The Dead with No Wake, Grieving with No Closure: Illness and Death in the Days of Coronavirus in Spain

J Relig Health. 2022 Feb;61(1):703-721. doi: 10.1007/s10943-020-01078-5.


The pandemic caused by the spread of Covid-19 is giving rise to an exceptional social situation because of the great speed of propagation of the illness and the high level of mortality it has occasioned in a very short time. Moreover, the lockdown measures decreed in Spain prohibit the holding of wakes to avoid contagion, and limit funerals to three people plus the officiant. Thus, coronavirus is robbing people of the opportunity of a final farewell, stripping the dead of their dignity and worsening the grief of the living. This article investigates the situation and the social and cultural impact it has provoked. The method used takes the line of critical dialogue analysis (CDA) applied to information contained in the mass media, employing qualitative material from a related small-scale study. The results show that in countries like Spain where there is a strong Roman Catholic tradition the importance of these rituals is unquestionable. Although the country has become laicized over recent years, many traditions around death are still maintained. Hence, the impossibility of holding funerals is triggering a large number of social and personal conflicts. Furthermore, they indicate that lockdown, and the lack of rituals and of accompaniment constitute some of the most crucial stressors in the epidemic. Grief in solitude has become widespread and all the more fundamental in a society that values social support from close friends and family members. The conclusions show that the social distancing imposed by the epidemic is especially hard to bear when relatives are passing into death.

Keywords: Bereavement; Covid-19; Death; Grief; Grieving; Mourning; Spain.

MeSH terms

  • Bereavement*
  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Grief
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Spain