Julia Kanapathippillai

Isolation prolongs the grieving process | The Canberra Times

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Serina Bird had a strong relationship with her nanna Irene Barron. She taught Ms Bird to knit, crochet and shared recipes for tea time treats, designed to ‘go over well’, served on Royal Albert tea sets. “She was quite an amazing woman,” Ms Bird said. At the young age of fourteen, Mrs Barron, who worked as an artist at Neon Electric Signs, was the model and one of the artists behind the iconic ‘Little Audrey’ skipping girl vinegar sign in Melbourne. Bird last visited her nanna in February, where she was in high spirits. Yet later in the year amid border closures, Mrs Barron’s situation quickly deteriorated and she passed away. Family in Melbourne were unable to immediately hold a funeral. “I was really conscious that a lot [of family in Melbourne] were under really heightened stress… I sort of didn’t really want to bother a lot of my Melbourne relatives, as well,” Ms Bird said. National mental health hotline GriefLine said they’ve seen calls increase by 1100 per cent since May 2020, with 67 per cent of the rise attributed to the pandemic. GriefLine Australia chair Sarah Godfrey said the demand came at a time when fewer people were able to volunteer. She also said as a non-crisis hotline, GriefLine had been overlooked while crisis lines such as Lifeline and Beyond Blue received funding boosts. Ms Godfrey said COVID-19 had caused an increase in prolonged grief, and predicted it would remain an issue throughout the next two years. “Normally we would be processing this in a healthy way, coping with the loss and using all our supports,” Ms Godfrey said. “Because [those supports] have stopped there’s the delay factor. People are coming out six months later [after] somebody has passed away and it’s all new again. They’re now seeing family and friends and going back over a secondary grief process.” Ms Bird said non-crisis hotlines for grief were important as she did not feel comfortable taking resources from crisis lines such as Lifeline. While Ms Bird’s family will reconnect as borders reopen, she has found her own rituals to help her grieving process in Canberra. “The first thing we did was pull out Nanna’s china teacups and had a tea ceremony with my sons.”


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