• Expert By Experience

Isolation Series: Dealing with Bereavement During Lockdown

This article was written anonymously

At the start of December 2019, my Dad prematurely passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest. He was just 55 and full of a life yet to live.

In the two weeks before his funeral in mid-December, I struggled as my house was filled with relatives, friends and neighbours from far and near. All of them wanted to support me and my family during this period, to help with funeral arrangements and to also collectively grieve with us.

Even though they all meant well I found it difficult not having much space.

Anyone who has experienced death in a Sikh Punjabi household will know how unbearable and suffocating nights leading up to the funeral can be.

Nothing in life prepares you for the loss of a parent and it’s impossible to articulate how grief feels. It’s both a physical and mental experience. It becomes something that you carry with you as part of your identity and journey in life.

In the weeks after my Dad’s death, I reluctantly had to get used to my ‘new normal’, to new routines and new ways of being. It was a tough reality to face that my life as it was with my Dad alive was now changed forever.

When I returned to work, my job became a welcome distraction – commuting and days filled with familiar tasks tired me out enough that I began sleeping longer and provided me with some much-needed routine. It was often being at home, in off-moments when I would feel the loss and absence of my Dad most deeply.

He was a funny and extroverted character whose presence permeated throughout our house.

Being social and booking myself up on weekends so that I could have a constant change of scenery instead of being at home became an important coping mechanism for me.

At the same time, I was fortunate enough to have access to therapy and began this around the start of January. I also joined a local exercise group and attended classes twice weekly. Here I found a welcoming community, something I’ll come back to shortly.

In March 2020 things changed for me again – as it undoubtedly did for you – as COVID-19 forced the world into lockdown. Suddenly not being able to have access to things that have helped me settle into my new life without my Dad were not at hand’s reach anymore.

Small things like having access to my local Gurdwara where I went to seek peace or being able to catch up with friends for a heart-to-heart over brunch changed overnight. This meant that I have had to learn to adjust again to a new and uncomfortable reality.

Below I have listed a few small things that have had a big impact on helping me to cope with grief during lockdown:

  • Be kind to yourself – this goes without saying but is so easy to forget. If being kind to yourself means binging on a Netflix series or having a duvet day because you simply cannot face the world, allow yourself to feel how you feel and do not force anything

  • Journaling – not everyone is a fan of journaling, yet for me, it has proved to be a useful tool in allowing me to vent, list out memories with my Dad and to have frank conversations with myself about how I am feeling. I don’t have a routine for when I journal, I use it ad-hoc when I feel I need a mental release

  • Get outdoors. I’ve been using the once (now many) opportunities the UK government has permitted us to go outdoors to exercise as a time to go on long walks. Being at home all day where I am now working, grieving and resting is exhausting and can create an unhealthy living environment and heavy energy to be around. Intentional walking has allowed me time alone to mentally recharge, centre myself and reflect. Spotify’s Serotonin playlist has become a go-to for lifting my mood

  • The wonderful community that I’d found through weekly exercise classes – that had become an important part of my new normal – had to move online to adhere with lockdown regulations. Maintaining this routine and connection with familiar faces at virtual exercise classes has continued to enrich my life with a sense of pre-lockdown habit and stability

  • Exploring faith and spirituality at home. For me, not being able to go to the Gurdwara as a Sikh has been difficult. I’ve taken solace in the fact that Sikhi teaches me that God is omnipresent and that I can practice my faith at home. I have built new customs for myself around faith: listening to prayer in the mornings or at times of need and lighting a jōt (diva) and incense sticks every morning as part of my practice

  • Speaking to friends and family often, albeit digitally. I’m lucky to have a great support network that has been there for me since my Dad passed away and during the pandemic – I’m constantly in touch with friends and relatives on text and video call so that I don’t ever feel like I deal with my emotions alone

  • Using the ‘extra’ time I have had to gather photos and memories that honour my Dad. When my Dad passed away I intrinsically began gathering memories of him, in the form of photographs, voice notes and videos. Extra time on weekday evenings and weekends spent at home has allowed me to explore family albums and to digitalise personal memories; I have special family photos on loop on my home assistant in my living room

As I write this piece the UK is very much still under lockdown, a predicament that doesn’t look set to change anytime soon. To write that coping with grief during the pandemic has been tough is a grave understatement.

I am learning new coping mechanisms daily.

What has got me to this point and has been key for me trying to maintain some of the routines and habits that I had established during the period of after my Dad’s funeral and before the lockdown.

It’s challenging for me to find any positives to come out of dealing with bereavement under such strange conditions, but if anything, the pandemic has forced me to face grief head-on. This I hope will make it easier for me to continue processing my loss once the pandemic has ended and we are forced to acclimatise to yet another new way of living.

If you are struggling with grief during this time and need to speak to someone there are several organisations that can offer confidential support and advice to you. Some reputable favourites include:

This piece is in memory of the author’s Father, Baldev Singh.