UNISON members from across the UK have been telling us about the immense emotional toll that the coronavirus pandemic is having upon them. We know that our members are often the only person present at the death of clients and care home residents, who may be people they’ve known and cared for over many years, and have then had to break the news to grieving or distraught relatives. That’s part of the job – and one that our members are used to carrying out with sensitivity and care – but at present the same scene is being repeated over and over again. Nothing like this has happened in living memory, and it’s not surprising that staff are finding it difficult to cope with the trauma of bereavement.
Many large employers have employee assistance programmes or helplines intended to help you cope with distressing or stressful circumstances. Details would normally be available from your Human Resources department, your line manager or on your staff intranet or newsletters. If you’re not sure you might like to talk to your UNISON branch to find out whether a support resource like this has been negotiated with your employer.
In smaller employers, that support may not be available. We know that our members need the support to help them cope with these difficult situations.
We have compiled some resources that you may find useful to help you cope during these difficult times.
The bereavement charity Cruse has a set of online guides on dealing with bereavement and grief, including topics such as traumatic bereavement, feeling guilty, and feeling that a particular bereavement is not a priority. They also have a bereavement helpline.
The Good Grief Trust has a very helpful collection of links and resources for those dealing with bereavement during the coronavirus crisis.
It also has a page of video stories from various health professionals and links to local support services.
Some people may experience physical responses to the trauma of bereavement, including panic attacks. OpenLearn has a free course on panic attacks, explaining what they are and how to deal with them.
The government has developed an emotional, psychological and practical support package for all adult social care staff during the COVID-19 response. The support package currently includes free access to several health and wellbeing apps, guidance on supporting your wellbeing and a bereavement and trauma support line run by Hospice UK.