An end-of-life charity has launched a national bereavement service to support people struggling with losing loved ones during the coronavirus lockdown.
People finding it difficult to grieve will be able to access up to six weeks of support over the phone from a dedicated volunteer trained by the Marie Curie charity.
More than 450,000 people will be mourning the loss of a family member or friend since the start of the lockdown, the charity estimates.
Some 90,392 deaths from all causes were registered in England and Wales from the week ending March 27 to the week ending April 17, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.
Assuming that each death leaves an average of five people bereaved, this equates to 451,960 people coping with loss, Marie Curie said.
But with lockdown measures still in place, many will be grieving in isolation, unable to rely on their usual support networks.
They may also be finding it difficult to cope if they were unable to say goodbye to their loved one.
The charity has seen an increase of around 30% in all inquiries to its support line within the last six weeks.
It has trained 30 new volunteers for the new service and expects this number to double in the coming weeks.
Callers will be matched with a trained volunteer who will provide a listening ear for six telephone sessions, each lasting up to 45 minutes.
Marie Curie’s bereavement services coordinator, Angharad Burden, said: “We have seen a number of people get in touch with us who are grieving in isolation.
“They’ve told us that they wouldn’t normally feel the need to access support but being in lockdown means they have been unable to lean on their usual support networks for help.
“The pandemic is forcing everyone to confront death in ways we never could’ve comprehended just a few weeks ago, but we’re here, on the other end of the phone, to support anyone who needs us.”
Marie Curie stressed the service is for anyone affected by the death of a loved one at any time of their life.
Gary Powell’s partner, Tina Hudson, 54, died in February.
Mr Powell, also 54 and from Bradford, said: “It’s the isolation that makes grieving during a lockdown harder.
“It’s the perfect environment for overthinking.
“Out of nowhere, grief can overwhelm me, and I just have to sit and have a cry.
“Normally I’d got for a walk to try and clear my head but that’s just not possible now.
“If I could sum up life during lockdown in one word, it would be strange.
“Everywhere is so quiet.
“The struggle is finding things to do to keep your mind occupied.
“To be able to speak to someone, fill that silence and not feel alone is a powerful thing.”
The bereavement service is in addition to the charity’s telephone support line which is already in place.
Anyone who needs help can call the support line on 0800 090 2309.