How do we speak to loved ones about loss, grief, and bereavement experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Ahead of the second annual National Day of Reflection, we spoke to Dee Holmes from Relate – the UK's largest provider of relationship support – about how and why people should speak to loved ones about loss, grief, and bereavement experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has been a tremendously challenging time for people across the UK, and as circumstances continue to change and remain uncertain it can be difficult what to say to those who have lost loved ones, and who are experiencing grief and bereavement.

Events such as the National Day of Reflection can be a moment to help address this. Taking place this year on Wednesday 23 March 2022, it marks the anniversary of the first Covid-19 lockdown. It is a day to support the millions of people in the UK who've been bereaved during the coronavirus pandemic and to reflect on the lives of the people we've lost.

Dee is a qualified couple, family, children and young person’s counsellor and supervisor– she currently works as part of the Clinical Management Team at Relate. We spoke to her as part of a special Q&A event hosted for free on our Covid-19 Support Community. Questions asked included:

Questions asked included: 

  • What are the types of grief and bereavement that people have experienced? 

  • Why is it so hard to speak to people we love and care about when they experience grief and bereavement?

  • What are some of the best approaches we can take when speaking to someone?

  • Should we tailor our approach?

  • What do we do if somebody isn’t so good at speaking about their feelings?

Watch the video above to find Dee’s answers to these. Last year Relate helped over two million people of all ages, backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities to strengthen their relationships.

  • To access Relate’s counselling and services, visit: 

Takeaway quotes from the Q&A

  1. On losing loved ones to Covid: “Bereavement is never an easy thing, but sometimes if it's a natural process – and someone is at the end of a long, happy life and have had as good a death as you feel they can have – you can feel still that loss, but it can feel normal and natural. However, Covid took people suddenly. There was a great shock which meant there wasn't that ability to go through the normal process – including afterwards in the grieving."

  2. On the best approach to support someone: "Don't ever assume that someone's experiences are the same as your own – everyone is different – but it can be quite useful to think: 'What would I find helpful?'"

  3. On the feelings that emerge: "Any loss that people experience often triggers feelings of other losses they've had. It can be an opportunity to discuss those things in general. The other thing that's important is that loss doesn't go away, we just learn to live with it in lots of ways. We learn to live with the grief, and the pain can diminish over time, but it can be important to reflect and remember – even if it's a loss you had many years ago."

  4. On sharing stories of someone who has passed away: "It can be a great comfort to people to hear stories of the person and other people's stories of them – other people's memories – because we all have different experiences of someone."

  5. On time: "It's never too late to tell someone you're sorry to hear about their loss, and to ask them how they're coping: 'How has it been? How are you feeling?'"

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