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NatCen researchers to investigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on bereavement and grief

12 May 2021

Researchers from the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) will explore the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on customs and practices surrounding bereavement, grief and funerals, and the influence of these changes on mental health and wellbeing.

The research is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Research and Innovation rapid response to COVID-19.

Led at NatCen by Caroline Turley, Director of Qualitative Methods, and Dr Priya Khambhaita, Research Director in Health and Social Care, the project will explore the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting public health measures on people’s experiences of bereavement and grief.

The research will focus on identifying the formal and informal support people need following a bereavement during the COVID-19 pandemic, understanding how people respond to public health messages at a time of loss and assessing how public health messages could be developed to support the bereaved in managing the funeral process when social distancing is advised.

The team will carry out in-depth interviews with thirty bereaved families to help explore the short and longer-term impacts of bereavement during the pandemic on mental health and wellbeing. Interviews with thirty funeral directors will be held to understand their experiences of the funeral planning process during the pandemic and changes to their services and interactions with bereaved people.

Findings from the project will help develop recommendations for good practice guidance around funerary practices across different faiths, beliefs and cultures, as well as short and long-term bereavement support and public health messaging.

Caroline Turley, Director of Qualitative Methods at NatCen, said: “Lockdowns, social distancing guidance and restrictions around funeral attendance have vastly altered people’s experience of bereavement and grief. This has caused distress for many bereaved families who have not been able to say goodbye to loved ones, or be supported by family and friends, in the way they might have wanted.

This research will speak directly with those affected, to help develop recommendations around funerary practices and bereavement support. We are always hugely grateful that people who have experienced bereavement choose to talk about some of their most difficult moments, to ultimately help make life better for people in similar situations.”

Guy Goodwin, Chief Executive at NatCen, said: “By speaking to both bereaved families and funeral directors, this research will provide a unique and vital insight into experiences of bereavement during the pandemic, and the short and longer-term support that is needed.”


For more information please contact:

Oliver Paynel, Media and Communications Officer, National Centre for Social Research

0207 549 9550

07734 960 071

Katie Crabb, Head of Marketing and Communications, National Centre for Social Research

0207 549 8504

Notes to editors

1. The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) is Britain’s largest independent social research organisation. We aim to promote a better-informed society through high quality social research. Find out more about us at, or on Twitter at @NatCen.

2. The Arts and Humanities Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation. They are the UK’s largest funder of arts and humanities research and training, investing over £100 million every year. They fund independent researchers in a wide range of subjects, including history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and many more. The research they fund provides social and cultural and benefits that contribute to the economic success of the UK, as well as to the culture and welfare of societies around the world. Find out more at, or on Twitter at @ahrcpress.