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Coronavirus: Be responsible. Be safe

Health information and advice to stop the spread of coronavirus

Bereavement and grief

Last updated: 29 June 2020 at 12.00am

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic means we now have to follow social distancing and other measures. The things we would usually do after the loss of someone close now have to be done differently.

A confidential bereavement support line is available from the Irish Hospice Foundation and HSE.

The freephone service on 1800 80 70 77 is available Monday to Friday from 10am to 1pm. Callers will be given emotional support and information on any practical issues that may be helpful to them.

If you need more support, use one of the phone or online mental health support services available to you.

If your grief is becoming overwhelming, or you are having trouble sleeping, talk to your GP.

Funerals

We cannot spend time together in close contact during the coronavirus pandemic. So, unfortunately, funerals may be a little different during this time.

The government is working with religious communities to agree the numbers that will be allowed at each venue. Talk to your funeral director or religious leader for more information.

Mourners will need to follow social distancing guidelines. This means keeping a distance of 2 metres (6.5 feet) apart.

You should not go to a funeral if you are self-isolating or if you need to restrict your movements

Bereavement is a difficult time for every family. We know that these precautions make it even more difficult. But they are in place to protect everyone. 

For advice about funerals during COVID-19, visit the Citizens Information website

Read a practical guide for the bereaved during the COVID-19 pandemic on GOV.ie

Advice on grieving at this time

Even in more normal times, the loss of a loved one can be difficult. It can trigger a dip in your mental health.

There is no right or wrong way to experience loss or to grieve. You may experience a wide range of emotions.

Allow yourself to feel and react in a way that is natural to you. This is part of coming to terms with a loss or bereavement.

Stay in touch with others

You may not be able to be physically close with people who want to offer condolences at this time.

Even though you may be physically cut off from your usual support network, try not to become emotionally isolated. Allow people to offer their condolences and support you in different ways.

Phone calls, texts, emails and social media messages of support from the people closest to you may offer some comfort. Reach out to them and make sure to contact someone every day.

Answer their calls and reply to their messages to keep conversations going with the people who care. If you are finding messages of support overwhelming, try not to feel pressure to respond. While it is important to stay connected, do so only when you feel ready.

Eat well

Try not to neglect your basic needs. Even though you may not have your usual appetite, try to eat well and to drink enough water. This will help you to stay physically well while you grieve.

Keep a routine

Keeping some routine can be helpful. Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible. Keeping to your usual meal-times, bed-time and getting-up time is important.

Get out into the garden or on your balcony for some fresh air, if you can.

Take it one day at a time

You may find you have days when you feel OK and the grief is not as bad as other days - this is normal. Some people can feel guilty when this happens, but there is no need.

Try to be kind to yourself and be aware of your feelings and emotions, one day at a time. It is all a normal part of grieving.

Caring for children who are grieving

If there are children in your family who are grieving, check-in with them often. Answer their questions honestly. Children cope better with sad news when they are told the truth.

Children's emotions may change from sad to happy in the space of minutes. Let them set their own pace. There is no right or wrong way for them to experience grief.

Try to give honest, age-appropriate information about the death.

Be guided by children. Let their questions lead the conversation. Don't worry if you can not answer all their questions. Tell them you will find out and try to bring up the conversation again when you can answer them.

If it feels right, encourage conversation about the person who has died and memories of them.

Read more about helping children to cope with bereavement

Limit news and social media

Try to limit how much news and social media you consume. When you are grieving, regular news can be distressing and cause you more worry about yourself or your family.

Ways to help others who are grieving

To help a grieving friend or loved one, think about how you can send your condolences at this time. There are other ways you can offer comfort without being physically close to them.

You could:

  • text or call - ask your friend how they are doing, ask what might help and listen carefully
  • drop food or a gift at the door to offer comfort
  • offer practical help, for example with shopping
  • offer help with technology, for example with setting up video calls, WhatsApp or other ways of keeping in touch
  • complete an online condolence such as on RIP.ie
  • share photos
  • write a card

However you choose to show your condolences, make sure you reach out. Let them know you're available not just in the short-term but in the weeks and months to come.

Be mindful that the person may not always want to reply or talk with you. That’s OK too – giving them space is important. Knowing that you are there when they might need you most, is also important.

More information

Loss and bereavement

Care and Inform - Irish Hospice Foundation

Grieving in exceptional circumstances - Irish Hospice Foundation

Mental health and coronavirus - What’s Your Grief

Irish Childhood Bereavement Network

Coronavirus: grieving and isolation – Cruse Bereavement Care

page last reviewed: 17/04/2020
next review due: 17/04/2023

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