04 Mar A year after the first COVID death, Britons come together to remember the dead
Exactly one year after the first Briton was reported to have died of COVID-19, people across the UK will come together in a day of collective grief for those lost in the pandemic in 2020.
People are being encouraged to take a moment to themselves or to be with loved ones to mark #CovidMemorialDay with a vigil or an individual act of remembrance.
“Shakespeare warns that if we fail to ‘give sorrow words the grief will o-er wrought heart and bid it break’. Covid Memorial Day is a day to give our sorrow words,” said Stefan Simanowitz, a journalist and coordinator of the Day.
“Experts tell us that “grief must be witnessed” and warn that if not expressed, grief can turn into depression or anger. As a nation that has suffered – directly or indirectly – by a year-long wave of suffering and death, there is certainly a great deal of depression and anger swilling around.”
Covid Memorial Day is intended to give people – whether directly affected by a bereavement or not – a moment to grieve. People are invited to put a candle in their window and at 7pm observer a minutes’ silence on their doorsteps with lighted candle. People are also encouraged to post their own memories, readings, poems, photos, artwork, songs etc.
On Friday everyone is encouraged to take a moment in their day to reflect. To walk to a hilltop or a long a beach and think of those lost over the last year.
The Covid Memorial Day in the UK comes four days after mayors in more than 100 American cities proclaimed the first Monday in March Covid Memorial Day, marking it with vigils and calling on the President to instate this date as national holiday. Some commentators believe that Joe Biden, who has clearly recognised his role as “Mourner-In-Chief”, might agree to it.
Britain remains one of the only countries to have had large numbers of COVID-19 deaths, not held a national memorial. Spain, for example, had a 10-day period of remembrance period and, in January, the first thing that Joe Biden did was to hold a national Covid Memorial Day. “In order to heal we must remember,” he said, speaking in front of the Reflecting Pool illuminated by hundreds of flickering candles. The reaction of one American man after the event summed it up: “I hadn’t realised just how much I’d needed that,” he wrote.
“Collective grieving is important both for our own mental well-being as well as being support for others,” says TV behavioural psychologist, Jo Hemmings, one of Covid Memorial Day’s early supporters.
“Covid Memorial Day is a day when you can light a candle, take a pebble to the top of a hill or simply sit and reflect on those you have lost. A united moment when we can all acknowledge and express our personal of loss as well as the share grief of so many others.”
“As we mark a year since the first life was lost to the Covid pandemic, all of us should take a moment to mark this painful anniversary,” said Dr Philippa Whitford MP. “For some this is a day to mourn loved ones who have been lost – for others, a day of thankfulness that their family has come through the pandemic intact. As we see light at the end of the tunnel, all of us can provide a light in the darkness this Covid Memorial Day.”
“Whilst the day is about expressing sorrow it is also about love. It is important to remember that grief is the collateral damage of love. If you have not loved, you cannot great and the more you deeply you love, the more painful the grief,” said Stefan Simanowitz.
“One doesn’t recover from grief. If you are lucky, you heal from grief. But never completely. Having a moment of collective national grief is an important first step.”