Covid bereaved gather to remember lost loved ones

time:2023-06-01 10:24:17 source:CBS News

Families bereaved during the Covid-19 pandemic have said coming together as a group to share in their grief has helped them cope with their loss.

Events are taking place across the UK on Thursday to remember lives lost as part of a national day of reflection.

The Memory Stones of Love group was set up last year by families wanting to remember their loved ones together.

"Being with these guys I actually have the strength to think about mum and not get upset," member Lizzie Lyle said.

Ms Lyle's mother Alison McKinney died in August 2021.

She said the group had been a great comfort to her.

"It's helping my grieving process, grief is hard, but days like today is all about remembering our loved ones, they aren't a statistic, they are our family members," Ms Lyle explained.

The group lay more than 300 memory stones in the shape of a heart outside Belfast City Hall on Thursday, as well as holding a candlelight vigil.

The stones are individually painted and bear the name of a loved one who died during the pandemic.

Brenda Doherty, who is one of the co-founders of Memory Stones of Love, lost her 82-year-old mother during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ruth Burke from Newtownabbey was the first woman to pass away with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland on March 2020.

"Grief during the pandemic is so different" Ms Doherty told BBC News NI's Good Morning Ulster.

"To come together with a group and celebrate and rejoice in the love that we had from our loved ones is really important and people get so much comfort from that.

"It's not just a stone, and we see that when people hold their stone, with that emotion - there is never a time when there is not a tear shed."

Ciaran Ward's parents Bredge and Owen Ward from Strabane, County Tyrone, both passed away within 12 hours of each other on 16 November 2020.

Mr Ward said many families are still very much in shock over the last few years and said it still feels surreal.

"For me, I didn't get to visit my mum and dad in hospital," he explained.

"Even for those who did get to visit people it was very different, we were in the middle of lockdown.

"With the restrictions we didn't have a wake, which is so vitally important to come together as a community to share stories about our loved ones because they meant so much to us," Mr Ward continued.

"They meant so much to their family, their friends, their wider community but we weren't able to get that with the restrictions at funerals.

"When I talk about that with our group members, it does still feel like an open wound for us, we will never get back those times and that is why days like today are so important."

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