How connections from others can make all the difference

Even in these hard times there are practical ways you can help and still bring comfort

Gary and Tina

by Eleanor Weaver |

In partnership with Marie Curie

Being there for someone who has been bereaved has been hard over the last year. Restrictions have meant not seeing friends in person, being unable to have a comforting chat or to share memories together. While there’s no single way to make someone feel better, we all know connections from others can make all the difference.

When Gary Powell’s partner Tina died from breast cancer a year ago, her funeral took place just before the first national lockdown. Because of the social distancing measures in place at the time many friends could not attend the funeral in person, while those who did couldn’t hug Gary as they wanted to.

In the weeks and months that followed, being isolated from everyone, apart from his son who he lives with, was so hard. But Gary took great comfort in regular messages on social media to his and Tina’s family.

“Tina and I used to bake together, so when I bake, I’ll put pictures of it on our family group,” says Gary. “They’ll say things like, ‘you’re doing well.’ And I’ll say, ‘I had a good teacher, didn’t I?’”

Tina and Gary
Tina and Gary at Bradford Hospice ©Kate Stanworth

Gary also shares a photo of Tina on his Twitter account every Sunday and has taken so much joy from reading the comments underneath from both people he knows and kind-hearted strangers. “It brings back the memories of things Tina and I did together and it’s so nice to see how people thought of Tina, even though some of them never met her,” says Gary.

After raising nearly £400 at Tina’s funeral for the Marie Curie Hospice in Bradford, where Tina was cared for, Gary wants to volunteer there once the pandemic restrictions are eased to give back some of the support that helped him so much in his grief.

What you can do to help

Every experience of grief is unique. Jo Hamer, Bereavement Co-ordinator at the hospice where Tina was cared for, shares her tips for supporting a friend or a family member who is grieving:

• Say something rather than nothing - fearing you’ll say the wrong thing could stop you saying anything. Knowing you’re there for them is what matters.

• Whatever they’re feeling, whether that’s anger, guilt, relief, sadness or something else, make it clear that it’s okay to feel that way and their emotions are valid.

• Check in regularly to see how they are doing – a friendly text each week can mean the world.

• Offer to do something practical like picking up essential shopping or do the washing up. When someone’s grieving, basic tasks can feel like huge hurdles.

• Sharing a happy memory on social media can be a lovely way to connect.

• Encourage them to listen to their body. Grief can be exhausting so make sure they’re resting when they need to.

• If words are hard to find, you could write a letter or send something thoughtful in the post to let them know you care.

• Laugh with them! Making jokes and sharing little moments of joy can help remind the bereaved that their feeling of sorrow won’t last forever.

Kind gestures

Join the National Day of Reflection on March 23

Marie Curie is leading a National Day of Reflection on March 23, the anniversary of the first UK lockdown. Since that day, millions of people have been bereaved across the UK. This is a day where everyone can take a moment to reflect on this national bereavement and remember all those who’ve died during the coronavirus pandemic. For more information visit mariecurie.org.uk/dayofreflection.

For free support with bereavement you can talk to a trained Marie Curie officer on 0800 0902309 (lines open 8am-6pm Monday-Friday and 11am-5pm on Saturday) or find out more here.

Marie Curie logo
Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us