Grieving families should be allowed to form 'bereavement bubbles', charity says

Grieving households should be allowed to form ‘bereavement bubbles’ with others who have lost loved ones during any future coronavirus lockdown, a charity has suggested.

The Sue Ryder charity says this would help families feel less isolated and alone as they go through the grieving process.

It found 62% of people bereaved since the end of March thought the bubbles would be a good idea, with two-thirds of the 503 adults surveyed also saying they would be a ‘vital source of support’.

Research also revealed that 62% feel the nation has become ‘desensitised to death’, 59% feel as though their grief has been forgotten and 55% feel their loved one’s death is ‘just a statistic’.

Currently single adult households can form a support bubble with another household without needing to adhere to social distancing.

The Government is being urged to extend this to bereaved households containing more than one adult, such as housemates or older children, during any local or national lockdown.

Carolyn Harris, MP for Swansea East, is backing the call in a letter to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock.

She said: ‘Grief is extremely complex – even without the added anxieties of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

‘For many people who have been bereaved since lockdown began, this has been an incredibly isolating time.

‘The ability to form a bereavement support bubble without the need for social distancing, as single adult households are currently able to do, could make a huge impact for someone who is grieving.’

Sue Ryder has seen a spike in demand for its bereavement support services, including online video counselling and an online community forum.

Chief executive Heidi Travis said: ‘Integral and deeply personal elements of the bereavement journey have been disrupted for so many over the last few months due to social distancing measures.

‘So many people have been unable to say goodbye to those who have died, they have then had to grieve in isolation, without the physical presence or touch of those close to them.’

Matt Williams, head of information and support at terminal illness charity Marie Curie, added: ‘People accessing our bereavement support service are telling us that the absence of normal support networks such as friends and family is proving incredibly tough.

‘Many people have not been able to say proper goodbyes, attend funerals or hug friends and family. Bereavement bubbles could help alleviate this and the potential long term effect complicated grief can cause.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: ‘We recognise how difficult it has been for people to be cut off from their friends and family, and that this has been a significant issue for those who live by themselves. Support bubbles were introduced to assist the loneliest and most isolated in society.

‘Any changes to the guidance on social contact will be made in line with the latest available scientific evidence.’

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