• COVIDSpeakEasy is a free, confidential, and professionally-led online support group for all Covid bereaved life-partners, including those who lost partners through Covid-related suicide

  • Edwina fitzPatrick, who lost her partner of 21 years in March, explains how the SpeakEasy is a space for the bereaved to share their experiences, doubts and grief

  • If you have lost someone and need support, find a bereavement counsellor here

As of early January 2021, there have been over 75,000 UK deaths resulting from COVID-19. Given that 61% of our population are in long-term committed relationships, that means that a lot of people are in need of support. Whilst many COVID related deaths are affecting those over 65, there are also many that are not. SpeakEasys are open to all regardless of their age.

Who set them up?

SpeakEasy was initiated by Edwina fitzPatrick, whose normally healthy partner of 21 years died because of Covid in March. It was three days before the UK lockdown started. Most people had no idea what to say to her. There was a vacuum. A silence.

Since then, she has been supported by amazing friends and colleagues. Meeting with others who had lost their life-partners before Covid revealed that a different kind of conversation took place between the fellow bereaved. One that spanned the pragmatics of death certificates, money concerns, through to “do I feel OK to stay in the home that we shared together?” via funny anecdotes and memories. We spoke easily, sometimes tearfully about this, hence "SpeakEasy".

Edwina and Nik

But Edwina also realised that Covid-related bereavements create unparalleled levels of shock and grief. The separation from your loved one is extraordinarily difficult at any time, but Covid makes things both difficult and bewildering. You can’t visit them. The death is sudden and often unexpected – so shock is involved. You may well have had Covid yourself, being ill and self-isolating at the time of their death. You can’t have the usual gatherings to mark their life and give them an appropriate send off. You not only miss your darling’s physical demonstrations of love, but also the hugs and physical interaction that comes with their funeral/life celebration.

Edwina is an artist who runs two postgraduate courses at the University of the Arts, London.

Who are the counselling team?

The SpeakEasys are lightly led by a BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) registered counsellor– who will ensure that they are safe spaces for everyone. They are paid at standard counselling rates for doing this. The team use various approaches to counselling and psychotherapy including cognitive behavioural therapy, person-centred therapy and psychodynamic counselling. We recognise that the pandemic has brought about a very particular form of grief that needs to be supported in different ways. As more groups go online, the counselling team will form a mutual support group, meeting bi-monthly to share good practice.


How do SpeakEasys work?

The six SpeakEasy discussions groups are entirely free, but you need to sign up here.

SpeakEasys are 55-minutes long and involve approximately 12 people. You will sign up to regular weekly slots over 6 consecutive weeks (national holidays permitting). They take place on Zoom. You will need to be able to access to WiFi in a quiet private space to take part.

SpeakEasys are not designed to replace counselling or therapy. They are for mutual support and conversations between people at different stages in the bereavement process. So far, discussions have ranged between anger at people who have made us feel “other” at having Covid, to not knowing how to deal with the double blow of bereavement and trauma, to guilt, to the difficulties of telling your children about the death of their father at a 2-metre distance in a hospital car park.

After these six sessions, each group will self-sustain and moderate themselves according to what works for them. Some groups may not work out. Some will flourish. But at least you will be able to voice and share your experiences of this profoundly difficult time with others who have lost their life-partner as a result of Covid.

If you have questions, please contact us here.

Further reading

Grief in the time of coronavirus: coping with loss in lockdown

Bereavement counselling helped my whole family

Overcoming grief through meditation and self-compassion

Why am I still crying? Identifying unresolved grief