As the pandemic continues, those working on the frontline of care are more likely to be experiencing grief, at a time when the situation is already stressful, and wider factors are making bereavement difficult to cope with for everyone. Janette Bourne, Director, Cruse Cymru, taps into how you can support yourself and others through bereavement during the coronavirus.

Grieving is a normal part of life. However, even during periods of stability, it can be one of the most distressing things we will ever have to deal with. At Cruse Cymru, we know that two of the most profound effects on our grief can be how the person has died, and our own circumstances while we are grieving. Both of these factors have been strongly impacted by the coronavirus.

During this pandemic we are also dealing with a situation which is making bereavement for everyone even more challenging. Our tried and tested rituals for saying goodbye and for coping when someone dies are all being affected.

Many of us are cut off from some of our usual support networks, and unable to meet up with friends and family

Funerals have been limited to immediate family so you may not be able to say goodbye the way we would usually, or offer up your condolences to your colleague’s family in the way you would like

If your colleague died from coronavirus or another work-related cause, it might make you feel very anxious or vulnerable for yourself and for your own family

How to Cope

Learn to be Aware of and Monitor your Resilience

Be aware of your psychological strength to cope when times are hard and stressful. Some days will be harder than others. On the difficult days ask for help if you can (from colleagues, friends and family, external helplines and so on), and when you are stronger offer to help others who may be struggling.

Take Time for Yourself When you Can

We know that it is easier said than done, but take time for yourself when you can. Consider what helps you to relax and recharge, and try to schedule in some time to do those things. Put them in your diary – you can best care for others if you have looked after yourself as much as possible. Again, it is easier said than done, but try to practice self-compassion. Treat yourself as you would a friend or loved one who was dealing with the same situation.

Talk to People

Talk to friends and relatives if it helps you, but don’t feel bad if you can’t share things with them at the moment. It can sometimes be hard to put difficult situations and the feelings that go with them into words. Explain to those close to you how they can help, and that this might change from day-to-day.

Use any support which is in place at your place of work

Recognise the symptoms and early warning signs of trauma, PTSD, and burnout. Contact your management if you are worried – many organisations have dedicated mental health support or helplines you can contact.

How You Can Help Someone Else

The best way to help someone is to be there for them, but respect their wishes and find out how you can best help. Some people may want to talk about what they are doing, but others will need you as a break from the relentlessness of what they are dealing with. What they need from you may change from day-to-day.

If you are worried about their mental health, do encourage them to find out what support is available through their work. You may be able to do some research for them, and encourage or help them to get in touch. If there is no help through work or they need more than what is on offer then they can contact their GP. If they’ve been bereaved remember that everyone grieves in their own time and their own way.

How Cruse can help

If you’re struggling, we can help. Cruse Cymru are continuing to offer as much support as possible over the phone or web.

You can call our National Freephone Helpline on 0808 808 1677. There is a lot of information elsewhere on the website, including more on traumatic bereavement. Our local services are offering telephone and online support. Find the details of your local service in Wales.

For more information, visit www.cruse.org.uk.

To support employers at this time, Cruse Bereavement Care have transformed their long-standing Loss and Bereavement workshop, into a new 2.5-hour webinar. The webinar is tailored to the needs of each organisation, and will help attendees gain an understanding of grief and bereavement, become aware of the impact of loss, communicate with bereaved employees, and develop an understanding of support organisations.

For more information about the training, visit www.cruse.org.uk/training/cruse-webinars.

Other Sources of Advice and Help

NHS staff can access a confidential bereavement support line, operated by Hospice UK, and free to access from 8am-to-8pm, seven days a week. Tel: 0300 303 4434.

You can be offered up to three sessions with the same counsellor and onward support to staff mental health services if you need.

If the situation is making you anxious or you are finding it difficult to cope there are other resources which might help.

NHS staff can find information and support at

www.people.nhs.uk

Our Frontline provides support and information for all keyworkers at

www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/ourfrontline