Death rites disrupted: coronavirus, ‘lockdown’ laws and the altered social ritual of the funeral

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Heather Conway


coronavirus, lockdown laws, funerals, public health, rituals, grief


While emergency measures for tackling coronavirus fundamentally altered our daily lives, this limiting of freedoms on public health grounds had an equally dramatic impact on the rituals of death. The sweeping restrictions imposed on the time-honoured social practice of the funeral recast its fundamentals but have not been meaningfully probed in legal scholarship. This article addresses that lacuna by examining the relevant laws and government guidance and their broader societal impact. Drawing on the multidisciplinary field of death studies, it examines both the transformative effect of these measures on funerals and the attendant human and social consequences. Integrating this analysis with evidence from emerging research on bereavement and grief during the pandemic, the article argues that the ongoing emotional toll of Covid-era funerals is fuelling a new type of public health crisis.

Abstract 158 | NILQ 74.2.1 Conway Downloads 86