Bereavement is often a lonely experience during normal times, but at the moment this is exacerbated by the need for social isolating and shielding. Talking, physical contact such as hugging, and being with friends and family, are the normal ways we can feel supported and less alone in our grief.
Friends and relatives who may have stepped in to help may also be isolating or struggling themselves. Worries about others in the family who may be suffering economic hardship and tensions in relationships as a result of lockdown can make the grief more overwhelming.
People like to help and don’t mind if you reach out, by telephone or text, or even better if you can use Skype, Zoom or WhatsApp. Perhaps photos of the grandkids, distracting amusing and uplifting stories will help. It may be a good idea to be very selective about what media you watch and read, as much of the news now induces anxiety and fear.
Make it clear that you want to talk about the person who has died so others feel comfortable to do this. You can then share stories, good times, things that made you laugh, the things you loved about the person and were proud of. This is especially important if there hasn’t been a full funeral. They may leave us physically, but they don’t leave our being, our thoughts, our memories, our hearts.
Also it’s OK if you get distracted and put your grief aside for a while. There is no need to feel guilty about this. It’s a natural way of protecting yourself and you know it isn’t casting them aside.
If you know someone who has been recently bereaved, it sometimes takes a bit of courage to be in contact with them, for fear of saying the wrong thing, or not knowing what to say. A good question is “How are you doing?” because that can be answered from a number of different angles, practical, emotional, what today has been like. Let them talk about how they are feeling and about the person who has died and try not to avoid the subject. The best response is not to try and jolly them along, but to reflect back to them what you have heard. “You are feeling overwhelmed today”, or “You are really missing him”. Hear it, but don’t try and fix it, because you can’t.
Cruse run a helpline on 0808 808 1677 if you want someone outside the family and friends to talk to.