The death of Debbie’s father to Covid in April 2020 placed her among families in the UK who felt the immediate impact of the pandemic in its earliest stages. But this meant she had the rare knowledge at that time of the processes following the death of a loved one to Covid. “We had the experience of how to deal with the legalities and funerals. Within a week I received over 100 questions on things like how to get hold of a gift certificate when the offices are closed? How do you contact the banks when all the banks are closed? It snowballed very rapidly.”
As restrictions tightened throughout the pandemic, and the devolved nations began to set their own restrictions, Covid-19 Families UK divided into regional sub-groups. Debbie explains, “We were beginning to form social bubbles – social networks – of bereaved people who live near one another, who were able to support each other better online.” The feedback they receive tells the story of this positive experience for grieving families across the country: people grateful to have a place to centre their grief, or to speak with other people going through similar situations.
Two years on, Debbie is relieved that members can now connect offline too. She says, “These people are meeting up with each other and they're supporting each other physically as well. They're going out for coffee, or they're meeting up to discuss how to arrange a memorial. Or they're organising picnics – last year they had a picnic Cardiff Castle – which is all proving really helpful, especially to those who are living alone.”
This is one of the many reasons why Debbie believes in the power of personal connections in reflecting on Covid-related grief. Alongside plans to light up Government buildings throughout the UK, the group will be holding in-person memorials for the first time. Debbie says, “We have to remember that some of these sons, daughters, granddaughters, work colleagues and neighbours, could not go to their loved ones’ funerals due to the restrictions. So, for many of them, this moment of reflection and being able to gather is probably the first time they've been able to come together to remember their loss.
“We're hoping that these memorial events will remind people that firstly, the pandemic is not over yet. But secondly, that there are still people grieving and suffering. And I hope by these moments of reflection, people will look back and say, ‘Maybe I should check on my neighbour’ and support the bereaved a bit more.”
You can find Covid-19 Families UK on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn @covid19familiesuk
Find out more about the National Day of Reflection on 23 March here. You can also join our free Support Community for access to Courses, Live Q&As and the chance to connect with others on topics like Long Covid and Grief and Bereavement.