The coronavirus pandemic heightened grief for families who had lost loved ones – whether from Covid-19 or other causes, an expert said yesterday.
Gina Spence, a grief recovery specialist, said she would offer a free forum on Sunday to help people cope with loss.
Ms Spence added: “Something we rarely talk about or prepare for has been exacerbated and taken into a different space.”
The community activist, whose son-in-law died as a result of gun violence in 2010, said she faced new challenges in counsellor as deaths from Covid-19 started to happen in Bermuda.
Funerals were hit with restrictions, and still remain limited to 25 people outdoors, with churches allowed 20 per cent capacity.
Ms Spence said she suffered an early shock when a close friend’s wife died of Covid-19 – one of the island’s first deaths from the disease.
She said: “When he called me, I could hear fear. She was in the hospital and he could not visit her.”
Her friend was unable to be at his wife’s side when she died.
Cremation was required rather than a traditional funeral, and larger gatherings were not allowed.
For a large family, many loved ones were unable to attend.
Grief was compounded by quarantines and tests.
Ms Spence added: “This individual was very active in the church, and her family could not have their respectful celebration of her life.
“That was the first time I saw behind the headlines about the pandemic.”
Ms Spence said Bermudians were sceptical about Covid-19 in the early days of the pandemic.
She added that fear and stigma also surrounded the new coronavirus.
Ms Spence said the second death from Covid-19 struck someone “fairly young” whose devastated family feared the cause of death would become public knowledge.
She added other families had their grief worsened by funeral restrictions and the heightened stress of the pandemic.
She added people were also hurt by speculation that someone who died from other causes had fallen victim to Covid-19.
Ms Spence said: “The dignity has been taken out of death and dying. It’s been stolen.”
She will present a Zoom session offered by the Substance Institute, a United States organisation with a training programme for dealing with grief and loss, on Sunday from 5pm.
The forum is free, but Ms Spence said participants would need to register online in advance.
Ms Spence said grief could be caused by a range of problems, from a job loss to the death of a pet.
She added she had a friend who worked as a professional entertainer who was left depressed and felt powerless in the lockdown.
She added: “You’re told to go to school, get a job, get married.
“But nobody tells you what to do when you lose these things.
“People get support intellectually, but it’s not the head that hurts – it’s the heart.
“How do you deal with it? What tangible steps can you take?”
Ms Spence said: “We are 100 per cent grievers. There is no one in the world that has not lost something dear to them.
“Unaddressed grief has consequences. It impacts the physical body and your mental state. To deal with it, we have to unlearn what we think about loss and use new tools.
“This is an opportunity to have a conversation around grief and loss, and to provide people with help and support if they desire it.
“Everybody grieves for different reasons. Covid-19 has exacerbated it.”
Ms Spence said she also hoped to draw more trained helpers into her charity, Gina Spence Productions, to meet demand for services.
The online seminar will feature a presentation by Ms Spence for an hour and 20 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer session.
She said: “I’ve had good feedback. It’s going to be very emotional, but that’s where you start – at the beginning.”
To take part, register online at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIpfumhrDkvE9beaIKA9Cquol-cjeXgetmA
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