Losing a loved one during COVID restrictions and being unable mark their passing in the normal way - like attending the funeral or being around family and friends - means people are likely to suffer longer and more complex grief, according to experts.
Those feelings of loss and loneliness have driven a 1100 per cent increase in calls to GriefLine over the past year and counsellors expect that demand to continue for at least the next few years.
GriefLine board co-chair Sarah Godfrey said unresolved grief, complex grief and loss were harder to address during lockdown because of restrictions on funerals, memorials and gatherings.
"What we are seeing, as we adjust to our COVID-normal lives, is that the grieving process is really only just starting to kick-in as we start reconnecting with our families and friends and have conversations about how the pandemic affected us."
Why is GriefLine different to other helplines? Unlike other helplines GriefLine does not offer crisis response and referral. Instead our helpline and other programs focus on early response, prevention and recovery for those experiencing the hidden effects of loss and grief. pic.twitter.com/C7JYgbs67a— Griefline (@Griefline) March 28, 2019
"Some people have unexpectedly lost a loved one to suicide, COVID or other complications, while others have experienced job loss, loss of a business, loss of identity, relationship breakdowns and more," she said.
Ms Godfrey said GriefLine had seen a big increase in callers from regional Victoria suffering bereavement and loneliness.
The service has launched its interactive Grief and Loss Resource Hub where those feeling isolated from the community can request check-in calls through their GP and access resources.
And it is about to pilot a new project in regional Victoria, the G'Day Network, to promote community groups, online resources, tools, forums and activities and events on around local areas and encourage people who are feeling lonely to reach out, attend or take part.
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"We want to get people feeling like they are belonging again, so they don't feel so lonely and connect within the community so we can start seeing a reduction in loneliness and isolation," she said.
Ms Godfrey said during September and October, loneliness became a primary reason for people calling the help line.
"When you are looking at suicide, loneliness and inability to connect and belong and be supported ... is a really big trigger ... which is why one of our primary objectives is the online forum and building connections."
Forums are online at griefline.org.au or call the hotline any day from 6am to midnight on 1300 845 745.