The National Day of Reflection today marks one year from the start of UK lockdown and aims to support all the people who’ve been bereaved in that time. To take part you can join the national minute’s silence at 12 noon, shine a light on your doorstep at 8pm, and reach out to anyone you know who’s having a tough time.
On this National Day of Reflection, Counsellor Sheena MacKenzie writes:
“We are all in the same storm but we are not all in the same boat.”
As a team, a group of individuals, we hold in our hearts and minds all those bereaved since that first lockdown.
I have lost count how many people I have spoken to over lockdown who say “There are others far worse off…..” This is always true, and admirable in many ways; an expression of gratitude, seeking out the treasure still available in life despite hardships and difficulties.
It is also true that there is a very particular experience of having a life-limiting illness, being a carer or of losing someone you love amidst lockdown. We can express gratitude and acknowledge what is painful, holding both together.
Grief can be an isolating experience, perhaps unimaginable to the unbereaved. This can be the case even when not living through a global pandemic that seems to be lifted from dystopian Hollywood film. Living with a life-limiting illness can restrict people’s freedom in many ways, perhaps when time feels more precious than ever. Lockdown may add to this loss.
What’s Your Grief has produced a wonderful resource Coping with Grief and Loss through Covid. Read more excellent resources here There are reminders around self-care; be gentle with yourself, manage exposure to media stories, take care of your body, try to do one activity you enjoy every day, connect with others. These reminders echo the Five Ways to Wellbeing which always offer wise guidance.
What’s your Grief also request that as a society we stop minimising the loss of older adults, and we might add to that, those with underlying health conditions. How well-meaning comments might also communicate ‘don’t be sad’ or even more hard to hear- ‘their death is not important’. We might hope that we will come out of this as a society more aligned with compassion, more committed to equality and resisting all the forms of discrimination that we can choose to no longer ignore. Rory Kinnear’s tribute to his sister Karina movingly speaks of the gifts she brought to his life.
He describes how grieving her death from Covid in 2020 he “wasn’t scared of grief, I was scared that without it’s worldly markers grief might pass me by”. Kinnear describes acts of courage and kindness and I think of colleagues working in the NHS frontline and our own colleagues in the In-patient Unit and the Community Teams. He ends by offering the “anchor of kindness he hopes to hold onto for the rest of his life.”
We are blessed by the support of the chaplaincy team offering spiritual care, ceremonies of celebration and of goodbye in creative and flexible ways, offering ‘worldly markers’ which might have otherwise been unavailable.
We have appreciated the ongoing relationships we have with local GPs and community groups such as PLUS working to reduce isolation, AGE UK befriending service for bereaved and Worcester Community Trust Joy, a women-only service building confidence, Carers Worcestershire and Worcestershire NHS, Worcestershire Libraries to name only a few. We are all connected.
Within the Family Support Team we regularly express the sense of privilege we feel to be welcomed into people’s lives through this extraordinary chapter of history. We have missed the opportunity to see people face to face in real life. Sitting with big feelings in silence, breathing together, noticing a robin out of the window, a snow storm coming in, showing our care in easy eye contact or a shared laugh. This has felt like a small loss.
We have also discovered with delight the quality of presence that is possible over the phone, the murmered mmm-hmmms that lets the other person know they are not alone. The heart-felt connection between two people that is possible. How so many of us seem to want to wave at the end of a video call. We have met pets we would never have known about. The endless patience of our IT team as they once again trouble-shoot to make this contact smoothly possible. We have learned how for some people it is easier to work by phone, perhaps for practical reasons of transport or childcare, but also because sometimes it might be easier not to be seen.
We also recognise that phone and video call is not right for everyone and we are holding a place, keeping in heart and mind, those who would rather wait for face to face support.
We have admired the creativity and resilience of children and families who gamely participated in zoom events, hosted by family support team members who found a way to continue to offer the safe chaos and connection of groups for bereaved children.
There has been laughter and tears, a guitar-playing social worker, yoga gently offered by a skilled and flexible (in many ways) team member. Quizzes and carols and connection via Zoom for carers. Therapeutic groups and 1:1 counselling. The CAB team in their work with people who also find the epidemic is a time of increased poverty and financial strain. Painstakingly with warm care filling in forms by phone that would once have taken minutes, creating networks of care to respond to funeral poverty and offering connection and time. Webinars hosted by the Living Well Team and delivered in collaboration with the chaplaincy, Living well and Family Support Team have also proved beneficial.
This poem was shared within our team in March as we faced the uncertainty of how we could continue to express our care.
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20
On this day of reflection we remember. We reach out to all those grieving, caring and living, with our hearts and with our words.