As we approach the anniversary of the announcement of the first lockdown in the UK, it seems fitting to reflect on how we have all been affected over the past year.

At the time of writing, there has been roughly 121 million recorded cases of Covid-19 and 2.67 million deaths attributed to the virus worldwide.

The UK has the fifth highest Covid-19 rates in the world, with 4.27 million cases and 126,000 deaths.

It is therefore fairly unsurprising that a recent study found that nearly half of the UK “personally know” someone who has died during the pandemic.

Half of the UK “personally know” someone who has lost their life during the pandemic

The new figures, released by the end of life charity Marie Curie, reveal that 47% of respondents lost someone since March last year. Among those bereaved, 56% said they have not had a chance to fully process the loss.

For this reason, Marie Curie is spearheading a National Day of Reflection on 23rd March 2021. This day of remembrance will mark one year since the UK’s first lockdown and encourage people all over the country to take time out of their day to remember all those that have lost their lives during the pandemic.

The event is supported by the UK’s four chief nursing officers, the Royal College of Nursing, NHS England, Public Health England and the Care Quality commission.

What’s happening on the day of the event?

There will be a nationwide minute’s silence at midday, which will allow the country to take time out of their busy days to pause and reflect on the lives lost.

In the evening, prominent buildings such as the Tate Britain, The London Eye and The Gherkin will light up yellow as part of the Light for Lives event.

Community initiatives will take place across the country, allowing the general public to personally commemorate those who have lost their lives. These include, planting flowers, displaying art in windows, wrapping yellow ribbons around trees and placing candle lights on doorsteps at 8pm.

There will also be a series of free online talks and conversations produced by the Good Grief Festival. The programme will feature expert panels, bereaved families and celebrities throughout the afternoon. You can book your place here.

What else did the study’s figures reveal?

The figures produced by Marie Curie produced an insightful look into how Britain’s general population perceive grief, empathy and loss a year into the pandemic.

  • 47% personally knew someone who has died during the pandemic.
  • Among the bereaved, 28% lost a family member, 26% an acquaintance, 24% a friend and 13% a work colleague.
  • 56% of the bereaved said they have “not had a chance to fully process loss”.
  • 47% believed the public would “not be able to fully understand” the emotional impact of the pandemic until it is over.
  • The Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community experienced bigger loss at 68% and 62% of these respondents said they hadn’t had a chance to grieve or process their grief.
  • Almost half of respondents (45%) believe the pandemic has made us more “empathetic and kind” whilst 30% believe the nation is acting “more thoughtfully”.
  • 32% believe that more of us now think about the most vulnerable members of our society.

Tapping into the nation’s empathy

Over the past year, we have all spent hours watching the news and witnessing the death figures climb day after day.

The constant reports of rising death figures and the sheer number of catastrophes happening all at once can depersonalise loss and cause what is called compassion fatigue. This can lead people to tire of empathy and feel exhaustion in its place.

Marie Curie say they hope the event will tap into the nation’s empathy and give the nation a time to truly reflect on those who have died and show support for the millions coping with loss.

They also hope this national day of remembrance will start important conversations around end of life and encourage those grieving to reach out for bereavement support.

Marie Curie Executive Director, Meredith Niles, said: “Millions of us have been unable to say a proper goodbye or comfort our family, friends, and colleagues in their grief. With so many having experienced the death of someone close, our shared sense of loss is incomparable to anything faced in living memory.   

“Although these absences will be felt for years to come, the National Day of Reflection gives us a moment to contemplate our collective loss, as well as take time to support those close to us, who are dealing with feelings of isolation and bereavement. Please join us in a minute of silence at 12 noon to reflect on the lives cut short during the pandemic, and show those struggling with grief that they are not alone.”

To find out more about the National Day of Reflection visit www.mariecurie.org.uk/dayofreflection. #DayofReflection