Coronavirus: coping as a front line responder | Cruse Bereavement Care

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If you are working on the front line of the current pandemic, we at Cruse would like to thank you for all you are doing. This page is for you, especially if you are caring for or delivering services to those who are ill with the virus.

We know how hard it is to look after yourself when you may be working long hours in extremely difficult circumstances. Many of you working on the front line of care or responding to the current pandemic will be having to deal with extremely distressing events, while working under pressured and stressful conditions. 

You may also have to deal with many of the following:

  • The people you are working with or caring for may be bereaved under difficult and traumatic circumstances
  • You may be bereaved yourself, and having to deal with grief at a time of isolation and social distancing, with all the painful problems this brings. 
  • You may have lost colleagues, or be worried about co-workers who are very ill. As a team you may be facing an unprecedented level of bereavement.
  • You may be extremely anxious for your own health or that of your family. You may be separated from some of those you love.
  • You may be deeply affected by the death of those in your care – whether or not you have known or cared for them for a long time.
  • You may be exhausted and if things get very bad you may burnout and feel unable to continue. Burnout means feeling exhausted, distant towards your job, and unable to work effectively.
  • You may be traumatised by what you have witnessed, and develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Those with PTSD may have nightmares and flashbacks, and may also have problems sleeping, and find concentrating difficult.
  • Compassion fatigue is another issue which can arise when people are driven to the brink while caring in traumatic circumstances. It is similar to burnout and can mean people start to find it hard to empathise with their patients or clients.

How you can support yourself

Please do try to look after yourself at this challenging time. We know that some of the self-care tips in this list may not be practical if you are working very long hours under pressure, but do think about what you can do. Some you may be able to put in place later down the line. 

  • Learn to be aware of and monitor your resilience – your psychological strength to cope when times are hard and stressful.  Some days will be harder than others. On the difficult days ask for help if you can (from colleagues, friends and family, external helplines and so on), and when you are stronger offer to help others who may be struggling.
  • If you know that colleagues and clients are bereaved and finding it hard to cope you can pass on our details.
  • We know it is easier said than done, but take time for yourself when you can. Consider what helps you to relax and recharge, and try to schedule in some time to do those things. Put them in your diary – you can best care for others if you have looked after yourself as much as possible.
  • Again it is easier said than done, but try to practice self-compassion. Treat yourself as you would a friend or loved one who was dealing with the same situation. 
  • Talk to friends and relatives if it helps you, but don’t feel bad if you cannot share things with them at the moment. It can sometimes be hard to put difficult situations and the feelings that go with them into words. Explain to those close to you how they can help, and that this might change from day to day.
  • Use any support which is in place at your place of work. Recognise the symptoms and early warning signs of trauma, PTSD, and burnout (see above). Contact your management if you are worried – many organisations have dedicated mental health support or helplines you can contact. NHS staff can find information and support here and Our Frontline provides support and information for all keyworkers here.
  • If there is no help available at work, or you need more than they can provide, you should contact your GP.

How we can help

If you’re struggling with your own bereavement, have been affected by the death of a client or patient, or are affected by the grief of those around you, we can help. 

 

How you can help someone working on the front line

The best way to help someone working hard on the front line is to be there for them, but respect their wishes and find out how you can best help. Some people may want to talk about what they are doing, but others will need you as a break from the relentlessness of what they are dealing with. What they need from you may change from day to day.

If you are worried about their mental health, do encourage them to find out what support is available through their work. You may be able to do some research for them, and encourage or help them to get in touch. If there is no help through work or they need more than is on offer then they can contact their GP.

If they’ve been bereaved remember everyone grieves in their own time and their own way. We have some advice on what you can say.