Britain is facing a potential “grief pandemic” as a result of people being unable to attend funerals due to social distancing measure brought in to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, it was claimed today.
A poll of almost 10,000 people by YouGov shows that in the weeks following the start of the UK’s lockdown on 23rd March, 47% of bereaved adults in the UK have been unable to say goodbye to loved ones who have passed away.
Restrictions on the number of funeral attendees brought in as part of a range of measures to dealwith the pandemic mean that many have been unable to attend their loved one’s funeral, with some councils prohibiting any attendees at crematoriums and gravesides.
The poll, carried out for funeral provider Co-op Funeralcare, shows that when asked about the most important way to say goodbye, 42% of UK adults chose being present when their loved one passes away, while 33% chose attending a funeral or memorial service.
37% of mourners have been
unable to attend funerals
Source: Co-op Funeralcare
A spokesman for Co-op Funeralcare said that funerals play an “intrinsic part” in the grieving process, and by being unable to attend, many have been unable to grieve the loss of their loved one.
But in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19, neither of these goodbyes have been an option for an estimated 243,000 bereaved families.
The survey revealed that 37% of mourners have been unable to pay their respects by attending a funeral service, while 45% of people said the funeral went ahead, or will go ahead, with restricted attendance in person only.
An estimated 9.7 million mourners have
been unable to attend a loved one’s
funeral due to lockdown
Source: Co-op Funeralcare
It is estimated that more than 133,000 bereaved families who have lost a loved one during lockdown said their grief process has been negatively affected by the restrictions in place, with over three fifths (61%) saying that “nothing in particular” has helped them to grieve.
David Collingwood, Director of Funerals at Co-op Funeralcare, said that a funeral provides a “sense of closure” for bereaved families and is “very often the start of the grieving process”.
He said: “Sadly, the recent restrictions mean an estimated 243,000 bereaved families have been denied the right to say goodbye to their loved one in the way they would have wished.
“We completely supported the need to introduce these restrictions at the beginning of the devasting Coronavirus pandemic in the UK. We had to make some tough but responsible decisions to protect our colleagues and clients, and to fulfil our social responsibility of slowing the spread of the disease.”
Collingwood said that “tragically, we don’t yet know what the long-term psychological effects will be for families denied the last opportunity to say goodbye”.
He said: “It is vital that we do everything possible to allow families and individuals to attend funerals, while always prioritising the health and safety of our communities.”
Andy Langford, Bereavement Care Clinical Director at charity Cruse, said the coronavirus pandemic has meant it is an “incredibly distressing time to be grieving”, whenever your bereavement occurred.
He said: “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.”
GRIEF AND MENTAL HEALTH
While grief in itself is not a mental health problem, some specialists believe it can cause mental health problems for some individuals.
Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at mental health charity Mind, said: “The loss of a loved one during the pandemic is leaving many people struggling with grief.
“In most cases, grief is not a diagnosable mental health problem. It is absolutely normal that grief places strain on our everyday lives and it can take a long time to adapt to life after a loss.
“If you feel that your mental health is suffering following a bereavement beyond the stages of grief or if you have an existing mental health problem that is being worsened following a bereavement and you’re struggling to cope, it’s important to seek help, speak to a loved one, GP or contact a bereavement charity.”