Published 17th June 2021

Dealing with our mortality

We have lived with 15 months of uncertainty and each day faced our own mortality. The daily press briefings served as a reminder as to the collective challenge that the virus posed to the health of our nation.

As cases soared, plateaued, decreased, soared again and then began to decline we were reminded of the many tens and now hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their life to this infinitely small virus.

It is without a shadow of a doubt the pressures we have all experienced over the last 15 months have been exacerbated by the daily reminder of those who had sadly lost their lives to the virus.

As we look beyond the pandemic, there is a buoyant feeling amongst those who can see light at the end of the tunnel. The lifting of restrictions is seeing the re-opening of bars and restaurants, the travel corridors are allowing those who have means and wish to, to jet off to sunnier weathers and the return of live sport with spectators is timely as the postponed European championship has restarted.

There is also an appetite within those in public office to ‘harness the public spirit of 2020’ demonstrated by the energies of people and communities that for many were the lifeline at a time when physical separation and economic uncertainty was taking its toll on individual mental wellbeing.

However as we look to a future beyond the pandemic, we are hearing stories from within communities that are the inevitable result of us facing our own mortality for 15 months. We are hearing stories that are challenging the public spiritedness, relationships and community connections that have emerged. They are stories of potential division, disconnection and withdrawal that could lead to the breakdown of relationships within places.

It is absolutely normal to feel anxious at death – however, this feeling is often reserved to the later stages of life as people enter older age. However, the last 15 months has meant all of us, regardless of age, have faced both the prospect of death ourselves and of our loved ones.

Facing our own mortality and the implications that this has have been heavily studied. Research has shown that being faced with our own mortality can make us more punitive, increase our nationalistic bias, increase other parochial attitudes making us more prejudiced against other age, race and religious groups and lastly affects our political and religious beliefs.

Our political beliefs become more polarised with those who favour liberalism becoming more liberal and those who favour conservatism becoming more conservative.


In relation to our religious beliefs, when faced with death, all of us (religious or not) seek to find immortality. For those with strong religious beliefs, many religions offer literal immortality, however those with secular beliefs will find a sense of immortality through their connection and belonging to nations and ethnic groups.

As we lift the restrictions that have been imposed on us over the last 15 months, we need to be aware that whilst there have been tremendously positive lessons we can learn from the pandemic, there are also implications that being faced by our own mortality has had on us all. How we may have, without knowing it, become more punitive, more nationalistic and more conservative in our views.

One way we might start to ensure that we can recover well, recover together, and bridge any potential divides is by creating spaces where we can begin to listen to one another. A space for stories to be shared and the experiences of the last 18 months exchanged to develop understanding and collective consciousness. As people, communities, and places there is going to be an inevitable healing period where we begin to come to terms with what has happened to all of us, and what we have lost. We need to respect this period of time, create such spaces for safe and brave conversations to be held and then work together to build back stronger and better together.