What is Day of Reflection in the UK for?
23rd March 2021 marks one year since the start of the UK’s first lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Marie Curie has chosen this date to hold a day of reflection, to remember those we have lost during this time – whether to Covid-19 or other causes. Today, we also consider the effects of the pandemic and the lockdown restrictions, on new and existing grief.
It’s no overstatement to say that the pandemic has had devastating consequences on how we grieve. Many bereaved people have found a lack of closure from being unable to attend a funeral or organise the type of send-off that they feel would do their loved one justice. Others have felt it makes explaining loss harder – particularly to children – as there have been few meaningful ways to say goodbye together. Some bereaved people have told us that so much of their life was turned upside down by the pandemic both before and after their loss, that they don’t yet feel they’ve had the headspace to recognise it and are afraid of what their grief will look like when it does finally, fully, arrive.
Others feel angry, and that’s OK. It’s understandable to feel a sense of outrage in the face of such an unexpected loss. Who let this happen? The person you lost did nothing wrong, so why did it have to be them? It might also feel like losing someone you love in this time reduces them to nothing more than a statistic. But they had a name, and a life and were loved, and that wasn’t shown on the daily news. In terms of current statistics, there is an expectation on all of us to be pleased that the death-toll is decreasing and the vaccine is rolling out, but it might feel too little too late because your loved one is already gone. Everyone seems to be talking about “when things go back to normal”, but life for you will never be normal again. Feeling angry is a common part of grief, and in light of all these extra factors, not surprising. It’s important to acknowledge your anger and the whole range of feelings that you might be experiencing and think about what may help you to feel calmer and more able to cope with them all.
Everything I thought I’d dealt with has come back
Today isn’t only about those who have lost a loved one to Covid-19 or during the pandemic, but also about the impact lockdown has had on existing grief. Here at GriefChat, we feel it’s important to be clear that grief has no timeline, which means a loss you experienced years ago can still affect you later down the line. Certain things can trigger it unexpectedly and when that happens, we encourage you to be kind to yourself and acknowledge your emotions the same as you would at the start of your grief journey. The language and images we’ve seen and heard in the media for the last year may be triggering for people who have experienced loss previously, so it’s understandable if you feel you are struggling again now, especially with the restricted access to usual support systems like friends and family.
What is Day of Reflection for?
The idea of today is for the nation to come together to collectively mark and recognise the impact that Covid-19 and lockdown have had, and the far-reaching consequences of the losses and our inability to grieve collectively with others, as we once did.
What can I do to get through today?
Although there is no one-size-fits-all for grief, it can help to try different things to manage it and see what works for you. Here are a few suggestions:
- The minute of silence. At midday today, the nation will hold one minute of silence to reflect on what the last year of loss has meant to each of us individually and remember those who have died. Some will find this to be a powerful moment of tranquillity and unity through a time of isolation and uncertainty. Of course, there’s no one way to grieve and if a minute of silence doesn’t suit you for whatever reason, do something different – listen to music, play a game or even speak to the person you’ve lost.
- Remember them. If you are feeling infuriated by statistics today, it might help to acknowledge your loved one by saying their name publicly. Write it down, share it on your social media with a treasured memory. Or take time for private reflection, looking at photos or videos and allowing yourself to feel your grief. Some people find it helpful to write their loved one a letter. Let them know what’s going on for you and, honestly, how you are. If you’re angry that they’re gone, tell them. If there are things you miss, share them.
- Reach out to others. It’s not quite the same as seeing someone in person or meeting in a group, but texting, calling or video calling a friend can still help. People will understand that we can’t all be OK all of the time – and it’s OK to say you’re not.
- Show yourself some compassion. What would you tell a friend if they were in your position? Would you be telling them to toughen up, that they shouldn’t feel this way? Or would you be understanding and let them know it’s OK to grieve? Allow yourself to bring this compassion and understanding to yourself. Take time to do something for yourself that you would have previously enjoyed, even something as simple as reading a book or watching a favourite TV show. Be kind to yourself and change plans or ease back on responsibilities as you need to.
- Light a candle at 8pm to remember them. At 8pm tonight buildings across the UK will light up in yellow to acknowledge this day, and many people are opting to light a candle in their home or on their doorstep. This is a symbolic way of shining a light, not only for your loved one but also for the losses that have been felt by so many in the past year. Again, this isn’t for everyone and choosing not to participate in no way invalidates your grief.
Just one day?
It may feel unfair that there is only one day to reflect and remember – after all, you are left to remember every day and your loved one deserves so much more recognition. With a declared “roadmap” out of lockdown, try to keep a positive focus on the next steps on your journey and the ways you’ll be able to celebrate and remember your loved one when friends and family can reunite.