Many of us know a thing or two about loss. As humans, if we are lucky, our relationship with death and loss often begins through the process of dispatching funfair goldfish or the family pet.  A key lesson in life, is often one that shows us, that at some point, we all die.  A ‘teachable moment’ as we grow from children to adults. The burying of a beloved cat or dog in our back garden etched into our memories as our first experience of loss.  As we get older, those pets morph into grandparents, neighbours or friends and families gather to mourn, reminisce, and celebrate the life of the person that has died.  Some people knowing exactly the right thing to say, and others crossing the road to avoid an awkward conversation.  Death and loss are not an easy subject for many.

Fast forward to 2020 and a global pandemic.  The rule book goes out of the window and communities across the globe suffer mass losses.  But it’s not just about the loss of a loved one anymore.  It’s far more complex than that.  Since March, we have in one way or another, been in lockdown or under the government’s tier system.  Lives have changed beyond recognition for so many of us, some for the better, some for much, much worse.  The traditional workplace has gone for so many people, instead we now have many teams, working from home.  People were placed on furlough, a word many of us hadn’t even heard before, and never returned to work.  Redundancies and the trimming of organisations and office space was happening all around us.  Relationships made or broken due to the enforced way of living; friendships ended due to divided opinions on the pandemic.  Funerals and weddings of our most loved people were limited in number.

So we are not just grieving our dead and all those lives that have been taken directly or indirectly by the pandemic.  We are grieving so much more.  Our way of life, a job that we may have held since school, the fact that we cannot look into the eyes of those we hold most dear without a respectable social distance.  Missing people that live outside of our tiers and relying on memories of time spent together in the past.  Many of us grieving for loved ones locked away in care homes.  Attending virtual funerals of close friends due to travel and attendance restrictions. Wedding plans postponed.  Our Facebook memories reminding us of what our lives looked like before a virus shut us down.  Lives paused, 2020 cancelled. 

So once the dust settles and we move from lockdown into tiers again this week, we must acknowledge that we are grieving as a community.  For the people we have lost and for other losses we have faced over the last 9 months.  It is the only way to heal. There is hope on the horizon in the form of vaccines and a promise that life will begin to look like it once was, by Easter next year.  Which is all good news and can give us hope.  But for those that have lost people, pets, relationships, businesses, their mental health, let’s allow them to grieve and tell them how sorry we are for their loss, whatever their loss may be.  We may have to wrap our arms around our communities in a virtual sense for now, but it is the only way to come through this collectively. Personally I take some solace from a personal favourite of mine, Winnie the Pooh. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”  

This week is National Grief Awareness Week. A week where The Good Grief Trust bring all UK bereavement services, support organisations and helplines together to talk about and normalise grief. Early signposting and support for the bereaved and those working with them. A week where people are given the tools to help rebuild their lives. They are asking people to share their story to help others and to remind us that being socially distant doesn’t stop us from sharing our grief. 

At Advocacy Focus we have remained open during the pandemic and continue to take referrals from people, or can signpost them on to the services they need at this current time. We have also developed a ‘Grief’ toolkit as part of our ‘Healthy Self’ series, which you can download here: https://www.advocacyfocus.org.uk/healthyself