The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic means we now have to follow social distancing and other measures. The things we would usually do after the loss of someone close now have to be done differently.
It’s important to find new ways to get and offer support if you are coping with bereavement and grief at this time. The advice on this page may be helpful. But if you need more support, use one of the phone or online mental health support services available to you.
If your grief is becoming overwhelming, or you are having trouble sleeping, talk to your GP.
We cannot spend time together in groups during the coronavirus pandemic. So unfortunately it’s not possible to have a large funeral.
Only immediate family and close friends should attend the funeral. But you should not go if you are self-isolating or if you need to restrict your movements. No more than 25 people should be in the place of worship or at the graveside.
Mourners will also need to follow social distancing guidelines. This means keeping a distance of 2 metres (6.5 feet) apart.
Bereavement is a difficult time for every family. We know that these precautions make it even more difficult. But they are in place to protect everyone. Your funeral director and religious leader will know what to do.
For advice about funerals during COVID-19 visit the Citizens Information website
Read a practical guide for the bereaved during the COVID-19 pandemic on GOV.ie
Advice on grieving at this time
Even in more normal times, the loss of a loved one can be difficult. It can trigger a dip in your mental health.
There is no right or wrong way to experience loss or to grieve. You may experience a wide range of emotions.
Allow yourself to feel and react in a way that is natural to you. This is part of coming to terms with a loss or bereavement.
Stay in touch with others
We can’t be together in groups at this time. Because of this you may not be able to be physically close with people who want to offer condolences.
Even though you may be physically cut off from your usual support network, try not to become emotionally isolated. Allow people to offer their condolences and support you in different ways.
Phone calls, texts, emails and social media messages of support from the people closest to you may offer some comfort. Reach out to them and make sure to contact someone every day.
Answer their calls and reply to their messages to keep conversations going with the people who care. If you are finding messages of support overwhelming, try not to feel pressure to respond. While it is important to stay connected, do so only when you feel ready.
Try not to neglect your basic needs. Even though you may not have your usual appetite, try to eat well and to drink enough water. This will help you to stay physically well while you grieve.
Keep a routine
Keeping some routine can be helpful. Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible. Keeping to your usual meal-times, bed-time and getting-up time is important.
Get out into the garden or on your balcony for some fresh air, if you can.
Take it one day at a time
You may find you have days when you feel OK and the grief is not as bad as other days – this is normal. Some people can feel guilty when this happens, but there is no need.
Try to be kind to yourself and be aware of your feelings and emotions, one day at a time. It is all a normal part of grieving.
Caring for children who are grieving
If there are children in your family who are grieving, check-in with them often. Answer their questions honestly. Children cope better with sad news when they are told the truth.
Children’s emotions may change from sad to happy in the space of minutes. Let them set their own pace. There is no right or wrong way for them to experience grief.
Try to give honest, age-appropriate information about the death.
Be guided by children. Let their questions lead the conversation. Don’t worry if you can not answer all their questions. Tell them you will find out and try to bring up the conversation again when you can answer them.
If it feels right, encourage conversation about the person who has died and memories of them.
Read more about helping children to cope with bereavement
Limit news and social media
Try to limit how much news and social media you consume. When you are grieving, regular news can be distressing and cause you more worry about yourself or your family.
Ways to help others who are grieving
To help a grieving friend or loved one, think about how you can send your condolences at this time. There are other ways you can offer comfort without being physically present for them.
- text or call – ask your friend how they are doing, ask what might help and listen carefully
- drop food or a gift at the door to offer comfort
- offer practical help, for example with shopping
- offer help with technology, for example with setting up video calls, WhatsApp or other ways of keeping in touch
- complete an online condolence such as on RIP.ie
- share photos
- write a card
However you choose to show your condolences, make sure you reach out. Let them know you’re available not just in the short-term but in the weeks and months to come.
Be mindful that the person may not always want to reply or talk with you. That’s OK too – giving them space is important. Knowing that you are there when they might need you most, is also important.
Care and Inform – Irish Hospice Foundation
Grieving in exceptional circumstances – Irish Hospice Foundation
Mental health and coronavirus – What’s Your Grief
Irish Childhood Bereavement Network
Coronavirus: grieving and isolation – Cruse Bereavement Care
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