The impact of bereavement during COVID-19

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Summary of report content

During the Covid-19 pandemic, restrictions meant people couldn’t visit sick family members in hospital or even a loved one who had died. This particularly affected those from ethnic minority communities. Healthwatch Bolton commissioned The Flowhesion Foundation to use their expertise and language skills to interview people from ethnic minority communities. This project explored the disproportionate effect COVID-19 virus had on ethnic minority groups and how the pandemic impacted normal practices of dealing with bereavement. The project also explored if there are any barriers to accessing bereavement and support services to ensure people do not experience any inequities when accessing these.

Data was collected via an online survey which was advertised on social media/newsletters and on Healthwatch Bolton’s website. In addition, The Flowhesion Foundation carried out 30 semi-structured interviews between October 2020- March 2021 with members of the south-Asian community in Bolton aged between 18-65 - lasting between 30-45 minutes each.


64% had experienced the passing of a close relative. It was a clear that a culturally sensitive and bespoke counselling service could help people deal with the trauma, bereavement and other dynamics emanating from a bereavement compounded by Covid-19 restrictions. 70% of participants felt that this was needed but they were not aware of it - suggesting there is a gap in how services are being advertised across the system given. 73% of participants did not know how to access support from bereavement services.

People from south Asian communities’ process grief and bereavement in a unique way within their own traditions and practices. 83% saw family as a strong source of emotional support and 47% felt that their cultural needs were unmet. For south-Asian communities - mourning is a collective process, being at the funeral, washing, shrouding the deceased and spending time at the next of kin’s home. Evidently all these routines were stopped due to Covid-19 restrictions.


Health and care services who provide end-of-life care, and support services, need to ensure that they work to include culturally appropriate bereavement counselling services to their clients.

Health and care services need to appreciate that ethnic minority communities are not homogenous and should therefore reach out and engage with them in order to understand how different cultures deal with bereavement and make provision to accommodate the wishes of the families when a loved one is at the end of their life. This is so that families can experience closure of losing their loved one.

Services should embed clear messaging and advertising across pathways and at significant points of the patient journey to ensure that families who are bereaved are aware of counselling services that are available.

Information about bereavement services should be advertised in different languages and formats accessible to different ethnic groups.

Faith leaders must be at the heart of promoting ongoing safety messages.

*Please note the term BAMER (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee) is used in this report. Healthwatch England have recently taken the decision to no longer use this term after consulting staff and volunteers.

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General details

Report title 
The impact of bereavement during COVID-19
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Bolton
Date of publication 
Wednesday, 31 March, 2021
Date evidence capture began 
Thursday, 1 October, 2020
Date evidence capture finished 
Wednesday, 31 March, 2021
Key themes 

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
What type of organisation requested the work 
Other (please specify)
If this work has been done in partnership, who is the partner? 
The Flowhesion Foundation
Primary research method used 
Unstructured Interview

Details of health and care services included in the report

Community services 

Details of people who shared their views

Age group 
All people 18 and over
Specific ethnicity if known 
Any other Asian background
Any other ethnic group
White and Asian
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Other population characteristics 
Refugees or asylum seekers
Does the information include public's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.