National Day of Reflection – March 23rd

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, Featured, and Policy.

Join Marie Curie, NHS England and other organisations today, the first anniversary of the first UK lockdown, for a National Day of Reflection to reflect on our collective loss, support those who’ve been bereaved, and hope for a brighter future.


Since the first lockdown began in 2020, hundreds of thousands of people have died. Too many lives have been cut short and millions have been bereaved.

Behind the statistics and whatever the cause, every death has been devastating for the people left behind.

There are still tough times ahead, as the death toll continues to rise. This annual day will give us all time to pause and think about this unprecedented loss we’re facing, and support each other through grief in the years to come.

The Day will see a nationwide minute of silence at 12 noon, followed by the tolling of bells at 12:01, and the nation appearing on their doorsteps at 20:00 to shine a light using phones, candles, torches – signifying a beacon of remembrance and support for the millions of people that have been bereaved over the last 12 months. Prominent buildings and iconic landmarks will also light up across the UK.

Alongside the midday minute silence and the evening shining of lights will be community-led initiatives such as virtual reflective assemblies, choirs, special services, candle and lantern lighting, yellow ribbons wrapped around trees, and many other commemorative activities that will bring people together – in adherence with social distancing rules.

Marie Curie will also be hosting a series of free online talks and conversations featuring expert panels, bereaved families and celebrities throughout the afternoon of 23 March, produced by the Good Grief Festival.3

The National Day of Reflection will give the nation and communities a moment to remember, grieve and celebrate everyone who has died during this time and show support for our families, friends and colleagues who are grieving. The day is being led by Marie Curie and has been developed in partnership with other organisations who will get involved as part of a movement to support each other.

Indicative outline of the day, Tuesday 23rd March 2021:

  • One minute silence at midday, followed by the tolling of bells
  • Planting spring flowers and creating window displays (using fresh, drawn or crafted) placed in windows
  • Nation appearing on doorsteps with candles, lights, torches and lights from their mobile phones for a minute of silence at 8pm; iconic buildings lit up across the UK
  • Free Virtual Events / Talks from 11.45am – 19.45. See more here:

Marie Curie’s Chief Executive, Matthew Reed, said: 

“We welcome the news that public health and social care leaders are signalling support for everyone bereaved by covid, or any other cause, during this difficult year. Support for the National Day of Reflection and one minute’s silence on March 23rd is a vital way of creating space for grief, after a year in which so many families have not been able to say goodbye.  

By encouraging their own employees and members to talk about loss, and to connect with loved ones who are living with loss, we hope that this significant support for the National Day of Reflection sends a strong message to those bereaved: You are not alone.” 

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive, said:

Coming out of the toughest year in the Health Service’s entire history, we need to reflect on the pandemic’s deep toll, mourn those we’ve lost, and mark the service and sacrifice of staff throughout the NHS. It’s also a moment to acknowledge how in adversity we saw strength, as friends, neighbours and communities have come together to help each other through the nation’s worst ordeal since the second world war. While we need continuing vigilance against this virus, the remarkable NHS vaccination programme now brings hope of better times to come.

Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said;

“This has been a year of unprecedented challenge and one in which time and again the hundreds of thousands of people working across the health and social care sector have stepped up under extreme pressure.  

“For so many of us this has also been a year of personal loss. Across the Care Quality Commission we will be inviting colleagues to reflect, connect and share their experiences. Supporting each other, whether at work, at home or in our wider communities has never been more vital.

“The challenges are not over, and it is essential that each of us continue to play our part.”

Over 670,000 people have died in the UK over the last 12 months, over 139,000 of those have been covid related. Marie Curie estimates that over 6 million people have been bereaved since the pandemic began, and many have been unable to say goodbye to loved ones or grieve properly. The Day will allow us all to commemorate those who have died, and bring the UK together to pause, reflect and support each other this month and in years to come.”

Chief Nursing Officer for Wales, Professor Jean White CBE, said: 

“I am supporting this day of reflection because it is right that we take a moment to think about how this last year has affected all of us. By pausing in our busy lives, it will give us the much needed space to remember those people who have died and acknowledge how hard it is for everyone who has lost someone they care about, whether it is a relative, friend or work colleague.” 

“Although things are improving, we still have some way to go before life returns to how it was before the pandemic and sadly we may still see people passing before their time. It is an opportunity too, to look to the future when things will be better and celebrate the lives of people we have lost.”

Social Care Wales Chief Executive Sue Evans said: 

 “We’re proud to support the Marie Curie National Day of Reflection. The last year has been incredibly tough on our sector and we’re proud of each and every person working in early years and social care.  Sadly, along the way, we have lost family and colleagues we deeply cared for. This day of reflection gives us a chance to stop, remember together and celebrate their lives.”

More than 250 care organisations, charities, businesses, membership organisations, emergency services, public sector bodies, community groups and many more are participating in the National Day of Reflection on 23 March 2021 – the anniversary of the UK going into the first national lockdown.

Total deaths (of any cause) since w/e 27 March 2020 (as of w/e 5 March 2021) Estimated number of bereaved[a] (Total deaths since w/e 27 March 2020 to w/e 5 March 2021 x 9):


·         UK total:  698,734 ·         UK total:  6,288,606
·         England: 580,477 ·         England: 5,224,293
·         Wales: 37,370 ·         Wales: 336,330
·         Scotland: 63,340 ·         Scotland: 570,060
·         Northern Ireland: 17,547 ·         Northern Ireland: 157,923

Data Sources & References 

England and Wales: Office for National Statistics (2021). Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional statistical bulletins. Available at:

Scotland: National Records of Scotland (2021). Deaths involving coronavirus (COVID-19) in Scotland. Available at:

NI: NI Statistics and Research Agency (2021). Weekly deaths bulletin. Available at:


[a] Data from the USA estimates that on average, nine people are bereaved for every one person who died during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Reference: Verdery, A. M., Smith-Greenaway, E., Margolis, R., & Daw, J. (2020). Tracking the reach of COVID-19 kin loss with a bereavement multiplier applied to the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(30), 17695-17701.

For every person who has died during the Covid-19 pandemic, many more have been bereaved. For these people, grieving processes have been profoundly disrupted[b]. Social distancing restrictions, lack of visiting in hospitals and care homes, and shielding are likely to compound a sense of loss and guilt. Complicated grief may be more common as a result of sudden deaths, ICU care, isolation, and disruption of social support networks. This can be associated with physical, psychological and economic problems for bereaved caregivers[c].

[b] Mayland, C. R., Harding, A. J., Preston, N., & Payne, S. (2020). Supporting adults bereaved through COVID-19: a rapid review of the impact of previous pandemics on grief and bereavement. Journal of pain and symptom management, 60(2), e33-e39.

[c] Gesi, C., Carmassi, C., Cerveri, G., Carpita, B., Cremone, I. M., & Dell’Osso, L. (2020). Complicated Grief: What to Expect After The Coronavirus Pandemic. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, 489.

See full list of supporting organisations here:

See virtual events and talks here:

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