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Grief and COVID-19 in BAME Communities

Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on people of colour in the UK:

Too many children and young people have lost family members and experienced loss in their wider communities - especially those from BAME communities.

Javed Khan, CEO Barnardo’s

An analysis of survival among confirmed COVID-19 cases shows that, after accounting for the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region, people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death when compared to people of White British ethnicity. People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Black Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50% higher risk of death when compared to White British.

Public Health England, 2020

Some areas in the country have seen high numbers of deaths within their local community, which will have had a devastating psychological effect on residents who have been unable to grieve in their preferred way due to isolation and restrictions.

Death is of course, universal, but grief is viewed, and expressed in diverse ways by different communities. What is common is the importance of rituals and customs. For many communities it is crucial in supporting the grieving process, allowing people to make meaning and to process and express it, and in offering support to the bereaved.

Covid has prevented many of these rituals being able to take place, in addition to families not being able to say goodbye to their loved one before their death. This has been true for all communities but there have been additional challenges for BAME communities:

"Having to deal with the complexities of grief in lockdown, as well as the harsh realities of racism, has likely made grief more complex for many people. Additionally, some BAME people have experienced the devastating loss of multiple bereavements in their families and communities.

Claire Collins, Bereavement Coordinator & Counsellor at Marie Curie

Where there has been proper consultation with communities, consistent approaches and an understanding of the need to honour a person’s death, there has been greater acceptance of the need for restrictions regarding funeral arrangements.

Many bereaved people’s mental health and well-being has been affected by the death of loved ones in such difficult circumstances. Lack of access to support has been identified as a key issue for people of diverse backgrounds but for BAME communities this has been flagged up in particular.

Health inequalities have been compounded in addition to the social and economic impacts on already often poor and marginalised communities.

A report by Karl Murray, BAMESTREAM, looking at the unequal access to mental health services for BAME communities cites: ‘Institutional apathy, structural inequalities racism, fear, stigma and discrimination’ as factors.

He emphasizes the urgent need for improvements in this area and for BAME led delivery to ensure people get the support they need.

What can help:

  • Interacting with children, young people and families with ‘cultural humility’ – listen actively and sensitively to begin to learn about their grieving and mourning process.
  • Knowing and understanding a family’s individual beliefs and personal choices – it is much better to clarify by asking questions rather than making an assumption on how they will grieve.
  • Consider the following aspects when asking questions: how old the deceased person was; how men and women are expected to grieve; whether children are involved in the rituals and customs

Resources:

MHHTC Grief, Loss, and Bereavement Fact Sheet #4: Cultural Responsiveness

https://mhttcnetwork.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/Fact%20Sheet%204%20Cultural%20Responsiveness%2009082020_0.pdf

References:

Link to useful worksheets: https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheets/grief/none

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