Spoken word artist Tyrone Lewis
End of life charity Marie Curie has announced plans for a day to reflect on the people who have become bereaved during the lockdown period.
There have been more than 204,209 deaths registered in the UK since lockdown measures began. The Centre for Complicated Grief at Columbia University estimates that on average each death leaves five people bereaved, meaning over a million people have been bereaved since March 23.
Every death during lockdown has been even more devastating than usual for friends and family. Feelings of guilt, confusion and regret have been amplified as the normal grief processes of a bereavement have been disrupted during the crisis. Many people have been unable to be with their loved ones or hold their hand as they are dying. They have not had proper goodbyes or been able to comfort or even hug each other. They have been unable to mourn or attend funerals as they would in ‘normal’ times and will be more likely to struggle with the long-term effects of grief because they might not feel they’ve had any closure.
Additionally, the coronavirus has had a particularly severe impact on BAME people, highlighting huge societal inequalities, as well as the care home community. Matthew Reed, Marie Curie Chief Executive said: “We have seen many people die before their time and grief has had that extra layer of pain when we’ve not been able to share it with friends and family. Deaths from coronavirus have particularly affected people who identify as BAME and their bereaved loved ones, and as a society we need to do more to protect and support vulnerable communities.
“This day is an important reminder of our responsibility to communities and will give the nation a much-needed time to reflect on and celebrate the lives of the people who’ve died and support for their loved ones in their grief.” The day to reflect on 23rd March 2021, will mark the one-year anniversary of lockdown and is being backed by Marie Curie supporters Alison Steadman, Paul Chuckle, Chris Kamara and Greg Wise, along with Becky Gompertz, whose family founded the Yellow Hearts movement. The day to reflect will be a dedicated occasion for communities to come together and remember, grieve and celebrate everyone who has died, whether from coronavirus or another cause.
Becky Gompertz and her family started the yellow hearts movement in memory of her grandmother Sheila who died from Coronavirus in April. “My grandma was more than a statistic” Becky said. “When you see your loved one in that way it’s very cold but there’s an individual behind each person that’s died, and also a family who has been left behind. So I think it’s really important to remember that these numbers aren’t just numbers, they are people who had their lives, families and many memories. I think it’s important that people are made aware of that so these lives lost can be celebrated and not forgotten.
To recognise the one million people bereaved, Marie Curie has released a film featuring spoken word artist and UK Poetry Slam champion, Tyrone Lewis, 28 and his powerful reflection on grief during this time. Tyrone, whose friend Dean McKee is believed to be the youngest care home worker to die from coronavirus aged 28, said: “Dean’s death brought the disease closer to home for me, it was a blow to the chest hearing the news and I had to take the day off just to take it in. I am devastated that we’ve lost such a nice guy and a talent. Posting about it online and seeing the tributes is a weird thing, and we were all robbed of getting together down the pub to remember him and the good times.
“I wanted to convey in the poem that grief sucks, it hurts and it’s painful, but also grief is good because it shows how much we care for people. Reflecting on my own grief in the poem was important to me, trying not to take on any form of grief that I haven’t experienced and show that it takes different forms and people deal with it differently.
“For me March 23 will be reflective, similar to Remembrance Day. I don’t think we’re going to forget our experiences, and I don’t see that this will turn into anything close to normal anytime soon, but we need a good time to remember.”
Greg Wise, whose sister Clare died of cancer in 2017, is also backing the day. “Grief is hard, difficult and painful, and when someone dies you feel overwhelmed. Grief never truly leaves us but it is a comfort to me that I cared for Clare and held her hand at the end” he said.
“I imagine it is excruciating to be in the position many families are in now, feeling very raw grief in such extraordinary times. Not getting to say goodbye, having to stay away from a funeral. It’s devastating that coronavirus has put a lightning bolt through rituals around death and bereavement.
“Its vital people get all the support they need and I believe a collective acknowledgment of their grief and trauma would help. I believe a national day where we can reflect and celebrate people who have died will help all of us heal.”
Marie Curie has launched a petition calling for 23 March 2021 to be a national day of reflection following the lockdown