Never in our lifetimes has Canada experienced the volume and complexity of grief as has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canadians have been robbed of goodbyes with dying friends and family or people they care about and forced to grieve in isolation without funeral rites. They and those working on the front lines of health care are at heightened risk for prolonged, complicated grief marked by depression, and the risk of suicide. Existing grief services are fragmented, under-funded and insufficient. Left unaddressed, significant long-term social, health and economic impacts will result.
The Canadian Grief Alliance – a coalition of national leaders in grief and bereavement - is urging the Government of Canada to bolster the country’s grief services to meet the growing demand. Existing and recently announced mental health initiatives do not include grief services.
By the end of October 2020 approximately 1.2 million Canadians are grieving deaths during COVID from all causes.
“This is the hidden tragedy in the current crisis, but one that will also have long term implications for many individual Canadians as well as our health care systems and the economy. Many people are now facing the deaths of loved ones, isolated from networks of family and friends that normally help people get through such heartwrenching moments in their lives. Unless we step up and help people now, we will be dealing with the human toll for many years to come.” Paul Adams, CGA media spokesperson
The CGA applauds the increased investments for mental health services, however, grief services are outside the scope of these programs and are falling through the cracks of the Government’s response to COVID-19.
The CGA is calling for:
- Develop a consultation-driven National Grief Strategy in the next 4 months to identify gaps, best practices and priorities.
- Sustain and expand grief services by investing $100 million over three years to implement the National Grief Strategy.
- Launch a national public awareness campaign to increase Canadians' understanding of grief, healthy coping strategies, and build the capacity of individuals and communities to support the grieving.
- Invest $10 million in grief research to help us understand and respond to pandemic-related grief.
The proposal is supported by leading health, palliative care, and bereavement organizations including: the Canadian Medical Association; the Canadian Psychiatric Association; the Canadian Nurses Association; Canadian Association of Social Workers; Canadian Association of Spiritual Care; the Canadian Alliance for Grieving Children and Youth and the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians, plus 150 other organizations.