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Grief, Loss, and Dying During COVID-19

Explore how we’re experiencing death during COVID-19 and learn how to help bereaved individuals to process their experiences.

2,624 enrolled on this course

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  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

Help those dealing with loss to make sense of the future and develop resilience

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many of our assumptions about how to navigate loss.

For many, the kaleidoscope of conflicting feelings – grief, guilt, anger, anxiety, regret – is heightened. Leaders in organisations are finding it equally hard to know how to help staff.

As the uncertainties of the ‘survival’ phase of the crisis give way to a complex ‘new normal’, rituals and markers of death will continue to be disrupted and lives will be afflicted by chain reactions of loss.

The longer-term impacts of psychological and social stress on many population groups will surface, and therapeutic and self-help responses will need to be modified and expanded.

This course will introduce you to the key skills and principles required to provide effective, safe, and helping responses to anyone dealing with loss during this time.

Please note that this run of the ‘Grief, Loss and Dying During Covid-19’ course is not facilitated, however we encourage you to share your experiences and perspectives with other learners as you work through the content.


  • Week 1

    Death and dying: What’s the same and what’s new about Covid 19?

    • Introduction to the course

      A short introduction to the course

    • The fear of death

      A reading summarising some important research about our fear of dying, and a reflective task.

    • A short quiz about Coronavirus

      An informative quiz to help get you started.

    • Introducing Sharna, a hospital social worker

      A first meeting with Sharna as she talks about some of the ways her job changed during the pandemic. Later she speaks about the emotional impact of the work in this period.

    • Thinking about loss, dying and death

      This activity introduces you to some established theories and concepts for thinking about the impact of loss, death and grief. You will find three short readings accompanied by some questions and exercises in the following steps.

    • The socio-economic landscape: how we're not "all in it together"

      How COVID-19 is impacting black people disproportionately, and the financial impact of the pandemic.

  • Week 2

    The Workers

    • Welcome to Week 2

      An introduction to Week 2, where we focus on front-line staff and other workers.

    • Working with loss, death and dying

      We apply learning from Week 1 to real world care settings. Sharna talks about the pressures of her job during the crisis, loss at work, the importance of trust, and how the most important things often emerge unexpectedly.

    • The Drive Home - poem and reflection

      Read this short poem, and reflect on the meaning of having a 'conscience'

    • Discharge, discharge discharge...

      During the crisis in the UK hospitals needed maximum bed capacity, so there was a pressure to discharge patients quickly. Sharna describes the impact on her of this policy.

    • Moral Injury: a hidden kind of trauma?

      This activity looks at some of the painful professional and psychological dilemmas faced by staff at the peak of the crisis.

    • The Heroic and the Stoical: two ways of 'caring'

      Tim Dartington summarises his ides about 'heroic' and 'stoical' forms of care, and links these to the way we think and treat the long term ill or disabled, or those at the end of life

  • Week 3

    The Families

    • Welcome to Week 3

      This week we will be thinking about the way the pandemic has affected families. There will be opportunities to reflect on your own experience and explore some of the challenges involved for different generations.

    • Families and the pandemic

      The following extracts describe how different families have experienced the pandemic.

    • Thinking about the experience of older vulnerable people.

      The following activity encourages you to engage with the experience of older vulnerable people as family members.

    • Hard times

      Sharna talks about what has been particularly hard for patients and their families, and Dr Scanlan describes what matters to patients nearing the end of life.

    • Thinking about the way the pandemic has changed the experience of death and dying.

      The following steps will support you in thinking about the impact of the pandemic on death and dying and those who are bereaved.

    • Love in the time of coronavirus

      Final thoughts and reading for week 4

  • Week 4

    Managing the Crisis and Moving on

    • Managing the crisis and moving on

      Welcome to week 4

    • Wobble Rooms and Pauses - how front line staff cope with death

      Two ways in which staff at the front line manage the impact of working intensively with death and dying.

    • The stadium: Sharna describes the 'refuge' that was set up for her and her colleagues

      Another example of a safe space that emerged to help workers during the crisis.

    • Reflective groups as a way to help

      The activity introduce ideas about how 'reflective practice' and groups can help people manage their experiences in a crisis.

    • Sharna's reflective practice

      Sharna reflects on the way she makes room for the feelings brought about by her work.

    • Learning from experience

      As we have learned over the weeks the losses involved have been extensive. From disruption to the fabric of daily life to the death of loved ones, each loss will have an impact on the internal world of the individuals concerned.

    • Ritual, adaptation and creativity

      We think about how rituals have been affected during the pandemic, and how people are coping with the change.

    • Will Covid change how we think about death?

      This reading suggests we may not change that much. Rather than accepting mortality more easily, the author thinks we may renew our efforts to 'defeat death' by medical advances.

    • Thinking about death and its impact

      In this video Sharna discusses some of her continuing struggles with thinking about death and dying.

    • Taking Stock

      The following steps complete the course and provide you with some simple but important principles for helping others cope with stress and grief.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore the changes inflicted on individuals and communities by Covid19 that necessitate adjustments to how we think about and manage people’s losses, and processes surrounding death and dying
  • Reflect on the variety of lived experiences of the crisis and appreciate the importance of listening carefully to emotionally charged narratives
  • Explore familiar theories and methods of work that respond to loss, grief and death within the new ‘frame’ of a post Covid19 world
  • Explore how powerful feelings and disturbing thoughts can be passed around among people, making it hard to think clearly and retain perspective.
  • Explore the differential impact of Covid19 on different sub populations, ethnic groups, workforce sectors, countries, and how helping responses need to take account of these variations
  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of the skills and principle needed to facilitate ordinary ‘barefoot’ helping responses to a range of groups and individuals.

Who is the course for?

The course is designed for health and social care workers, home-based carers, key workers, and the families and friends of those directly or indirectly affected by death and dying during the COVID-19 crisis.

The course is also relevant for managers and leaders in organisations working with individuals and families affected by death and dying during the crisis.

With extensive use of visual and audio material giving access to the voices of people affected by the crisis, and developed by practitioners with long experience in the field of loss and bereavement, the course offers a range of empathic, reflective perspectives, activities and insights that will help restore a sense of balance and resilience.

This course covers emotive and difficult content.

Who will you learn with?

Hello I'm Andrew Cooper one of the people who designed this course. I'm a Professor of social work and a psychotherapist at the Tavistock Centre in London, England.

I qualified as a social worker in 1987 and completed my professional doctorate in social work and emotional wellbeing at the Tavistock in 2019 . My research focused on end of life care in care homes.

I work at the Tavistock & Portman NHS FT as a Clinical Psychologist for the Team Around the Practice (TAP) and Curriculum Developer in the trust's Directorate of Education & Training.

I am Videographer working for the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. I help create video content for our students.

Who developed the course?

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust

For 100 years, the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust has been at the forefront of bringing new approaches to treating those who are in mental distress.

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