Global day of remembrance for world’s 1.8 million COVID dead

1st January – On the hour, every hour – A day for people around the world to share their collective & personal grief

A year after the COVID-19 hit the world for the first time, people in six continents will come together in a day of collective grief for all those lost to coronavirus in 2020.

Starting in New Zealand (GMT +12) and ending in Hawaii (GMT -12) people will mark #CovidMemorialDay with vigils, services, and individual acts of remembrance.

“Over the last year many of us have been touched by grief either directly or indirectly and collective grieving is important both for our own mental well-being as well as being support for others,” says TV behavioral psychologist, Jo Hemmings, who is helping to coordinate Covid Memorial Day.

“That is why I felt passionate about being part of Covid Memorial Day – a day when you can light a candle, take a pebble to the top of a hill or simply sit and reflect on those you have lost. A united moment when we can all acknowledge and express our personal loss as well as the shared grief of so many others.”

A year after Chinese officials provided information to WHO on the cluster of cases of “viral pneumonia of unknown cause” in Wuhan, people across the world have been subjected to an unending barrage of facts, figures and graphs – charting the ever-rising death toll.

Whilst some nations have had national memorials – Spain for example had a 10-day remembrance period – there has been no global moment to share our collective pain.

Sparked by the recognition that, in the words of grief expert, David Kessler, “grief must be witnessed”, COVID Memorial Day was set up in the UK last summer. A coalition of different individuals, and groups working with bereaved families, NHS staff, and older people, came together on 5 September to mark the 6 month anniversary of the death of the first Briton from Covid-19 with services and vigils.

“We have very public mourning for the awful random multiple deaths of major accidents and acts of terrorism. Quite right too. The Covid deaths are just numbers. No collective public mourning for tens of thousands of deaths,” said poet Michael Rosen tweeting his support for Covid Memorial Day.

With New Year being a time for both resolutions and reflecting on the year just gone, New Year’s Day is also an appropriate moment to carve out a global moment to grieve.

Newspaper editors are requested to include some stories of the deceased in their newspapers. Both the New York Times and O Globo in Brazil, devoted their front page in memory of the dead when the death toll hit 100,000.

“It is important to remember that grief is the flip side of love. If you have not loved, you cannot great, and the more you deeply you love, the more painful the grief,” said Stefan Simanowitz, founder of Covid Memorial Day.

“One doesn’t recover from grief. If you are lucky, you heal from grief. But never completely. Indeed, Shakespeare warns that if we fail to give sorrow words the grief will o-er wrought heart and bid it break. The grief that is bottled up can turn into anger or depression. Covid Memorial Day day is intended to give words to our sorrow.”