Exploring Grief and Race: Grief in the Time of COVID

Article header for Exploring Grief and Race: Grief in the time of COVID. Black person with bantu knots and a COVID white mask, pink backdrop.

What is grief? Grief is a deep sorrow that is triggered by a death 

Grief is an emotion that many of us can unfortunately relate to this year, including myself.  My only grandparent passed away from COVID-19 last year. Up until this moment  had never experienced grief, while she is not the first person I know to pass away she was the closest to me. The only solace that I have is that I was able to spend time with her in Ghana before she passed. Due to the pandemic close family members were unable to visit. Once lockdown restrictions were loosened some were able to travel to Ghana to attend the funeral.  

The UK COVID-19  death rate passing 100,000, has meant that hundreds of thousands of people are undoubtedly experiencing loss and grief. For some people it may be the first time that grief has affected them, especially as the loss can be so unexpected and sudden. Grief is something that we will all experience, there is no right or wrong way to grieve and it is different for everyone. 

Research has shown that those experiencing grief related to COVID-19 suffer heightened grief. There are a few reasons for this including:

  • The sudden nature in which the person passed away 
  • Not being able to attend the funeral
  • Feelings of isolation and lack of support.

This combination of factors can contribute to longer and unresolved pain. 

There is a national issue with the lack of support given to those who are grieving caused by COVID-19. Those from racialised communities face extra hardship due to cultural practices that have been affected by the restrictions. 

For many racialised communities’ funerals are a time which includes coming together. Not just for the funeral but for the days and weeks leading up to one. These familial networks include multi-generational support systems that have been established by communities. 

From the Caribbean tradition of Nine Nights to the Islamic funeral traditions, the restrictions have impacted the practices that many relied on to process their grief.

In October 2020 a study was launched into “bereavement among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people” acknowledging that racialised communities grieve differently and due to this that the appropriate services are given. 

While there are few services that specifically cater to racialised people, this pandemic has revealed how dire the situation is. Here are four dedicated services to assist those grieving in specific communities: 

  1. BAMEStream

BAMEStream is a service that has been launched recently to “offer bereavement support to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic adults, who have been affected by the death of a loved one due to COVID-19.” They provide free culturally competent online support which is available in over 20 different languages, making sure that language barriers do not prevent people from seeking help. 

  1. Boloh

A service launched by Barnardo’s, a COVID helpline and webchat for those aged 11 and over who identify as Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic. You are able to speak to an advisor or psychotherapist about various issues including bereavement, ill health, isolation and more. They can provide emotional support, practical advice, or signpost you to relevant organisations, they also provide communication in different languages. 

  1. BAATN (The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network)

BAATN formed due to the pandemic and the death of George Floyd, followed by a spout of  police brutality killings of Black Americans - that gained global attention. The disproportionate number of deaths as well as dealing with witnessing traumatic deaths, known as vicarious trauma, led them to form a collective of culturally appropriate therapists. They are now the “UK’s largest independent organisation to specialise in working psychologically, informed by an understanding of intersectionality.” You can find a therapist or service through BAATN as their network platforms a range of services from free to paid. 

  1. Spark & Co.

Spark & Co. was founded amidst the pandemic after seeing there was a disproportionate negative effect on racialised communities. It is an online resource hub that collates various services, organisations and information to provide support in many areas. 

Spark & co have a specific directory of resources that can aid when dealing with bereavement and grief. 

The pandemic has widened the gap for those who have access to bereavement services. Racialised communities are unable to perform funeral rites which are core to their communities and must find alternative ways to process their grief. With the burden of dying at disproportionate rates as well as being more likely to be an essential worker, these services are now needed more than ever. Many of them recognise the barriers that prohibit people from these communities to seeking help and try to overcome them to reach various people. 

Grief is very personal but these services and organisations offer cultural specific assistance to help deal with the devastation of this pandemic. 


This post was written by one of our Community Ambassadors, founder of A Touch of Colour, Leonie Mills.

Find out more about Leonie here.