual activities before you are ready.

You may also feel pressured if an employer is telling you that you have to return to work or a school is saying children should return. If you are concerned get in touch and explain your situation – they may be able to reassure you or address your concerns, and you may be able to agree timescales which you are comfortable with.

Cruse Bereavement Care have some more tips on coping with grief in isolation, and many of these apply whether or not you are isolated at the moment. 

If someone died and you were not able to hold a funeral in the way you would have liked, you might now be able to look to a time when you can plan or taking part in a memorial. You can also remember them in other ways – you could look at pictures, play some of the person’s favourite music, write a message to them, or light a candle. 

If you need to talk about how you are feeling you can call Cruse's freephone helpline (0808 808 1677) chat online, or find out what services are available in your area.

How you can help another person

Don’t forget about those friends or relatives who are still isolating or who have lost someone before or during this pandemic. Check in on them – people often tell us that support can tail off after the first few weeks or months.

If your friend or relative is grieving don’t pressure them to return to normality too soon. Offer practical help and ask what would help them the most, whether it’s meeting in person, or catching up on the phone or online.

Read some tips about what to say to someone who is newly bereaved.

We are here to help. You can join our Somewhere To Turn group for online peer support and local mental health signposting.

You can find out more about Cruse Bereavement Care by visiting their website. If you are a key worker who is struggling, you can access Our Frontline who offer round-the-clock one-to-one support for frontline workers, by call or text.

South East and Central Essex Mind, 112a Southchurch Road

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS1 2LX

Charity registration number 1148451