Care in Funerals: Learning from the Ways COVID-19 Disrupted Funeral Provision in the UK, 2021-2022

Entwistle, Vikki and Riley, Jennifer and Arnason, Arnar and Maccagno, Paolo (2023). Care in Funerals: Learning from the Ways COVID-19 Disrupted Funeral Provision in the UK, 2021-2022. [Data Collection]. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Service. 10.5255/UKDA-SN-856027

Funeral provision in the UK was significantly disrupted when COVID-19 infection control policies constrained how and by whom bodies could be attended to and moved to burial/cremation sites; how funeral directors and celebrants could communicate with bereaved families; and possibilities for gathering for funerals, mourning and memorialising activities. The regulations generated significant distress and perceptions of injustice. They also prompted the development of new funeral practices - inviting important questions about funeral provision. Our interdisciplinary research starts from a recognition of funeral provision as a form of care (and set of caring practices) oriented towards people who have died and their bereaved family, friends and communities. It addresses neglected ethical aspects of funeral provision, including, in the context of COVID-19, questions of fairness and the moral dimensions of distress evident in family members' and funeral directors' worries about not fulfilling important responsibilities, or doing wrong, to those who have died or been bereaved. Our ethical analyses will be grounded in an ethnographic examination of changed practices and experiences that includes: (1) analysis of funeral artefacts, including online films, tribute pages, and written accounts; (2) interviews with diverse bereaved family members, funeral directors and celebrants. We will attend carefully to what people consider good and right (or not) and why in different circumstances. We will develop practical ethical analyses of post-death care that address tensions between different purposes of funerals and diverse perspectives on post-death responsibilities. Discussion events with key stakeholders will inform the development of resources for future policy and practice.

Data description (abstract)

The Care in Funerals project drew upon 67 semi-structured qualitative interviews with 68 individuals who had been bereaved, and/or worked or volunteered in deathcare and funeral provision in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interviews explored their experiences during the pandemic, evaluations of what was good and what was less good, how they responded, and suggestions of what might be improved going forward. They also examined what interviewees understood by the term 'care' in relation to funerals. All participants gave informed consent to participate. Interviews had a mean length of one hour, and were conducted using video calling software or, in some cases, telephone, between April 2021 and April 2022. This dataset consists of 63 transcripts (two interviewees were interviewed together in one case) all of which have had identifying details removed such that the participants cannot be identified. Four transcripts have been withheld as permission was not granted by participants for their inclusion in a data repository.

Data creators:
Creator Name Affiliation ORCID (as URL)
Entwistle Vikki University of Aberdeen
Riley Jennifer University of Aberdeen
Arnason Arnar University of Aberdeen
Maccagno Paolo University of Aberdeen
Name Affiliation ORCID (as URL)
Locock Louise University of Aberdeen
Crozier Rebecca University of Aberdeen
Pattenden Abi University of Aberdeen
Sponsors: ESRC
Grant reference: ES/V017047/1
Topic classification: Social welfare policy and systems
Society and culture
Project title: Developing practical ethics of care for the dead and bereaved: learning from the ways COVID-19 disrupted and reshaped funeral provision
Grant holders: Vikki Entwistle, Louise Locock, Abi Pattenden, Rebecca Crozier, Arnar Arnason
Project dates:
6 January 20215 December 2022
Date published: 31 Jan 2023 13:46
Last modified: 31 Jan 2023 13:46

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