Rethinking how we deal with bereavement

New survey looks at attitudes around death
  • Deborah Condon

Almost 70% of people believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has made Irish society rethink the way it deals with death and bereavement, a new survey by the Irish Hospice Foundation has found.

With the current pandemic, funerals have changed irrevocably from often large gatherings of people offering support, to much smaller gatherings carried out with social distancing in place.

The foundation carried out a survey of people's attitudes around death and bereavement and it found that 68% believe that society has had to rethink how it deals with these issues, while 89% believe that being together with extended family and friends is a key part of the grieving process.

Some 55% admit that they struggle to know what to say to someone who is bereaved, or to know how to support them. This figure rises to 74% among those under the age of 34.

Just 10% think Irish people talk about death too much, however 34% think we do not talk about it enough. Meanwhile 29% believe there are not enough supports in Ireland for people who are grieving, while 27% believe there are.

"We know from our work over 30 years that Irish people want a society where death and bereavement is openly talked about and not hidden away, where people can die with dignity, and that supports and services are in place for end of life and for loved ones who are bereaved.

"This opinion poll shows us that more than two-thirds believe the COVID-19 pandemic is making us rethink how we deal with dying and bereavement. This supports our belief from decades of experience and our learning from the COVID-19 pandemic that death, dying and bereavement is truly everyone's business and requires a comprehensive national response," commented the foundation's CEO, Sharon Foley.

She acknowledged that with the current restrictions impacting funerals, the fact that people have had to grieve in isolation "has resulted in doubtless suffering for many individuals and families".

"That is why we have written to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) calling on them to increase the number of people allowed to attend funerals, while maintaining social distancing and other public health measures," Ms Foley explained.

Meanwhile, the foundation said that the survey results also show that more supports are needed for people who are grieving. In an effort to provide more support, it recently launched its Care & Inform online hub. For more on this, click here.

The foundation has also published a new policy document on dying, death and bereavement. This document has been sent to all political parties and outlines the key steps that can be taken to ensure that policies and supports for death and bereavement are considered in government formation talks.

For more information on the Irish Hospice Foundation, click here.


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