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26 Narratives of COVID: loss, dying, death and grief during COVID-19
  1. Erica Borgstrom and
  2. Sharon Mallon
  1. The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK


Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people’s personal and professional lives, with many people experiencing various forms of loss including bereavement. The Open University is a large organisation with many students and staff impacted by the pandemic. The Open Thanatology group at the university noted a gap within the institution to collectively understand and support each other during this time.

Aims To provide a space within the Open University where students, staff and alumni could share stories and experiences of loss during the first year of the pandemic. The narratives were to be collected to share both within and beyond the university.

Method People were invited to submit a narrative of up to 1,500 words to the editors by early March 2021. The editors worked with authors to refine each contribution and self-published the collection in September 2021.

Results Over 30 authors contributed with a range of materials from personal essays, reflections on frontline work or research, and poetry. Topics included: loss during COVID-19; impossible choices and restricted presence during COVID-19; death and dying during the pandemic; death as a result of COVID-19; grief, loss and funerals during COVID-19; other experiences of grief during COVID-19. Contributors commented that the process was therapeutic and that it recognised and honoured their experiences. For some it was their first-time publishing.

Conclusion Publishing the Narratives of Covid book has been a useful way of bringing people together within the Open University and connecting with and sharing people’s experiences of death, loss and grief during the pandemic.

Impact Creating a book has been beneficial both for those contributing but also for those who can now read the narratives and connect with them. The book is available as a free eBook and pdf, or low-cost paperback. It can be used in teaching, research, and community engagement.

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