Bereavement during the coronavirus pandemic

Losing a child is one of the most painful experiences anyone can go through. We understand that grieving the death of your child during the current pandemic can be especially hard.  

Having to socially isolate can add to  feelings of grief and loneliness. Current guidelines mean that families may not be able to say goodbye in the way that they would have liked, and family and friends may not be able to attend the funeral in person. It is still possible  to find a way to say goodbye and Funeral services are offering some creative ways of holding ceremonies. 

 We have put together these resources to share how bereavement and grief can be affected by this pandemic. It covers some of the different situations and emotions bereaved families might have to deal with. We will be adding to and updating this information as the situation develops. 

 We understand that bereaved families may have to deal with increased trauma, and you are likely to be cut off from some of your usual support network. There may be less bereavement support than usual from the NHS, but we can help look into what other sources of support could be available locally for you, as well as support from The Lullaby Trust. 

Experiencing the death of a baby or child can be one of the loneliest experiences you or someone you love will  go through. Talking, and being with friends and family, is often one of the most helpful ways to cope after someone close to us dies. Our advice is usually to avoid isolating yourself, but we are in a situation where remaining physically isolated from others is sadly necessary 

This period of isolation can make feelings of loneliness and grief much more intense. Although being isolated together with your family, at times may be a support, at other times there could be tensions making it difficult to help each other. Having other children and teenagers in the family can be difficult to keep them occupied and deal with your own emotions and fears at the same time.  

The impact of dealing with a bereavement, along  with feelings of worry about what is happening in the outside world can mean that feelings of grief are more complex. It may be difficult to reach out to others during a time when everyone is caught up in a national crisis.  

What you can do to help 

Firstly, while you may feel alone know that you don’t have to be alone with your grief. We are here for you – we have a helpline you can call or you can get in touch via email or Facebook messenger. 

You can join our private Bereavement Support Facebook group. Membership is open to all bereaved families who have experienced the death of a baby or young child.  Click here to join

 Reading what others are posting can be comforting to see that others feel similarly to you. You are welcome to post in the group and get support directly from other parents there. 

Many parents find it helpful to have the support of another bereaved parent who is further on since their own bereavement. It can be encouraging to speak with someone who has been through the sudden death of a baby or young child ; we can put you in touch with one of our Befrienders. 

Stay in contact with friends and family by  message, phone or video call. You might like to show friends and family our advice about supporting someone after their child has died 

It is important to look after your physical well-being too; try and look after yourself and get rest. If you can’t sleep, it could  be helpful to listen to a relaxation or meditation audio or app like Headspace. There is some useful advice about sleep on the NHS website. Try to get some fresh air or sunlight each day – even opening a window can help. If you can try to exercise, go for a walk or run, or do some exercise in your home – exercise can be really helpful as it is a distraction from thinking and releases chemicals in our brains which boost mood.  Yoga can be really helpful and there are many free videos available on YouTube. A good one to begin with is ‘Yoga for Grief with Adriene’  

The Lola Project has free videos for wellbeing, yoga and meditation

Speak to your G.P if needed.  

Try to keep to a regular routine of getting up and dressed and eating meals at the usual time. The structure will help you feel a little more in control (even if only a little.) 

How others are coping 

During lock down, families are finding it may not be possible to visit the grave of their baby or to mark special events like anniversaries or birthdays in the usual way. Some families have shared with us what has helped them to feel close to their child or how they have adapted to mark special events during the pandemic 

I have a rose Bush that I had potted up a couple of years ago. I don’t live locally to where my daughters ashes are buried, so if I ever felt I needed time or I buy something I place it with the rose Bush 

Usually we go for a day out and release balloons for our little boy. This year we had to shield for our youngest daughter so we stayed in, baked a cake and cuddled his Teddy (has his ashes in) whilst watching movies. 

We concentrated on making my daughter a rose garden, we got our boys involved too. Also bought some amazing shadow boxes I’ll be putting pictures and outfits and her funeral flowers we had preserved in there. Family have chosen their favourite outfit or one that holds the most smiles.  

My partner has made a pond for our daughter in our garden, we also still have her ashes upstairs due to passing the day of lockdown and my son keeps drawing her pictures and letters for her memory box .

Making memories 

A Lullaby Online Memorial  

This can be a wonderful way to remember your baby. Reading the messages and seeing the images left about a loved one can be a source of great comfort, and your tribute pages can be kept open for as long as you like. It can also be used to make donations in memory of a loved one. It is easy to set one up, just let us know here. 

Memory box 

You may want to keep your own memory box or a memory book, containing items that help you and family members commemorate your child’s life. Creating your own boxes can be a special activity for your family, or you can buy boxes, which are available in various designs from several charities, such as Winston’s Wish and Child Bereavement UK

Hand and footprints 

There are inkless kits to take hand and foot prints without damaging your child’s skin. You may want to ask your funeral director if this is possible to be done before the funeral if it hasn’t been done already and you would like this. 

Memorial jewellery and other keepsakes 

It can help to have some special items that help you feel connected to your child. You may like to create a memory corner in your home or a garden area to place particular items that remind you of your baby or which are comforting. 

Some parents choose to have a piece of jewellery, which could perhaps incorporate a lock of their child’s hair to carry a memento with them. 

If you have decided on cremation some parents keep their baby’s ashes in a precious box or a teddy bear. 

You could consider having a quilt made using some of your child’s clothing 

Funeral and memorials 

Many  people are unable to attend funerals, cremations and wakes at the current times. This is a very distressing reality for lots of people at this time. However, it is still possible to have a personalised, meaningful funeral for your baby and, although funeral arrangements and preparations now happen online or by phone rather than face to face, funeral directors and funeral celebrants will help parents make a ceremony to honour their baby’s life.  

The latest Government guidelines can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-managing-a-funeral-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic 

As of 24 March 2020, in the UK, funerals can only go ahead at a crematorium or graveside. Each crematorium will have its own guidelines but usually only ‘immediate family’ are able to attend (many funeral directors are limiting numbers to 10) and they must abide by social distancing rules. That means unless you are attending with the family you are isolating with, you need to stay two meters apart. It may not be possible to touch the coffin. 

Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms, who is self-isolating after being exposed, or who is in a high-risk group, is not able to attend. 

It may be hard to get funeral flowers if florists are closed but you could consider buying supermarket flowers and retying with ribbons and adding flowers from your own garden if you have one. 

You could consider paper flowers, available from some small business crafts people online. 

It is still important to find a way to say goodbye and Funeral services are offering some creative ways of holding ceremonies. They can offer video link live so who ever can’t attend in person can still be there. Families have shared with us what has helped them in arranging their baby’s funeral:

I lost my daughter just before the pandemic and when her coffin was sealed they brought her home to me where she stayed until the day of her funeral. This gave myself and family much needed time with her. One thing I’d recommend to any family, which is something I failed to do and wish I’d thought of sooner was plaster casts; giving the funeral home plaster casts kits so I could have her hands and feet with me forever. I would be able to still hold her hand. I know some funeral homes have opened their doors late at night and on the weekends to account for this pandemic and allow families extra time . 

It may help to think of planning a memorial for your baby at some point in the future when everyone is able to come together again. The Lullaby Trust facilitates regular events such as Miles in Memory although these may need to be modified in line with guidelines at present. 

Further information about funerals can be read in this booklet  

Joining a funeral remotely 

Funeral Directors and Celebrants may be able to help with other options such as a live video link of the funeral or a recording for friends and relatives to watch remotely. 

If this is not possible, the script of the funeral ceremony could be shared with relatives so they can read it and perhaps play the same music being played at the funeral to make their own private ritual at home. 

Perhaps relatives can record themselves saying a poem, which could be played or choose one to be read out 

A candle could be lit at the funeral service at a certain time and those at home could light one at the same time  

Family members could make origami hearts, butterflies or birds and write messages which can be taken to the funeral. https://www.rememberingbaby.co.uk/activity-origami) 

You might want to consider a virtual family get together afterwards on a platform such as Zoom. 

How we can help 

Please be reassured that our bereavement support continues as normal during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. 

We have extended our helpline hours to include Tuesday and Thursday 7-9pm as well as Monday to Friday 10am-5pm. 

Our befrienders are available to support via phone or email and also answer the helpline on weekend and Bank Holiday evenings 6-10pm. 

Useful websites 

https://www.sands.org.uk/support-you/coronavirus-covid-19-updates/covid-19-and-changes-impact-bereaved-families 

https://www.childbereavementuk.org/Pages/Category/coronavirus 

https://www.winstonswish.org/coronavirus/