Project PEOLC12COV

Bereavement care during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic presents significant challenges to individual and societal experiences of death, dying and bereavement. This project aims to contribute to improvements to bereavement care practice during the ongoing pandemic.


An online survey of professionals involved in bereavement care provision, concerning changes in the provision of bereavement care during the COVID-19 pandemic, was completed between 3rd August-4th September 2020. 805 responses were received from a range of professionals across the UK: rapid dissemination of findings is planned in order to contribute to improvements to bereavement care practice during the ongoing pandemic.


Deaths by COVID-19 are characterised by factors that may increase risk of complicated and prolonged grief responses. Social distancing measures have impacted on all those bereaved during this period not only from COVID-19, causing restrictions on visiting in hospitals and hospices, viewing the deceased person’s body, and carrying out funeral proceedings. Bereaved people may feel especially isolated and unable to access the social support that would normally be of great support. Due to the unprecedented nature of this crisis, evidence is limited on how and in what ways it will impact on the experience of bereavement.

Project aims

To support practitioners and policy-makers, we surveyed UK & Ireland professionals and investigated how bereavement care practice has changed in response to revised national guidance and local demands during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on:

  • Identifying bereaved people who might need support
  • Restrictions regarding funeral arrangements
  • Supporting people bereaved from COVID and non-COVID conditions
  • Supporting people bereaved before the pandemic
  • Managing complex forms of grief,
  • Use of telephone, video or other remote support
  • Access to specialist services for the bereaved.

A second phase of the study is planned which will focus on the experiences of those bereaved during this period.

Project activity  

Early analysis of the rich data obtained from the web-based survey is now complete: we plan to send a paper to a journal in the near future. We plan to then undertake a more in-depth analysis of the free-text comments supplied by the respondents.

We are working with colleagues in Public Health England, the National Bereavement Alliance and the Department of Health and Social Care on a set of literature reviews on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of bereavement support. We hope that these will influence Government investment in bereavement support services.

We are developing a grant application for a subsequent interview study (see below).


The work on the web-based survey will be published shortly. We aim to publish another paper on the results of the follow up interviews. Also, we hope to develop recommendations for supporting people bereaved in these unprecedented times. Depending on how the pandemic evolves, we may further conduct another study on this topic.

Who was involved?

Principle Investigator

Professor Stephen Barclay, University of Cambridge

Researchers and institutions

Dr Caroline Pierce, University of Cambridge

Contact us

Professor Stephen Barclay,