UK

Bereaved urged to share stories of loved ones on annual day of reflection

The date has moved from being held on the anniversary of the UK Covid lockdown – March 23 – to the first Sunday of March each year.

The National Covid Memorial Wall commemorates the victims of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK
The National Covid Memorial Wall is a public mural painted by volunteers to commemorate the victims of the pandemic in the UK (Jordan Pettitt/PA) The National Covid Memorial Wall commemorates the victims of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

People are being encouraged to come together and tell the stories they could not share at funerals and wakes in the pandemic, as the nation holds its annual day of reflection.

Celebrities including Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter and sports presenter Gaby Roslin have joined political leaders across the UK in their support for the day set aside to remember those who died in the pandemic.

The date has moved from being held on the anniversary of the UK lockdown – March 23 – to the first Sunday of March, following a recommendation by the UK Commission on Covid Commemoration.

Charity ambassador Chris Kamara said people can share stories they were unable to at funerals and wakes during the pandemic
Charity ambassador Chris Kamara said people can share stories they were unable to at funerals and wakes during the pandemic (Brian Lawless/PA) Charity ambassador Chris Kamara said people can share stories they were unable to at funerals and wakes during the pandemic (Brian Lawless/PA)

This will be the fourth annual day of reflection, organised by the Marie Curie charity, with the first having been held in 2021 on the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown.

The UK’s leading end of life charity said it is asking the public to hold a one-minute silence at midday on Sunday, as the nation remembers those who died as well as the bereaved.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the reflection gives the country “the opportunity to come together and remember” those who have died, while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it is also a chance to “pay tribute to the key workers who helped our country through those dark times”.

Carter, who is a Marie Curie ambassador, said he plans to pause at midday in his garden “and remember all the people we lost during the pandemic”.

He said: “In lockdown I was very lucky to have that garden as a small escape and it has always been a contemplative place for me.

“That virus entered our world and silently turned it upside down, and the trauma people went through needs to be remembered. Collectively we can show our support for the bereaved.”

Former footballer and fellow Marie Curie ambassador Chris Kamara called for more discussion on grief.

He said: “By talking, we can remember the people we’ve loved and lost. And by talking, we can heal.

“On Sunday, let’s share the stories that would have made us laugh, and cry, at funerals and wakes during the pandemic if they had been allowed to happen.”

Broadcaster Gaby Roslin, also an ambassador for the charity, said: “The day of reflection gives us all permission to acknowledge our grief and come together.

“And it reminds us that whether the person you love died one year ago, or 50 years ago, there are no rules to grief. If ever you need support with your grief, then Marie Curie can be there for you.”

Rishi Sunak paid tribute to Marie Curie’s work to give grieving families an opportunity to come together and remember the dead
Rishi Sunak paid tribute to Marie Curie’s work to give grieving families an opportunity to come together and remember the dead (James Manning/PA) Rishi Sunak paid tribute to Marie Curie’s work to give grieving families an opportunity to come together and remember the dead (James Manning/PA)

Rivka Gottlieb, spokesperson for the campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice – which has been outspoken in its criticism of the Government’s handling of the pandemic – described the number of deaths as “appalling” and “not inevitable”.

She cautioned that the UK remains poorly prepared for another pandemic, and called on politicians to take seriously recommendations put forward by the UK Covid-19 Inquiry.

She said: “Ahead of the next election, all political parties must agree to adopt the recommendations from the Covid inquiry so that we are properly prepared and never see the horrors of the pandemic repeated again.”

On the day of reflection, Mr Sunak said: “Throughout the pandemic many people lost loved ones and they live on in all our memories.

“I commend Marie Curie’s work to give grieving families up and down the country the opportunity to come together and remember them.”

Sir Keir said: “Today, on Marie Curie’s day of reflection, we remember those we lost during the pandemic. We pay tribute to the key workers who helped our country through those dark times.

“And we thank the charities, community organisations and volunteers who support families through that grief.”

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf said the moment of silence is “an opportunity to honour those who were lost, taking time to reflect and acknowledge our shared grief”, while First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, described it as a “special day to remember” and ensure people are “never forgotten”.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the day of reflection has “become an important anniversary for many people” to both remember and show support, and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly thanked Marie Curie for organising a “fitting tribute for all those who lost their lives during this time, not only as a result of Covid-19”.

Matthew Reed, Marie Curie chief executive, said: “The pandemic endures in the minds of people who were bereaved, and huge swathes of the public are still grieving.”

– Marie Curie said anyone who is struggling with grief can call its support line on 0800 090 2309.