Britain is facing 'grief pandemic', report warns

Britain is facing 'grief pandemic', report warns

July 14, 2020

Britain is facing ‘grief pandemic’ after nearly half of bereaved adults were denied chance to say goodbye to their loved ones at funerals during lockdown, report warns

  • Survey found 47% of bereaved adults were denied a final farewell after March 23 
  • Many were unable to attend services held in memory of their loved ones 
  • It has left experts warning the UK is on the ‘brink of a grief pandemic’ 

The UK is facing a ‘grief pandemic’ after almost half of bereaved adults were denied the ability to say goodbye to their loved ones during lockdown, a report has warned.

Some 59% of mourners believe their grieving process has been negatively affected by the coronavirus restrictions, while just over one quarter expressed guilt that their loved one did not have the funeral they deserved.

A survey of almost 10,000 adults, commissioned by Co-op Funeralcare, found that 47% of bereaved adults in the UK were denied a final farewell in the weeks following March 23, when the country went into lockdown.

This includes those who were unable to say goodbye to their loved one before their death, attend a funeral or view the deceased, according to the funeral provider.

The UK is facing a ‘grief pandemic’ after almost half of bereaved adults were denied the ability to say goodbye to their loved ones during lockdown, a report has warned (File image) 

Restrictions on the number of attendees to restrict the spread of Covid-19 meant that many were unable to attend services held in memory of their loved ones, with churches and crematoriums closed to the public.

The Nation in Mourning report – the first in a series looking at how the nation deals with grief – says the impact of funeral restrictions are only just emerging, with experts warning the UK is on the ‘brink of a grief pandemic’.

The YouGov survey, carried out between May 7-13, found that 2,008 out of 9,551 respondents had experienced a bereavement during lockdown, with 9% stating the death was due to coronavirus.

When asked about the most important way to say goodbye, some 42% of respondents said being present for their death, while 33% chose attending a funeral or memorial service.

Some 37% of mourners said they were unable to pay their respects by attending a funeral, while 45% said the funeral went ahead, or is due to go ahead, with restricted attendees only.

The Nation in Mourning report – the first in a series looking at how the nation deals with grief – says the impact of funeral restrictions are only just emerging, with experts warning the UK is on the ‘brink of a grief pandemic’. Above, staff pay their respects as the funeral cortege passes the entrance of the Southampton General Hospital

Meanwhile, some 10% of those who experienced a bereavement said attending a virtual funeral, live-streamed for those unable to be there, aided in their grieving process.

Just over three fifths (61%) said nothing has helped them to grieve, which the report warns could present the nation with a prolonged period of mourning for months, or even years, to come.

Since June there has been a gradual easing of restrictions, with funerals in places or worships now permitted to have up to 30 mourners in attendance.

David Collingwood, director of funerals at Co-op Funeralcare said: ‘A funeral provides a sense of closure for bereaved families and is very often the start of the grieving process.

‘Tragically, we don’t yet know what the long-term psychological effects will be for families denied the last opportunity to say goodbye, so it is vital that we do everything possible to allow families and individuals to attend funerals, whilst always prioritising the health and safety of our communities.’

Andy Langford, clinical director at Cruse Bereavement Care, said: ‘The coronavirus pandemic has meant it is an incredibly distressing time to be grieving, whenever your bereavement occurred.

David Collingwood, director of funerals at Co-op Funeralcare said: ‘A funeral provides a sense of closure for bereaved families and is very often the start of the grieving process.’ Above, Declan Harley from Anderson Maguire Funeral Directors checks the empty coffins in the storage room at their offices in Glasgow

‘Many people have been grieving in isolation, unable to attend funerals, say goodbye, and be close to those they love.

‘When you feel you have no control over how you can experience those last moments with someone, this can have a profound impact on the grieving process.’

And Jane Murray, one of Marie Curie’s adult bereavement coordinators, said the lack of a ‘typical’ grieving process means some relatives have not been able to accept their loved ones have died.

She said: ‘I am seeing families simply unable to believe or accept that their relative has died, because they were not allowed to be present during the death or able to see the body.

‘Some say they will never truly know if it was their loved one in the coffin on the day of their funeral, because they were not allowed to be a part of the process.’

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