Relatives mourning the deaths of Covid-19 loved ones have warned families against Christmas gatherings.
Kathryn de Prudhoe, a Leeds psychotherapist, lost her father Tony Clay to Covid in April and believes mixing outside of the support bubbles is not worth the risk.
Mr. Clay was 60 and had only a slight increase in blood pressure before contracting the coronavirus, but died in the intensive care unit after three days in the hospital, after a stroke and a heart attack.
Mrs. de Prudhoe shared a poignant photo of the last time she saw her father before she shut down. It makes him laugh and play with her son just 23 days before he died.
“He was a really fit, physically active man … it was a really devastating shock,” said Ms de Prudhoe.
‘We have no idea what the virus could do to anyone. I understand people want to get together, it’s been an incredibly difficult year … but at what cost? she asked.
“For example, I would forgo Christmas with my parents if it meant we still had a future as a family.”
Mrs. de Prudhoe spends Christmas with her partner and two children aged six and nine, and her mother – who now lives alone and is thus in a support bubble with her.
Heather Roberts of Eastcote, London, lost her mother Violet Partington, 78, to Covid in April and described those who wanted to “party” at Christmas as “selfish”.
On her mother’s birthday, the 54-year-old said: “We have never been allowed to say goodbye. We don’t have her here, none of us want to celebrate.
“I just want to leave, but I can’t. I feel so trapped and I feel so hurt by all the selfish people who want to party.
“Everyone has to make their choice, but I feel that many haven’t lost anyone yet, so I don’t know what heartbreak it leaves behind.
“My sister is in counseling and you are reminded of it in the news every day.
“Think carefully about what you’re doing … I just wouldn’t risk it for dinner.”
Mrs. Roberts suggested that families could postpone their family gatherings until Easter.
Haci Ali Dogus, 49, a taxi driver from Hackney, London, died of the coronavirus in March, despite having no underlying health problems.
His 18-year-old student son Mert Dogus said families should move their Christmas gatherings online.
“It is certainly not going to be easy, especially for students living on the university campus and people living alone,” Mert said.
But in the end, the risk isn’t worth it … we should stay home and have a video call together. It won’t be the same, but at least we can take advantage of what we have. “
London-based charity worker Andy Stevens said his family also planned to celebrate Christmas separately this year, following the death of his cousin Jamie in March, aged 24.
Mr. Stevens, 39, said that Jamie had been healthy and an avid cyclist, but that a heart condition unknown to him made his illness worse.
“In many ways, it would help to be together to collectively mourn and commemorate Jamie at Christmas, especially since we couldn’t be together for his funeral, but we don’t think it’s worth the risk,” he said.
“I would suggest that people follow the guidelines and move on depending on their specific risk level.
“There are a lot of families with empty seats around the table this year and we don’t want more families to experience that in 2021.”
Ms. De Prudhoe is also a campaigner for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, a group of more than 2,000 next of kin calling for an investigation into the government’s management of the pandemic.
The campaigners are asking for £ 65 million in funding to provide mental health care to the hundreds of thousands of people mourning the loss of a loved one as a result of the coronavirus crisis.