With the news that there have been more than 204,209 UK deaths, equating to one million people bereaved since lockdown started, end of life charity Marie Curie has announced a day to reflect to be held on 23 March 2021.
Every death during lockdown has been devastating for friends and family. Coronavirus has particularly had a disproportionality severe impact on BAME people and the care home community. 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 have had any ‘closure’.
The day to reflect in 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, from coronavirus or another cause.
Marie Curie has been on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic providing care and support to dying people and those living with a terminal illness. The charity hopes other organisations, including faith groups, will join together to back the day and sign the petition to support all of those who have been bereaved.
Marie Curie Ambassador Alison Steadman, whose mother Marjorie was cared for by Marie Curie before her death, said: “This has been an incredibly hard period for everyone, and the indescribable pain of losing a loved one has been heightened during this time. For those who have attended a funeral, it has not been easy; with not all your family there and trying to remember not to hug each other. It must be difficult and painful. Many have not even been able to attend a funeral because of lockdown. I think a dedicated day in the future, for everyone to come together as a community to remember and reflect, is much needed. On 23 March we can remember together – and celebrate the lives of those who died”.
Becky Gompertz and her family founded the yellow hearts movement in memory of her grandmother Sheila who died from Coronavirus in April. She shares: “My grandma was more than a statistic. When you see your loved one recorded 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.
“I just think it’s a really nice idea that everyone can have a collective day where we can remember those who’ve died during lockdown whether that be from Covid-19 or something else. After lockdown, I think a lot of people will be wanting another funeral or service with extended family and friends so a day of reflection would enable everyone to celebrate the lives lost together. This day would allow everyone to come together to remember those lost for who they were and not just being a number.”
To recognise the one million people bereaved, Marie Curie has released a film today featuring spoken word artist and UK Poetry Slam champion, Tyrone Lewis (age 28), and his powerful reflection on grief during this time. Tyrone, whose friend Dean McKee (age 28) is believed to be the youngest care home worker to die from coronavirus and was also a poet, 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 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 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 the 23 March 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 a normal anytime soon, but we need a good time to remember.”
Greg Wise, whose sister Clare died of cancer in 2017, supports the day. He shared:
“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.
“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 their 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.”
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 and console with friends and family. Deaths from coronavirus have particularly affected people who identify as BAME and their bereaved loved ones and as 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.”
Share on social media using #UniteInMemory and sign the petition at www.mariecurie.org.uk/nationalday To access Marie Curie’s bereavement Support Line call free on 0800 090 2309.