The national older people's charity, Independent Age, urges for more support for bereaved people during and beyond the COVID crisis.
The charity estimates that 290,000 people aged 65 and over may have experienced the death of a partner since the start of the pandemic, a shocking 17% increase on the average for the past five years.
The death of a loved one can be devastating at any time of life, but the pandemic has created significant barriers interrupting the grieving process and leading to over 20,000 people developing 'complicated grief,' potentially causing lasting damage to their physical and mental health.
Gillian from Essex lost her husband John last June after over 50 years of marriage. She said: "COVID-19 has made grieving for John so much harder. I was the only attendee at his funeral as I didn't want older relatives to risk catching the virus. Restrictions made it hard to get the death certificate, and the entire process took longer than it should have as I couldn't see our GP in person."
Sadly, the majority of those losing a loved one during the pandemic have faced many barriers in being able to grieve naturally. For example, many people have had to grieve alone, have been unable to attend funerals, or have not been able to hug someone for comfort.
Grief can affect physical and mental health, with an increased risk for people as they age, including a greater likelihood of developing depression or a weakened immune system.
Independent Age recommends that the government step in and take action to help those struggling with grief and improve the experience of older people when they lose a friend or family member.
Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said: "There was a lack of funding for bereavement services prior to the pandemic, but that cannot carry on. It is now absolutely essential that the government takes action and prioritises funding for bereavement services to match the increase in need caused by coronavirus and the restrictions on daily life."