Losing a loved one is never easy at any time.
Whether you have known it’s coming for a lengthy period, whether it’s an older person who has lived a full life, or whether it’s a young child who has died …it is a loss that disrupts familiar routines.
Something that was a familiar part of your daily landscape has changed and has gone forever. Your world will never look quite the same again.
At a time when we have suddenly all been plunged into lockdown, to have to bear the extra pain of not meeting with friends and family for a funeral must seem the final insult added to your injury.
Having a funeral that is planned, where you gather with friends and family and have the chance to remember all that was best in the life just gone, provides some solace to get you through those first difficult weeks.
Now, suddenly, because of the coronavirus lockdown and restrictions, your right to have those most significant to you and your community around you at your time of loss, has been snatched away. And… it’s not even your fault.
You might feel a pang of envy for your friend who was able to arrange a 'proper' funeral for her family member earlier this year.
Your friends may say “we’ll have a celebration later on when all this is over – a party to remember our loved one”, but you may be feeling, “this is so unfair!” and “it just won’t be the same” – thinking that you are being asked, as it were, to put your grief “on hold”.
You may be longing to hug those closest to you and be even denied that blessing if you are self-isolating at home. All this technology is very well but it does not 'cut the mustard', to use an old-fashioned phrase – when what you want is to hug your friends and family and pour out your grief.
Confined to your home except for your daily walk and essential food and medicine trips, your thoughts may go round and round in your head and compound the grief you feel.
At this time, several things may be of help to you.
Firstly, try to keep your usual routines going as much as you possibly can. Yes, I know it’s not easy, when you can’t even go into town for a coffee with a friend.
Then, you could use some of this time to look through old photographs and select your favourite ones of your loved person, spending time remembering the good memories. If this is too painful, you might find comfort in writing your thoughts down, just as they are, expressing your anger, your bewilderment, your pain.
It might also help to try and focus in on the early signs of Spring – see what you can notice today that you did not notice yesterday. Even in a city you may be able to hear birdsong – sometimes the joyous sound can lift your spirits without you really understanding why.
Try to give yourself breaks from focusing on the sorrow of your memories each day and perhaps do something practical like baking a cake or trying out a new recipe. Find that old CD of your favourite music that may soothe even as it brings on the tears.
Many therapists are still working online or over the phone – you may find it helpful just to cry out your grief to a listening ear that will not utter platitudes such as “you’ll find it easier later”, but will allow you the space to experience that grief and stay with it, in a safe and held space with someone else.
How do you cope with the death of a loved one? How can you deal with the overwhelming feelings of loss and grief? BACP member Sara Mathews explains how counselling can help.
Coronavirus: Advice for the public
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