Living with Death – Learning from COVID

Researching the consequences of death in the time of COVID-19 for mental health and well-being

The Challenge

During the COVID-19 pandemic the world has seen unprecedented waves of premature deaths. Dying has been taking place under circumstances far from ‘normal’. Modes of remembrance associated with a ‘good death’ have been impeded by public health measures. Infection control restrictions are associated with many emergent consequences including for mental health and well-being. Our multi-disciplinary research COVID cluster seeks to investigate, understand and suggest mitigations for unintended medium-longer term consequences of socially distanced death. In collaborating across social sciences, health and humanities we will engage with and evaluate approaches to alleviate the intense suffering, grief and bereavement of COVID-19.



To research consequences of death in the time of COVID-19 for mental health and well-being, including complicated grief and post-traumatic stress for health, social care and other professionals, bereaved families and friends.

The Approach

As COVID-19 is a new area of research our approach in the Living with Death – Learning from COVID cluster is to take a broad and holistic perspective on the pandemic across several disciplines. This cross-disciplinary approach will make a major interdisciplinary contribution to the multi-faceted impacts of the pandemic. Approaching COVID with a team of well qualified researchers in medicine, the social sciences and humanities enables us to learn from historical pandemics and the current pandemic in order to look to the future and contribute to tackling post-pandemic global challenges.

The Impact

Via a platform of resources and outputs including policy briefings, an anthology and exhibition our work will target those directly affected by COVID-19 death (personally and professionally) to alleviate grief and suffering. By working with Hull City Council, the University of Hull, the Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and other partners (including Dove House Hospice and the Association of independent Celebrants) we intend to contribute to legacies of living with death and learning from COVID-19 for Hull, the region and beyond e.g. planning a permanent memorial for the 700+ people who have died in Hull from/with COVID-19.



Mental health
students talking in masks facemask welcome event


A view of the Columbarium - Hedon Road Cemetery


Pandemic pages
Pandemic pages
Pandemic pages podcasts
Pandemic pages
Pandemic pages
Pandemic podcast
  • Group members

    Cluster Principal Investigator

    Dr Elsbeth Robson

    Reader in Human Geography, School of Environmental Science |

    Cluster Members

    Dr Jo Bell

    School of Psychology and Social Work |

    Dr Alison Bravington

    Hull York Medical School |

    Dr Nicholas Evans

    Department of History/Wilberforce institute |

    Dr Duncan Hunter

    School of Education |

    Prof Miriam Johnson

    Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre |

    Prof Andy Jonas

    School of Environmental Science |

    Dr Bethan Jones

    Department of English, Creative Writing and American Studies |

    Prof Liz Walker

    Institute for Clinical and Applied Health Research and School of Psychology and Social Work

    Dr Christopher Westoby

    Department of English, Creative Writing and American Studies |

    Dr Catherine Wynne

    Department of English, Creative Writing and American Studies |

    Dr Gloria Likupe

    School of Nursing and Midwifery |

    Dr Judith Spicksley

    Wilberforce Institute |

    Dr Michael McCahill 

    School of Criminology, Sociology and Policing |


  • Outputs, publications and book reviews



    • Lucyl Harrison (2023) Lavender fields: Black women experiencing fear, agency, and hope in the time of Covid-19, Journal of Gender Studies, DOI: 10.1080/09589236.2023.2291928





    • Jones, B. (2019) Presence Time. Legacies of Loss: An Anthology. Eds. Catherine Wynne, Valerie Sanders and Richard Meek. Hull: University of Hull, 2019. 75-80. (Creative Writing contribution to Legacies of Loss Anthology)
    • Holloway, M., Lillie, M., Evans, N.J., Dikomitis, L., Goodhead, A., Inall, Y., Nicol, L, (2019) The Changing Face of Memorialisation in the UK – Final Report, Hull: University of Hull.


    • Taylor P, Johnson MJ, Dowding DW (2018) Clinical decision-making at the end of life: a mixed-methods study BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care Published Online First:18 Oct.2018
    • Johnston, B., Matthews, G., Patterson, A., Bravington, A., Hardy, B., Seymour, J. (2018) Qualitative component of a longitudinal mixed methods programme evaluation using in-depth interviews. BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care, 8 (suppl 1), A1-79.

    2017 and earlier

    • Taylor P, Dowding D, Johnson MJ. (2017) How do clinicians recognize dying? A qualitative interview study. BMC Palliative Care 16:11. DOI 10.1186/s12904-016-0179-3
    • Brooks, J.M., Bravington, A., Hardy, B., Melvin, J., King, N. (2015) “It’s not just about the patient, it’s the families too”: End of life care in the home environment, Supportive and Palliative Care, 5, pp114-115.
  • Research students

    Annabel Howell

    'Evaluating Affordances of Digital technologies to manage socially distanced, death-related practice. Learning From COVID and shaping future practice'

    Annabel trained as a medic in Paediatric Intensive Care, GP and adult palliative care before becoming Medical Director of Children's Hospices Across Scotland -CHAS. She was palliative care lead and associate medical director (AMD) for an acute hospital and AMD for clinical governance for the health board during Covid. Unfortunately, she acquired Covid in the first few weeks of the pandemic and subsequently had Long Covid. As a reflector and in response to facing her own potential death, she completed her Masters in Creative Writing at Hull University earlier this year. This process was key to her recovery.

    Her doctoral thesis looks at the time of the pandemic, when she and many other clinicians were providing end of life care supporting socially distanced goodbyes and grief. Her experience as an AMD in clinical governance, overseeing complaints, highlighted the impact of poor deaths on those left behind. Having lost both parents, a friend in the Lockerbie disaster and other good friends to illness and suicide, she wants a positive to come out of the pandemic, learning to truly co-design with the bereaved, future digital technology support that empowers and enables those who are bereaved, including bereavement service providers.

    Supervisors: Bell, McCahill and Westoby

    Saira Mian

    ‘Place, Death and Inequalities’

    Saira has a master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Copenhagen (2007). She has worked extensively on gender and labour issues in global value chains and in the area of UN Sustainable Development and UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in both private and public sectors in Pakistan and Denmark.

    Having spent her childhood, adolescence, and adulthood in three different continents, Saira has a keen, personal interest in migration and ageing studies. Her academic research is rooted in the experiences of older Muslim migrants in Europe and cuts across disciplines of sociology, social work and elder care policy and practice. Her research interests include intergenerational relations, transnational ties, elder care, end-of-life and death rituals of ethnic minority, Muslim migrants in Europe.

    Her doctoral research furthers her master’s thesis on elder care and Intergenerational care-giving relations and explores how changing family patterns, social and economic disparities and in particular, covid-19 disease and safety measures have impacted the health and mental wellbeing of aged ethnic minorities in Europe.

    Her research goal is to present systematic, disaggregated data on ethnic minorities in Europe and to position intersectionality as a tool for gauging health inequalities in minority elder care policy and practice.

    Supervisors: Robson, Jonas and Likupe 

    Sarah Kearsley

    ‘Dealing with death under social distancing’

    Sarah is a postgraduate researcher with a background in education. In her professional practice, Sarah has taught Health and Social Care within the secondary and further education sectors, as well as working in pastoral support roles within secondary education.

    Sarah has an MA in Education (University of Hull), a BA (hons) in Education and Learning (University of Hull), and a Certificate in Education (University of Huddersfield).

    Academically, Sarah has interests in sociological perspectives, teaching and learning, and social inequality. Her research focuses on qualitative, human lived experiences. For her BA (hons), Sarah researched staff perceptions of bereavement support for further education students. This was inspired by the work of Shirley Potts, on the capacity of primary school teachers to support bereaved children in their care. For her Master’s degree, Sarah investigated the impact of school toilet policies on the health and well-being of secondary school students. This was borne out of her personal experience of having a bladder disease (interstitial cystitis), alongside concerns arising from teaching practice.

    For her PhD research project, Sarah is enthusiastic to be returning to the topic of bereavement. Her research aim for the project is to provide an insight into the lives of the invisible ‘key workers’ working within healthcare throughout the pandemic. From this, it is hoped that these essential workers can be empowered and can be supported effectively following the distress ignited by the pandemic. 

    Supervisors: Walker, Johnson and Bravington

    Lucyl Harrison

    'Language in Corona times'

    Lucyl Harrison (she/her) has a master's degree in English from the University of Hull (2019). She enjoys a wide range of literary interests spanning literature, theatre, and visual culture with a particular focus on creativity, intertextuality and interdiscursivity.

    Her primary area of research interest during her postgraduate studies included Isabella Whitney and Shakespeare alongside other topics including the Gothic and Victorian theatre, techniques of imitation and the concept of genre. Her master’s thesis focused on women of the 'middling sort' in the Early Modern complaint.

    Borne out of her experiences as a young adult carer and her background in education and outreach, Lucyl’s personal interest with social inclusion and fair access spur her passions for impact and public engagement. She has taught English in schools, colleges, and Adult Education and has worked on outreach programmes with vulnerable communities in the UK and India, particularly working with women and children/youth.

    Her research aim for the ‘Language in Corona times’ research project is to explore how COVID-19 writers have created new, original texts to deploy their socio-economic commentaries and idiosyncratic experiences of loss and grief. Lucyl is adopting intersectionality as a critical lens to the COVID-19 pandemic as a way of understanding differences in lived experiences and the multiple, intersecting forms of oppression and inequality in the twenty-first century.

    Please see The Conversation article on '5 books about the Covid pandemic to look out for in 2024':

    Supervisors: Wynne, Jones and Hunter

    Ryan Clarke

    ‘Learning from historical disease pandemics about strategies for memorialising remote death’

    Ryan Clarke is a keen teacher, historian, and PhD researcher with a particular academic interest in Public History, Military and Social History, and Memory Studies.

    Ryan has a BA (hons) degree in Theology and Ethics with History (Bishop Grosseteste University, 2017), an MA in Public History and Heritage (University of Derby, 2021) and a PGCE in Secondary Education (Nottingham Trent University, 2018). His academic research has largely centred around Public History and remembrance of conflict. His recent MA thesis: ‘A Century of Commemoration: Public History and Remembrance of the First World War’ focussed on the effects and legacy of remote death resulting from WWI. Part of his Masters thesis included researching the de-facto memorialisation of the Spanish Flu pandemic which occurred concurrently with the latter stages of the war.

    In his professional practice, Ryan has spent three years working in the education sector as a teacher of History and Religious Education. During this time, he has supervised relevant History and RE modules at both GCSE and A Level. Since 2014, he has been a voluntary member and advisor on the Mansfield Woodhouse Remembrance Planning Committee. In this role, he has taken the lead in organising remembrance events to commemorate those killed in conflict and dealing with the multiplicity of matters resulting from remote death. Furthermore, for over seven years he has also served as a Special Constable (volunteer police officer). Ryan looks forward to combining his academic experience and professional practice to make a valuable contribution to the scholarly development of this important research on learning from pandemics of the past.

    Supervisors: Spicksley, Evans and Robson



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