We carried out a national survey, completed by over 2,200 people across all demographics, on their experiences and views on death and bereavement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Time to Reflect Survey revealed the real impact of the pandemic and the importance people place on supports for end-of-life and bereavement care. As we approach the weekend and the National Commemoration event on Sunday the 20th it’s important to note that this is only the start of remembering and reflecting on the lasting impact of the pandemic on dying, death and bereavement here.
IHF research shows that sadly 68% of respondents lost a loved one during the pandemic while 43% suffered multiple bereavements over the two years.
Speaking about the research, Irish Hospice Foundation Head of Bereavement & Education, Orla Keegan said:
“In this month which marks the second anniversary of COVID-19 in Ireland, our survey gives timely and poignant insight into the deep impact it has had on our lives. We estimate that 600,000 adults and children (15% of the population) were newly bereaved during these two years. In our research people have told us that grieving is more difficult because of the pandemic, people in general are more aware of the impact of loss on themselves and others, and many have been prompted to consider their own wishes for our end-of-life care.
We are thankful to all those who shared their experiences in this research and we are committed to using it to direct our work and efforts to develop bereavement and end-of life care in Ireland”.
The necessary restrictions during COVID-19 meant 30% of those bereaved were not able to attend the funeral of their person who had died with 82% stating they had family and friends excluded from funerals.
Helen Coughlan, Lead Researcher on the project explains:
“We have been deeply moved by the stories of loss and grief so many people have shared with us through the survey. Stories of the deaths of family members, friends, colleagues and neighbours of all ages and from all causes. And, stories of our collective compassion and humanity in our efforts to support the thousands of people who have been bereaved over the past two years.
What our findings have confirmed is that the depth and breadth of grief and suffering among so many of those bereaved during the pandemic is both ongoing and profound. The need to recognise, acknowledge and respond to the enduring impact of the painful and traumatic end-of-life experiences for so many people and their families cannot be overstated”.
It’s not all negative and there is cause for hope as we move forward, with 56% of people saying it has prompted them to open up conversations on death and dying with family and friends, 67% have a greater awareness of how the death of a loved one can impact on those left behind and 85% of those bereaved reported that their community honoured the person who had died on the day of the funeral.
- 68% of people reported that the pandemic has changed their attitudes towards dying, death and bereavement
- 56% of people reported that they have spoken more to my family and friends about death and dying since the pandemic began
- 67% of people reported that they have a greater awareness of grief and the impact of loss since the pandemic
- 47% of people reported that they have given more thought to their own end-of-life wishes because of the pandemic
- 67% of people reported that they found meaningful ways to participate in rituals of mourning during the pandemic. 20% did not.
Priorities for End-of-Life & Bereavement Care
- 78% – ‘Ensuring that people are supported to die with dignity, free from pain in a calm and comfortable place of their choosing’
- 56% – ‘Better home-based supports for people at the end of their life’
- 52% – ‘Ensuring every person has equal access to palliative care, wherever they live and whatever their age’
- 39% – ‘Providing emotional support to those living with life-threatening illness and their families’
- 32% – ‘Ensuring that there is bereavement support available to anyone who needs it, wherever they live and whatever their age’
- 31% – ‘More public awareness and discussion about end-of-life care, death and bereavement’
- 30% – ‘Training of all healthcare staff to deliver person-centred end-of-life care across all health and home care setting’
* Research carried out between November 2021 and end February 2022. 2,262 respondents in total with 1,230 responding to survey questions relating to bereavement and funerals, representative across all age groups.