Life in Lockdown: The Impact of Grief and Employees’ Rights

Coronavirus

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and here at Thrive we’re sharing our “Life in Lockdown” series. We’re looking at how everyone’s mental health is being impacted by the current circumstances, but also how the world keeps on turning, and that means that certain aspects of life which impact people negatively, such as grief, cancer treatments, and domestic violence, are still going ahead, even amongst this crisis. In this series, we’re trying to consider particularly how mental health is impacted in these scenarios, whilst the world spins madly on.

Other blogs in this series are:

Life in Lockdown: NHS Staff and Possible PTSD After COVID-19

At the moment, how people are grieving the loss of a loved one is changing due to the pandemic. Not only are family members tragically lost to the virus itself, but the sad fact is that people continue to die of conditions or situations quite apart from Covid-19.

As social distancing is in place, we cannot grieve in the usual way with friends and family. The opportunities to say goodbye to certain loved ones have been taken away and those final conversations are having to be had through remote technology, without any final hugs or kisses. The lockdown has meant that funerals have had to adapt to ensure guidelines can be met, so the number of people who can attend have been limited and in some cases people are having funerals without anyone being able to attend at all.

Grief can be a difficult process and can affect people in different ways. Arguably, in the current circumstances this process can be made even harder. Grief can occur after the loss of a loved one but for some people grief can occur a while after their loss. This is known as delayed grief. With the lockdown measures in place, delayed grief may become more prevalent now as people may find themselves subconsciously suppressing their grief, for example, because they cannot attend the funeral and the reality therefore wouldn’t sink in right away.

How to cope with grief during lockdown

Despite lockdown changing the way in which we grieve, there are still ways to help ensure we take the time to process the loss of a loved one. These include:

  • Make sure to use technology to keep in touch with others. This is important because if you are grieving you’re often surrounded by friends and family who may be grieving themselves and with the lockdown in place, this cannot be done in person. However, the use of technology through videos calls can help bring that sense of connection with others which is important during the grieving process as grief can make you feel isolated.

 

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As we cannot be surrounded by people due to the lockdown, this can make it easy to avoid asking others for help when we need it. However, asking for help is important especially when the grieving process is no longer the same.

 

  • Make sure you take the time to looking after your wellbeing and physical health. Grief can often take a toll on us both mentally and physically so it is important we try to still take the time to look after both. This can be done through gentle exercise such as a short walk or a yoga session for example. This will help you look after both your mental health and physical health.

 

It is important to remember that the grieving process will be unique to you, it is YOUR grieving process. This means there is no right or wrong way to grieve and how you grieve will be personal to you. For further information on coping with grief, you can visit the NHS website through the link here.

What rights do employees have?

Employees are not statutorily or legally entitled to any time off in the UK, except for if a person’s child dies. However, most employers will have a compassionate leave or bereavement leave policy, which will permit for paid or unpaid leave for a certain period of time following any death or to prepare for a funeral.

The only exception to this is parental bereavement leave, where parents are who lose a child are entitled to two weeks’ statutory bereavement leave.

Where employees are made unwell as a result of the bereavement, they may be entitled to sick leave and therefore receipt of contractual or statutory sick pay. With delayed grief, some people might not have any emotional or physical ramifications for some time after the bereavement. This means that they may require sick leave weeks or even months after the death of a loved one.

Employer should always be encouraged to be as sympathetic as possible, especially given the current circumstances, and should not make any assumptions about what an employee wants or needs following the death of a loved one.

 

By the Thrive Tribe

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