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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
  • Group members

    Cluster Principal Investigator

    Dr Elsbeth Robson

    Reader in Human Geography, School of Environmental Science |

    Cluster Members

    Dr Jo Bell

    Department of Psychological Health, Well-Being 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 Department of Psychological Health, Well-Being 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 |

  • Outputs and publications





    • 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

    Saira Mian

    Mapping geographical intersectional inequalities in deathscapes and topographies of bereavement.

    Supervisors: Robson, Jonas

    Sarah Kearsley

    Identifying and understanding the impact, and responses of, health and social care workers dealing with death under social distancing.

    Supervisors: Walker, Johnson, Bravington

    Ellen Lapper

    Evaluating the affordances of digital technologies to manage socially-distanced death-related practices for death professionals, bereaved families (including children), friends and co-workers.

    Supervisors: Bell, Robson, Westoby

    Lucyl Harrison

    Exploring new language and literature uses during the pandemic for healing and alleviating loss.

    Supervisors: Wynne, Jones, Hunter

    Ryan Clarke

    Learning from historical disease pandemics about strategies for memorialising remote death.

    Supervisors: Evans, Robson



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