Sudden Bereavement Charter

Organisations, academics and faith leaders launch Sudden Bereavement Charter as new analysis shows unexpected deaths triple to almost a quarter of all fatalities

Half a million people in the UK set to face a sudden bereavement in 2020

Sudden’s Chief Executive Mary Williams announces a new report, Help when the worst happens, published in response to COVID-19. It outlines how the challenging circumstances of this pandemic are affecting bereavement, and the measures that need to be taken to ensure needs are met. 

In 2020, due to COVID-19, people are being bereaved in sudden and shocking ways, under remarkably difficult social circumstances, and at far greater numbers than ever before. In response, we have published an urgent Sudden report, Help when the worst happens, about meeting the needs of people bereaved in these difficult times.

The report explains that sudden deaths in the UK are set to more than double this year to 100,000, with COVID-19 accounting for almost half that number. This will likely leave half a million people in the UK facing the very complex challenges of a sudden bereavement of a close family member, challenges which are exacerbated by ongoing social-distancing restrictions that can cause isolation.

This report aims to shine a light on those challenging circumstances, outline the appropriate systems of support, and reveal the poor outcomes that bereaved people could suffer without proper care. Charities and health experts are rightly calling for an urgent focus on funding and development of the provision of bereavement support this year. Sudden deaths, from COVID-19 or any other circumstances, can affect anyone at any time so support must be wide-spread.

In previous times of mass bereavements with acute needs, we have not known how to help; we do now. The combined expert opinions that have underpinned Sudden’s advice to practitioners over the years, as a provider of professional development regarding early care of bereaved people with acute needs, teach us that sudden and shocking bereavements require an immediate and clinically-informed crisis response from day one onwards. Help is particularly key through the early weeks (the shock period, before grief support services and mental health services, are appropriate to signpost) as well as in later months. The report outlines how support should be assigned according to need, for example, with the impact bereavement can have on mental health. This immediate psychosocial response for people with acute needs must be accessible, have capacity, and be tailored to address an individual’s unique emotional and practical needs.

Without the proper support, we know people bereaved in challenging circumstances can suffer a range of poor outcomes that negatively affect them, their families, the wider community and even our economy. With support, provided in evidence-based, timely and straightforward ways, people are more likely to move forwards into a positive future.

Help when the worst happens calls for bereavement and support charities, health and social care agencies, community leaders, and government to work with urgency, together, to secure these futures for the sake of us all and in the name of humanity. Click here to read the full report.

To help Sudden answer the call of anyone suffering a sudden bereavement, please donate to our charity.

About the author

Mary Williams OBE is chief executive of Sudden. Sudden is a global initiative to help people bereaved by any sudden cause and also to help the professional standards of their carers. Mary is also chief executive of Brake. Brake is a road safety charity providing the National Road Victim Service in the UK for families bereaved by death on the road, including an acclaimed and government-backed national helpline and information service. Brake also operates globally and has a domestic branch in New Zealand too.