Coping with bereavement during coronavirus

Coping with the death of someone close to you from pancreatic cancer is hard. The restrictions from coronavirus may have made this even worse.

Pancreatic cancer can grow and spread quickly, and you may not have had much time to come to terms with their diagnosis before being told they only had a short time to live.

If you lived with the person with pancreatic cancer, you may have taken on a lot of caring responsibilities during coronavirus. Family and friends may not have been able to visit you or provide as much support as they normally would due to restrictions. It may have been particularly difficult not being able to see those close to you through this time. If you didn’t live with the person with pancreatic cancer, you may be struggling if you weren’t able to spend as much time with them as you wanted towards the end, or to say goodbye properly.

You may be left with feelings of numbness, shock, anger or disbelief. If you live alone, you may be feeling lonely and isolated. The comfort of family and friends is important after the death of someone close to you, and you may be missing this comfort or struggling without it. With social distancing we’re still not able to get close to people we don’t live with unless we’re in a support bubble with them. But when you’re grieving, sometimes you just really need a comforting hug.

You may also have been spending a lot more time with your household over the last few months. Whilst this may have provided comfort, it may also have had its challenges. For example, you may not be used to spending so much time together. This can cause tensions, especially if you are all dealing with increased emotions. If you have children, they may be struggling with the changes in routine, as well as their grief.

What can help? 

First of all, remember that grief is a process. It will take time for you to come to terms with what has happened, so go easy on yourself. Your experience of grief will be very individual to you, and you may react differently or cope in different ways to others. Marie Curie have more information about grief and how you might feel.

Talking to others

People often find it helps to talk about how they’re feeling. Talking to friends and family can be a big support. Although it may be harder to see people at the moment, there are ways of being in touch with those close to you, even if they don’t live with you.

  • Can you meet up and go for a walk, or sit together outside? Depending on where you live, this may not be allowed.
  • Speak to family and friends on the phone or use video calls such as Zoom, Facetime or Skype.
  • You can also chat through email, text, WhatsApp or social media. Sometimes writing things down can feel like an easier way to express your thoughts.

For some people though, it can be hard talking to those close to them. There are online communities where you can talk to others who have been bereaved, and who can understand what you’re going through. These communities all have threads specifically about bereavement and are still open at the moment:

Get support

There is support available for people dealing with bereavement through charities and the NHS. Many of these organisations are adapting their services to continue to provide support and information, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

You can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line at any time, including after someone with pancreatic cancer has died. They have the time to listen, and can help you talk through your feelings.

  • Cruse Bereavement Care provide information about grief and coronavirus, and have a free Helpline which is staffed by trained bereavement volunteers who can offer emotional support. They are also moving all their bereavement support services to telephone or online rather than face to face.
  • Marie Curie provide bereavement support through their Support Line. They also have a lot of information about coping with bereavement.
  • Sue Ryder provide a free online video bereavement counselling. They also have information about bereavement.
  • Maggie’s provide support and information through cancer centres and online. They have information and blogs about bereavement, and are offering telephone, email and online support at the moment. Their centres are also open – call them to arrange a time to visit.
  • The NHS website has information about what to do when someone dies. The NHS bereavement helpline provides advice, guidance and practical support if someone you know has died.
  • The Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland have produced a series of booklets to help you cope with grief during coronavirus, including for children.
  • Hospices often offer bereavement support after someone has died. Get in touch with your local hospice to see what they’re offering at the moment. You can search for a hospice on the Hospice UK website.
  • At a Loss is an organisation that signposts to local and national organisations providing bereavement support.
  • The Good Grief Trust have personal stories and tips from others who have been bereaved, including ideas of ways to remember your loved one. You can also search for local and national bereavement support services.
  • WAY (Widowed and Young) support people who have lost a partner before the age of 50, whatever their gender and sexual orientation. They provide information about dealing with bereavement, including about coronavirus, and tips and stories from others. You can join WAY to access online communities and their helpline, which provides advice and counselling.
  • Sudden is a charity that supports people who have been bereaved suddenly – including by illness. They provide information and support through their helpline.
  • The Compassionate Friends support people who have lost a child of any age. They offer online support and a helpline, and have information about grief during the coronavirus situation.

Supporting children 

If you have children, you may struggle to know how to talk to them about the death of someone close to them. The situation with coronavirus may have put added stress on children as their routines may have been disrupted.

For most children and teenagers it is best to be open and honest. Listen to them and answer their questions honestly. Use language they will understand, depending on the age of the child. Check that they have understood by asking them to tell you what is happening in their own words. Try asking them questions that help them tell you what they’re thinking and feeling.

There are organisations that support children who have been bereaved.

  • Winston’s Wish is a charity specialising in supporting bereaved children. They have information to support children during coronavirus, and their helpline, email, text and online chat support is still available.
  • Hope Again is a website for children and young people from Cruse. It has videos and stories from other young people about how they coped. Young people can also call or email them to talk to a trained volunteer.
  • Grief Encounter have information about supporting bereaved children and young people during coronavirus. Their helpline, web chat and social media are all still providing support.
  • Child Bereavement UK has information about supporting children who have been bereaved, including during coronavirus. Their helpline and web chat are still open, and they are also offering support sessions by Zoom.
  • Marie Curie have specific information about supporting a child when someone dies.

Updated 12 November 2020