Author: Carol Blake,
Senior Bereavement Therapist –
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and the subsequent disease Covid-19 pandemic is recorded to have caused deaths of higher percentages of people from the BAME communities. We need to be talking about bereavement and the support for those who have suffered the loss of their loved ones.
The figures shown below illustrates that those from Black Caribbean are amongst the highest recorded BAME deaths.
BAME communities have specific rituals following a loss, these have now been minimised due to the strict rules set out from The Public Health law (Coronavirus Act 2020) to contain the spread of Covid-19. We need to talk about the effects on BAME communities and their psychological wellness following so many losses.
Death remains a taboo subject in our modern-day societies, the very thought of death still sends chills down our backs. Yet today we are faced with large numbers unable to pay their final respects to their family members, friends and neighbours of all ages who have died due to the Coronavirus. Their funerals have been held with minimal attendance, normal rituals have been prevented and the attendance minimized to close family members only.
What does their grief look like? How much trauma is there surrounding the loss of their friends, families and colleagues?
When 30-year-old Julie* the only child to Len* and Christine* (from the Black Caribbean community) died in early April 2020 her parents were shocked by how quickly the Covid-19 virus took her life. Julie had no underlying health conditions very few symptoms and had been admitted to hospital for further tests. Julie died within 24 hours. Len and Christine recall feelings of helplessness, anger and disbelief. They wanted to know why?
Listening to their experiences of grief helped to validate and contain their loss. Their grief felt overwhelming. The natural order is that we expect to die before our children. Julie’s death which was described by Christine aptly “it feels like it has left a huge wound which is raw”. Len expressed himself by saying “But what of those who have lived a long life and without this disease and would have lived for many more years there is no replacement”
Len and Christine insisted that no one wore black at Julie’s funeral they wanted Julie’s life to be celebrated. The streets around their home was filled with Julie’s 30 something’s friends, family members and neighbours wearing every colour of the rainbow, carefully socially distancing themselves. For Len and Christine, a strong spiritual belief helped them navigate their way throughout. Signposting to bereavement helplines and The Samaritans who bravely listened to mournful cries with empathy also helped.
We should be talking about bereavement and perhaps extending our psychological skills to support this community who are amid their grief.
Let us not forget that a high proportion of the BAME deaths have been frontline workers in health, transport and teachers.
*Name changed to maintain confidentiality.
Cruse Bereavement National Helpline
Griffith, R. (2020). Using Public health law to contain the spread of COVID-19
British Journal of Nursing, 2020, Vol 29. No 5 Magonlinelibrary.com by 086/161.122.058
(Accessed 20 May 2020)
Siddique, H (2020) British BAME Covid-19 death rate ‘more than twice that of whites’ (online). London. Guardian News & Media Limited (Accessed 20 May 2020)