Submitted by: Helen Smith

After losing her father to COVID-19, Helen grieved his passing amid a countrywide lockdown, isolating her from mourning with loved ones. Amid the unimaginable pain and grief she was experiencing, she sought a virtual connection to others going through similar experiences. Finding comfort in writing poetry, Helen created an Instagram account, @lockdowngrief, to share her thoughts and feelings with others, as well as to help raise awareness about the harsh realities of COVID-19.

We are honored and grateful to Helen for graciously sharing her story with us.

My Dad got admitted to hospital the same day that the UK government announced the country was going to lockdown. He was one of the “early” Covid-19 victims. Unable to visit him, we relied on daily phone calls to the hospital for updates on his condition where he was critically ill…comatose and hooked up to a ventilator. He fought so incredibly hard for 3 weeks, and then we got the dreaded phone call that turned our world’s upside down….

I was grieving the sudden death of my father to a virus that didn’t even exist months before whilst having to self-isolate with my Mum and brother. We couldn’t see anyone else….let alone hug anyone when we could eventually see them (from our front door whilst they stood at a distance in our driveway). Grieving during lockdown was so foreign, so cruel and so lonely. At the time you need people around you the most, you can’t be near anyone. I felt so lost, and the only way I felt I was able to express myself was by writing a poem. Then another. Then another.

After Dad’s funeral (restricted to only 10 people socially distanced with no wake afterwards), the loneliness really set in. We were still in lockdown and everything felt so surreal still. It was then that I then started trawling social media trying to find anyone else in a similar situation to myself that could maybe relate to me and what I was going through. At the time, I found no-one. So I decided if I set up an Instagram account to share my story, not only would it give me an outlet to express how I was feeling, but maybe someone else going through similar would find me instead.

Poems were never something I had written before, but when I had so many thoughts and feelings whirring around my head that I just needed to get off my chest, I discovered that the words just flowed when I expressed them via poetry. It’s really helped me when I’ve felt overwhelmed…sitting and writing I’ve found to be such a cathartic release for my emotions.

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My Mum and I collected Dad's ashes today, a long two weeks after his funeral because, y'know…the C word. I wasn't sure what to expect, or how I was going to feel. But it was…………okay. • It was really strange, don't get me wrong. We haven't chosen his urn yet so we received him back in a temporary urn, aka a plastic bag inside a glorified cardboard box, which they put in a jute bag. When I walked out of the funeral directors, I genuinely felt like I was carrying grocery shopping, not the precious remains of my Dad. However even though it was only 5 steps to the car, one thing I'm sure of is that I've never felt SO protective over a bag before! • The box has a label printed on it, part of which read 'Disposal: Takeaway'. Weird. But I smiled. 'Well he did always enjoy a takeaway!' I said to Mum. • I'm glad that he's home, and it's brought me a further sense of closure, which is both good and bad. Good that he's home with us where he belongs…bad because this box of dust and ashes is literally all we have left of the physical being of my handsome Dad. Even though I know he's dead, there was always that lingering 'what if he's still out there somehow' feeling, but actually seeing the ashes in a plastic bag confirms that there is absolutely, definitely, no coming back from this. I will never, ever feel the warmth and love of his hug again. • This evening I was watering the garden…Dad's stomping ground usually, so it gives me something to focus on looking after, in the way he would have. And I felt calm. Not positive, not happy, not 'less empty', but calm. Now, though darkness has crept in, and with that the usual 'nighttime anxiety' that accompanies it, I don't feel AS bad as I did yesterday. And maybe that's because, even though I'll never have a hug again, he's home. ❤💙 • #stayathome #GrievinginLockdown #grief #griefjourney #griefquotes #griefrecovery #griefawareness #lossoffather #loss #heartbroken #COVID-19 #Covid #covidgrief #corona #coronavirus #griefsupport #parentloss #fatherdaughter #nhsheroes #lockdown #letstalkaboutloss #letstalkaboutdeath #mourning #expressyourgrief #writinfyourgrief #ashes #home #garden #poetry #poetryaboutloss

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I could talk endlessly about my darling Dad. He really was my role model, inspiration and absolute best friend….we shared such a unique bond and were like two peas in a pod. Having him die in such a sudden and cruel way has crushed me beyond belief, and I am very still much taking things day by day in working out how to carry on living life without him.

Writing poetry and sharing my thoughts and feelings on Instagram really does help me so much…there is such a community of support and understanding there. It’s very much my safe space and I have “met” so many wonderful people via it that, though I will probably never meet them in person, I feel so connected to and supported by. If I can offer that same comfort to anyone else through my page and just make someone struggling feel less alone, that is the best I could hope for. It is also such a great platform for me to try and continue raising awareness about the harsh reality of Covid-19.

Be sure to visit Helen’s Instagram account @lockdowngrief to read more of her poetry and story.

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