Background Families and support networks are key to managing bereavement. During COVID-19 these were disrupted because mitigation measures inhibited families’ and communities’ ability to participate in social rituals marking death (Harrop, Farnell, Longo, et al., 2020; Harrop & Selman, 2022. Bereavement. 1). Families were unable to be with those dying or honour the dead which resulted in social disconnection (Smith, Wild, & Ehlers, 2020. Clin Psychol Sci. 8: 464), feelings of guilt (Bear, Simpson, Angland, et al., 2020), difficulty in making sense of the death and the important adjustment of reconstructing relationships in the period following the death.
We discuss how the development of a theoretically informed, co-constructed web-resource to facilitate meaning-making, which situates bereavement in the context of family and friends, offers an opportunity to manage grief collectively.
Methods A literature review and online survey via questionnaire were conducted to identify key elements for family bereavement and the impact of the pandemic. Findings informed the co-production of the web-resource through a virtual workshop with bereaved people and bereavement professionals.
Results Respondents to the online survey reported the pandemic had negative effects on bereavement (guilt, isolation, inability to bear witness). However, it presented a chance to celebrate the deceased and support the bereaved differently (new funeral rituals, technology, remote contact, social acknowledgement of grief). Sense-making and managing bereavement were helped through information-giving, support networks, and relocating the person within the family context. A web-resource to facilitate collective grief was viewed positively and key content agreed by participants at an online workshop.
Conclusion While COVID-19 has exacerbated challenges to bereavement, it has enabled grief to be managed collectively. An online web-resource that encourages consideration of bereavement in the context of close social networks, promotes communication, and sense-making has been developed and is available at www.familiesinbereavement.org.uk It enables grief to be understood and managed within a shared experience and evaluation is in progress via in-depth interviews with users of the web-resource.
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