A national day to remember those who have died during the pandemic, and to show support for everyone who has been bereaved, is gaining support from a swathe of organisations.
Spearheaded by end of life charity Marie Curie, and set to take place on Tuesday 23rd March – the anniversary of the UK going into the first national lockdown – care organisations, charities, businesses, membership organisations, community groups and many more have committed to supporting the National Day of Reflection,1 with more joining every day. They add their support to over 50 MPs, and a host of celebrities who are backing the day.2
Marie Curie estimates that over 3 million people have been bereaved since the pandemic began,3 yet many have been unable to properly say goodbye to loved ones or grieve.
The National Day of Reflection includes a minute’s silence at midday to reflect on those who have died, daffodils (fresh, drawn or crafted) placed in windows, as a symbol of hope; and Online talks featuring people who are bereaved, celebrities and expert panellists sharing experiences and answering questions. As night falls, the nation will appear on their doorsteps with candles, torches or simply lights from their mobile phones – for a minute of silence in the evening, sharing a beacon of support in these incredibly tough times.*
Marie Curie Chief Executive Matthew Reed said: “We need to mark the huge amount of loss we’ve seen this year and show support for everyone who has been bereaved in the most challenging of circumstances – be that from covid or any other cause. We’ve had a huge response from individuals, organisations, businesses, schools and groups from across the UK wanting to support the day – testament to how much people need and want to come together.
Shirley Woods Gallagher, from High Peak, Derbyshire father died of covid-19 in May 2020 aged 77 years. Shirley is Clinically Extremely Vulnerable. Shirley was shielding and was medically advised not to attend her dad’s funeral. Sharing her experience Shirley said:
“On the day my father was dying, with just a minute’s notice, I was given a video call to say goodbye that lasted no more than 5 minutes. It was brutal. I was then told that under no circumstances could I attend my Dad’s funeral as I am in the shielding category. Instead, I wrote the eulogy and pre-recorded it to be played at the funeral. I never even saw the funeral, there’s an assumption that they [funerals] can happen virtually – but there was no wifi or cameras at the crematorium so there was no possibility of doing an online funeral for us.
“I couldn’t let the way we’d said goodbye over a hospital video phone be the end of it. So with the help of my husband, I managed to get 5 minutes in the chapel of rest on the day of the funeral in begged and borrowed PPE to have a personal meaningful goodbye with my Dad.
“It’s not just the funeral service that brings you comfort after a death. It’s sharing stories with others who loved that person too, but my mum had to do a socially distanced wake. All these limitations make grieving more difficult. I had to drive away from my mum’s house after the funeral. Mum placed a cloth heart on the boot of my car what my Dad had had under his pillow in hospital whilst she and Dad were apart.
“Ordinarily people have scaffolding in place when they are bereaved, they have support from seeing family, friends, colleagues. People have had none of that during this time. That scaffolding has disappeared, and its absence is being felt by so many and will have long-term consequences.
“I hope a day for the nation to come together, to remember the precious people who have died, like my Dad, will help start to build a foundation of support for us to move forward with. We can’t move on from this crisis without acknowledging it and ensuring there’s sufficient support in place for people to rebuild their lives.”
Marie Curie has been supporting bereaved people as well as caring for dying people with and without coronavirus throughout the pandemic. The charity warns that without the right support for people who have been bereaved, the devastation that the pandemic has caused will impact the lives of people for generations.
Chief Executive of Marie Curie, Matthew Reed continued: “We cannot simply stand by and not recognise the effects the pandemic has had on the bereaved. We know people are in shock, confused, upset, angry and unable to process what has happened. We invite everyone to join together on the 23rd March to reflect, remember and celebrate the lives of everyone that has died during these challenging times – from Covid and other causes.”
To find out more about the National Day of Reflection visit www.mariecurie.org.uk/dayofreflection. #DayofReflection