When I retired from full time work in 2017 at 70 with the brand-new letters ‘PhD’ after my name, I could not have foreseen how plans for more leisure time would be so seriously challenged. From a snug garden room equipped as an office, studio and counselling space, I have reached out to hundreds of people throughout the pandemic.
As a counsellor working with loss and grief over two decades, I recognised the need for my experience as the Covid-19 death toll mounted. It was abundantly clear that existing bereavement services could be overwhelmed. I sought to come up with creative and radical solutions. In April 2020 I launched a private and confidential Facebook page for people bereaved by and during the pandemic. This has grown to 650 members, and is now linked to York St John University Communities Centre, where I direct the Bereavement Service in a voluntary capacity. One great strength of the group is that many counsellors, some of them bereaved by Covid themselves, have joined the Facebook group, so there are many listening ears and a warm atmosphere of mutual support. The most vulnerable members of the group have received face to face or group support via Zoom, from the university-based service.
It has been estimated that an average of nine people grieve each Covid death. That equates to 1.5 million in the UK alone, thousands of whom will need skilled help.
It has been estimated that an average of nine people grieve each Covid death. That equates to 1.5 million in the UK alone, thousands of whom will need skilled help. Through an online program of events, I have trained hundreds of professionals from the UK and around the world, to do this work.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I had just completed my second book, a guide through the grief journey, written specifically for people affected by loss and change, including bereavement. Much of the book was researched as part of my doctorate, which explored the uniqueness of grief alongside typical patterns of grief generalisable enough to devise effective ways to offer support. I was seeking a publisher when the pandemic struck. Realising that Covid grief needed its own chapter, I began writing again, collecting stories generously shared by the bereaved. Rather than take the long route of conventional publication, I self-published. The Plain Guide to Grief, published in December 2020, which has already helped thousands of people and has received exceptional reviews.
Now 75, I am dedicated to supporting bereaved people, campaigning for mental health and making sure that those affected by Covid deaths get the help they need. From a tiny shed in the garden, I feel I am making a difference.