‘The most difficult time of my life’ or ‘COVID’s gift to me’? Differential Experiences of Covid-19 Funerary Restrictions in Aotearoa New Zealand
In 2020, the government of Aotearoa New Zealand imposed some of the most stringent funerary restrictions in the world as part of its efforts to eliminate COVID-19. This article explores how people experienced this situation, asking why restrictions that some described as precipitating ‘the most difficult time of their lives’ were described by others as a ‘relief’, ‘blessing’, or ‘gift’. Much existing literature frames funerary restrictions as a distressing assault upon established ways of grieving to which mourners must try to adapt – and in Aotearoa, both the stringency of the restrictions and the means by which they had been imposed did lead to many people finding them challenging. However, for those with ambivalent pre-existing feelings regarding their funerary traditions – such as many in the Samoan diaspora – COVID-19 restrictions afforded both a reprieve from burdensome practices and a much-welcomed opportunity to reimagine their traditions. Funerary restrictions, though disruptive, are thereby shown to have generative potential.