And I can’t imagine how painful it must be with the restrictions imposed on reduced numbers at funerals…robbed of the opportunity to have reflective conversations, reminiscing on the person’s life… no hugging or crying and laughing together. Looking back, we were actually lucky to have had about five hundred people attend our son’s funeral thirteen years ago… and I thank each and every one for taking the time to share their grief with us as a family. Recently, whilst talking to a friend who had just lost her son, I was so struck by her comment “how do you choose who can come?” Being deprived of the normal ritual of a funeral is unthinkable. I have spoken with people bereaved in the months before the pandemic and they tell me it is making their grief worse.
With regards COVID-19, everyone working in health and social care will be affected, especially those directly involved in caring for people with COVID-19. There is such a broad spectrum of illness trajectory and highly complex dying that requires skilled expertise to identify need and manage effectively. I have personally experienced how COVID-19 has affected those in hospital, community and especially in care homes. It has affected me as a nurse but also on a very human level as a mum, granny, wife, sister, aunt and friend. I feel so much sadness for the families who perhaps hadn’t seen their loved ones for many weeks before they died. Some may have been fortunate enough to have a short time with them just before they died but many will have not. The missed opportunities for precious time and last conversations… I feel for the staff in care homes who have cared for multiple residents dying at the same time…utterly unimaginable and we have to learn from this to support our very valuable workforce: no blame culture! What I have found hugely helpful is the wonderful support locally and across the country through networking with colleagues across the UK and organisations like the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care (SPPC) and Hospice UK. I have heard beautiful stories of how staff have managed to provide compassionate care with immense kindness in amidst this nightmare by trying to maintain connections with various initiatives across the UK.
We need to support staff as we move into the next phase of living with this virus, including learning how to provide the best care possible for those whose experience of having COVID-19 has been life changing.
So, on reflection, grief is highly complex: phrases like “time is a healer” and “move on” and a phrase I heard recently “draw a line under” should never be used. Let’s talk more openly about how we are feeling- coping or not… share resources to support each other. The best resource of all is the human resource of personal contact…let’s not pretend we are “okay” or “fine”… we may have wounds from this war but they will heal… my deepest fear is the scars they may leave behind if we do not tend to them with love and tender care.