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Healing From Our Collective Grief
September 8, 2021

As we learn that over 1000 deaths in Gloucestershire, during the past 10 months, have had Covid 19 mentioned on their death certificates, it seems an appropriate moment to pause and reflect upon the massive level of loss this represents, not just to individual families, but in many ways to all of us.

Some might choose to debate the accuracy of the figure, but such discussions are, for me, something of a distraction from more important issues.

Although we may never be able to quantify exactly how many people have had their lives cut short by the virus and by how much, what this sobering figure reminds us is how many families, friends and neighbours have lost loved ones, before they might have expected to, often unable to say goodbye, or bring them comfort during their final days and hours. For some, this loss has been compounded by losing more than one person, sometimes in a very short space of time. And of course, even for those who have died of causes other than Covid 19, often the same issues of separation, and inability to say goodbye as they would want, have affected their families and those they loved.

Additionally, families have then found themselves unable to visit loved ones in the Chapel of Rest, or to have the funeral they feel their loved one deserved. Despite the best efforts of funeral directors, crematoria staff and celebrants such as myself, we have had to work within unprecedented restrictions.  These include; limited numbers at funerals, being unable to gather properly afterwards and not being able to say an intimate farewell inside the Crematorium Chapel. These have further added to people’s distress.

This experience of grief and loss is not limited to families who have lost someone. Even if not affected directly, most of us will know people who have lost a loved one. We don’t have to look far in the news or on social media to find stories from these times that bring a tear to our eye.

We tend to think of grief and loss in terms of people, but these times have  brought other losses to all of us; limits on our freedoms, the inability to spend time with those we love, a lack of physical touch, lost opportunities and for many, financial loss. So much. Few of us will have experienced a collective level of grief on this scale, and there is no doubt that we will feel the impact and bear the scars for many years to come.

Yet throughout this time, in the darkest of hours, in the saddest of moments, I have been touched and humbled to witness the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Gestures of kindness and bravery, from the small and everyday, to acts of great humanity. Courage and stoicism, compassion and care.  And it is these very things that will help us heal over time – as individuals, and as a society.

If we continue to reach out and care for each other we will get through this.