Addressing collective grief on International Covid Memorial Day


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The world has done it – the pandemic is coming to an end! A vaccine is imminent, and we can visit our loved ones this Christmas. Soon things will all be back to normal and we can forget about this whole horrid affair! That is, of course, not true.

We can (and should) celebrate the hope for the future, but we all know that we have some way to go to get to the finish line of this pandemic.  And, sadly, many people won’t be able to see loved ones this Christmas because they are vulnerable to infection or have passed away this year like 10’s of thousands of others.

What comes next?

As our thoughts naturally start to turn to a future beyond the daily struggle of our war against a virus, we might today dare to create new plans. Those plans might be on building back a greener and better world, plans on how our society can learn from the pandemic and continue to protect and support those in need, or simply plans to give our family a big hug again.  Some people’s plans however may only go as far as how they can get through one day at a time due to the struggles they are faced with because of Covid-19.

Many of us may be starting to make plans of a life beyond Covid-19, but before we can move on from this pandemic there is one thing that we must do as a society. We must set time aside to reflect on our collective loss and remember all those who have not made it through this pandemic. That is the right thing for any society to do. But it is also a necessary part of our collective and individual emotional recovery process that it is imperative we address.


Addressing collective loss

We have all lost something during this pandemic.

  • Our biggest loss as a nation is the 10’s of thousands of people who have died. Whether we count these as the 55,838 official statistics, or the 72,000 excess deaths during the pandemic, or the 100’s of thousands who died alone without their family and friends.  There is no hierarchy of grief and all should be remembered equally.
  • We have lost our liberty. Many have been forced into isolation and loneliness and lost the comfort of close relationships.
  • 10’s of thousands have lost timely access to healthcare.
  • 100’s of thousands have lost their health to the effects of Long-Covid syndrome.
  • As of 6th September – 9,602,000 people have been furloughed and lost the routine of their jobs, 233,909 people have been made redundant and lost their financial security. 1.62 million are already unemployed and struggling to find work with 2.6m forecast to be in that position next year.

When we lose someone, or something, we suffer grief. Grief at its worst is the loss of a loved one, but none-the-less all loss involves grief to some extent. Recovering from grief is a process. When a nation has lost so much that grieving process is usually a collective process so that the nation and it’s citizens can recover emotionally and not only physically.  As yet, we have not addressed that grieving process as other nations have already started to do.

Today we have an opportunity to act, to remember the loved ones lost, to support the bereaved, and demonstrate our compassion towards those whose lives have been impacted because of Covid-19. This is not only the right thing to do, but an important (and necessary) part of our collective recovery process as a society.


Right now there is anger in parts of our society about the losses we have had to endure. There are people suffering with mental wellbeing and depression. We need to help each other (and ourselves) find ways to move on. But moving on does not mean forgetting.

This moment is the time when we should be reaching out to others, telling our stories, and collectively (and individually) finding the meanings we need to find in what we have gone through together, and also alone. A step towards this is being established with the holding of International Covid Memorial Day.

Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle

International Covid Memorial Day

On the 1st January 2021 people are being encouraged to take a moment to pause and reflect on the year we have had. To remember those we have lost, and all those who have suffered, in a moment of collective remembrance.

This is an international period of remembrance of the loved ones around the world that have died because of Covid-19. But it is also about you, your family, your friends, neighbours, and work colleagues. It is about our collective response and respect for others we know, and those we may not know but who we are deeply connected with as fellow human beings.  They all deserve, and need, our support.

International Covid Memorial Day is not our idea, the Forest of Memories is supporting the initiative as we share it’s cause of remembrance. We will be encouraging everyone to take part.


How can you take part?

We will be posting full details on how everyone can take part in different ways on International Covid Memorial Day as we know them, but you can also follow this campaign on Twitter.

However, at the simplest level taking part is straight forward.

Before the 1st January:


  • Make a commitment to yourself to take part
  • Tell everyone about it so we can all benefit collectively from taking part
  • If you have young children, get them to draw and colour a picture of a candle and put it in your window to show support


On the 1st January:


  • Light a candle at 7 p.m. on the 1st January
  • Put the candle in your window, or step outside with the candle to share the moment with your neighbours (just like clap for carers)
  • Spend a minute of reflection for all those we have lost


Dedicate a Tree

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