We have put this resource together to help support you if you are grieving the loss of a loved one as a result of COVID-19.
Grief at any time is difficult, but if you are bereaved as a result of COVID-19 you may have a potentially different experience. We want you to remember that you are not alone, and though you may be more physically isolated during this time, we at #TeamMDX are here for you if you need to reach out.
Grief is a unique process and your journey will not be the same as others.
There is no ‘right way’ to grieve. You may experience a variety of emotions that you switch between while you process the loss. These emotional changes can also impact on you physically. You may feel very tired or struggle to sleep, you may lose your appetite or eat more than usual, and you may find that you struggle to concentrate on any one task. These are all normal experiences.
If you feel that you are struggling, it's important to reach out for specialist support. The most important thing you can do through your journey is to talk to somebody about how you are feeling. That includes us at #TeamMDX.
Ways to help
Talk to other people about the person who has died, about your memories and your feelings
Try to eat properly and get enough rest (even if you can’t sleep). It's more important than ever to keep to a routine in light of the restrictions which may be in place as a result of COVID-19
Give yourself time and permission to grieve. You are allowed to be emotional and it's normal to feel a variety of emotions in a short space of time
Find a personal way to mark your loss if you cannot attend the funeral or grieve with loved ones. You could create an online memorial or a celebration of their life by arranging a time for memory and story sharing with friends and family
Seek help and support if you feel you need it. This can be from us at the University, from professional support services, or informal support from loved ones and your community at #TeamMDX. You might find it easier to talk to a stranger rather than a loved one (or vice versa) so find an option you're comfortable with. You can also combine a few channels of support to find a combination that works
Tell people what you need. This includes your Personal Tutor around what you may need in terms of study at the moment – do you feel that you need a little time off, a break, a withdrawal, or something else?
Take advantage of a daily form of activity. Exercise may help you to relax and, as long as you comply with the COVID-19 regulations, it will do you good to have a change of scenery once a day
Set limits for yourself on looking at updates on COVID-19 each day. Try not to let it become a constant stream of information, unless you find this comforting in some way
Try not to
Isolate yourself virtually from loved ones. You may be in a situation where you need to be physically isolating due to COVID-19 restrictions, but it is important that you remain in virtual contact with loved ones
Keep your emotions bottled up
Think you're weak for needing help
Feel guilty if you're struggling to cope. These are exceptional circumstances and you are doing the best you can
Rely on drugs or alcohol – the relief will only be temporary
Support from MDX
Reach out to your Personal Tutor and/or Programme Leader to let them know of your loss. They can then discuss how they can support you, and what may be useful for you in terms of your academic work. They may suggest that you have a conversation with the Progression and Support team who can walk you through your options such as taking a break from your studies or applying for extenuating circumstances.
It's your decision as to what you choose to do and the Progression and Support team as well as your Personal Tutor will help you.
Online mental health support
Big White Wall is a safe and moderated online platform where you can share your feelings anonymously. Sign up with your MDX email address to access self-help courses and materials as well as specific courses on coping with grief and loss. Wall Guides are also on hand to offer you support if you need it.
Have a look at the latest resources that #TeamMDX are recommending for your health and wellbeing on UniHub. This includes resources on maintaining a sense of identity and community during this time, which you may find particularly useful
You may also wish to seek support through the Student’s Union advice service which provides impartial confidential advice and support for a range of academic and non-academic issues. MDXSU have also collated a number of support resources as part of MDXSU@Home.
The MDX Interfaith group is a forum that can enable you to make connections with faith communities within the University, Barnet area and the wider community who may offer you some comfort during this time.
Support services at MDX
For students still living in the UK, the Counselling and Mental Health team are available virtually to support you through your bereavement journey with your mental health and your emotions if you are experiencing psychological distress. They will be able to identify what support you need and refer you to other relevant and trusted services within the UK.
For students who are currently based outside of the UK, we encourage you to utilise the other resources and support within this guidance.
They may also recommend, and you may prefer, specialist bereavement support from Cruse Bereavement Care (see more in external support below).
GP services will have altered their access arrangements in light of COVID-19, but your GP is still your primary point of contact if you feel that you need support. If you are not yet registered with a GP or are not sure how to do this, you can explore our guide
Cruse Bereavement Care are a specialist bereavement support charity. They have specific support resources around COVID-19 including help-sheets, shared experiences from others, and a phone support line
Please reach out to us if you feel that you need a helping hand. We are here for you. #TeamMDX
A note of encouragement
“That’s really what grief has taught me. That I can survive. I used to be afraid that if I experienced grief it would overcome me and I wouldn’t be able to survive the flood of it, that if I actually felt it I wouldn’t be able to get back up. It’s taught me that I can feel it and it won’t swallow me whole.But we come from a culture where we think people have to be strong. I’m a big believer in being vulnerable, open to grief. That is strength. You can’t know joy unless you know profound sadness. They don’t exist without each other.”
On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler (2005)
If you know somebody who has been recently bereaved, you may be feeling unsure of what to say and do. If they have lost a loved one through COVID-19, they may be facing a type of bereavement which is incredibly challenging.
It's important that people bereaved by COVID-19 are cared for early on. Research shows that early support and help through the bereavement journey makes it easier to make a recovery with good mental health. Simply being kind and offering your support at this time can be a big help to people who are bereaved.
You do not need to be a professional or have significant training to give help and support. We do also recognise that you yourself may be experiencing additional stressors during this time and we would encourage you to take care of yourself first.
Remember that you are not an expert, and if your loved one is struggling, it would be wise to signpost them to expert advice and support. You will find these service links above for both internal and external support.
COVID-19 related bereavement
A death from COVID-19 may mean there has been or will be:
Little time to prepare for a loved one’s death following a period of illness
No time spent with a loved one before they died due to isolation
An inability to say goodbye after death due to restrictions around attending funerals, public gatherings and travel
Isolation issues as people may be grieving while separated from family and friends who may also be grieving but in other locations
Practical challenges, for example if the person bereaved was previously receiving care from someone who has died and/or they have responsibilities to care for others or have ongoing work or family responsibilities
Issues around coping with a shocking bereavement at a time when the bereaved person, or others in their circle of family and friends, may also be ill with COVID-19
Ways to help
Listen rather than talk – listening can be seen as a deliberate act of giving your attention and time, being as present and focused as possible to what is being communicated. This often means holding back from talking or responding as quickly or as much as we might in a more everyday conversation
You can gently check if you’ve understood correctly and to reassure the person that you have understood them - offer a short summary of what you have heard from them
Leave the door open: “I’m always here if you would like a chat”
Expect a range of emotions - from the obvious ones of worry and depression to others including strong experiences of shock and anger.
Things you can say
“I am so sorry that you're going through such a painful time”
“We all experience grief and loss differently. How can I best support you?”
“You don’t need to talk with me, but know that I am here for you”
Things to avoid
Avoid the phrase “but at least” e.g. “I am sorry that this has happened, but at least…”
Resist the temptation to use cliches such as “time heals” or “I know just how you feel”
Try not to tell somebody what to do. You can make suggestions, but somebody who is grieving may not want to hear practical suggestions right now
Somebody who is grieving may not want solutions, suggestions or ideas for how to ‘feel better’. They may just want to be heard and their feelings validated
Don't suggest that there is one way to grieve, or a set time scale. Everybody grieves differently and how one reacts will be influenced by many different things, including age and personality, cultural background and religious beliefs, previous experiences of bereavement, and current circumstances
Try not to make assumptions about the bereaved person’s relationship with the person they have lost
Additional sources of help
Have a look through the sources listed above for MDX and external support
If you are worried about another student’s conduct, health, wellbeing and safety, please speak to the Care and Concern team who are here to help