Mass ceremony and lantern parade planned in Milton Keynes for grieving families who lost loved ones to Covid
A support group for people bereaved during the Covid pandemic is struggling to raise £7,000 for a mass ceremony,
Deborah Lewis set up Covid19 families in Milton Keynes after losing her own father to the virus in April last year.
The support group soon spread all over the UK and there are now 37 regional groups, supporting more than 3,500 bereaved people.
Deborah started the group because she was horrified at the lack of support she received when her father died. During lockdown, shut away from sympathetic relatives, colleagues and friends, and unable to even organise a proper funeral, she felt very alone, she said.
Six months earlier, before lockdown began, her mum had passed away due to cancer, and the support network was "incredible" at that time.
"The one group who are actually receiving very, very little support are the Covid bereaved... It's hard enough to lose someone at anytime but losing someone during the lockdown was and still is horrendous, and the long term mental health effects of grieving during lockdown are yet to manifest themselves," she said.
Deborah is planning to hold her event on June 23. There will be a socially distanced lantern parade and a memorial gathering in Campbell Park, where there will be a stage a performers
Called National Candlelight 4Covid, it will be the nation's first such public mourning event, she says.
"It will allow the many who have been denied a moment to reflect and unite in grief that final act of closure. Not just the families, but friends, neighbours, work colleagues, and associates.
"For over a year now, those experiencing grief have been denied the right to remember and mark the passing of their loved ones due to pandemic restrictions, and for many, myself including this is an important part of the grieving process - closure.
"This event now has the dubious honour of becoming the very first public attendance memorial event to take place anywhere in the UK and will quite literally shine a light on Milton Keynes and show just how a memorial event can go ahead in a safe and socially distanced manner leading the way for the rest of the country."
But Deborah is struggling to raise the cash to pay for public liability insurance, staging, lighting, and sound, a wet weather shelter and seating for dignitaries and performers, Portaloo provision and decorations for the event.
Deborah approached Milton Keynes Council and several parish councils to ask for grants, but they were unable to help.
"Thankfully we have the support of parks trust to use the wide open space of Campbell park for the event. But sadly, it seems that our elected officials both in MK Council and the parish councils, deem that the need for the bereaved to find closure and unite in their grief, is not worthy of their support," she said.
"The lack of compassion being shown by those who claim to be there for their parishioners and constituents is just soul destroying. I'm not asking for much - I'm asking the parishes of Milton Keynes to come together and support their bereaved by each contributing a small amount."
Milton Keynes Community Foundation has, however, agreed to grant £3,000 towards the event, she said.