We were supposed to mourn together
: An explorative study on the meaning of absent funerals for grieving processes, during Covid-19

  • Tamara Van Schaik

Student thesis: Master's Thesis: Humanistic Studies


During the Covid-19 pandemic, imposed restrictions affected funeral practices. For this reason, lots of bereaved were not able to physically attend the funeral of their loved ones. They were forced to watch the funeral by means of a livestream, video-recording or not at all. Not being able to participate in the funeral and share this experience with the community, could pose implications for the grieving process. The aim of this study is, therefore, to address the meaning of absent funeral rituals due to restrictive measures following Covid-19, by studying meaning-making processes after the loss of loved ones during the pandemic. In-depth interviews with 10 participants aged 31-81 were analysed, following the main principles of grounded theory. The findings show that the funeral process was disrupted for the participants because they have missed important moments of the ritual. Because of this, they were not part of the collective mourning process of the community which made them feel like a bystander and isolated. Disruptions for the grieving process occurred because the participants could not express their grief by participation in a bodily way. Also, most participants missed a confrontation with the body of the deceased. For this reason, death can remain unreal. Transitional and communal aspects of the funeral were disrupted for the participants, which made them feel unsupported in their grief and sometimes unable to integrate the loss within their life. In some cases, alternatives for the traditional funeral, like a livestream, brought participants consolation and recognition for their loss, but most of them experienced the livestream as a disembodied ritual. Further research is suggested, to study the long-term effects of Covid-19 on loss and grief and to gain more knowledge about the impact of the pandemic on families and social support networks surrounding death in times of crisis.
Date of Award5 Oct 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJoanna Wojtkowiak (Supervisor) & Marie-Christine J. L. Opdenakker (Supervisor)

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