Natasha L. Mikles, "Shattered Grief: How the Pandemic Transformed the Spirituality of Death in America" (Columbia UP, 2024)


The COVID-19 pandemic left millions grieving their loved ones without the consolation of traditional ways of mourning. Patients were admitted to hospitals and never seen again. Social distancing often meant conventional funerals could not be held. Religious communities of all kinds were disrupted at the exact moment mourners turned to them for support. These unprecedented circumstances caused dramatic transformations of not only communal rituals but also how people make meaning after the losses of loved ones.

Shattered Grief: How the Pandemic Transformed the Spirituality of Death in America (Columbia UP, 2024) is an intimate portrait of how COVID-19 changed the ways Americans approach, understand, and mourn death. Based on extensive interviews incorporating a multitude of perspectives—including funerary and medical professionals, religious leaders, grief counselors, death doulas, spirit mediums, community organizers, and those who lost loved ones—it provides a snapshot of how people renegotiated spiritual and religious traditions, worldviews, identities, and communities during the deadliest pandemic in a century. Through these diverse and powerful voices, Natasha L. Mikles tells the story of spiritual innovation, religious change, and the struggle to achieve personal and national self-understanding against the backdrop of mass casualties. Compelling and accessible, Shattered Grief is an essential book for a range of readers interested in how we make sense of death and dying.

Natasha L. Mikles is an assistant professor at Texas State University. Her research interests revolve around lived interpretations of death, mourning, and the afterlife in diverse religious traditions ranging from contemporary American spirituality to nineteenth-century Tibetan Buddhism. She has written on topics like the Tibetan Gesar epics, contemporary Tibetan religion, spiritual mediums during the pandemic, and pedagogical reflections on teaching religion. She is also the editor of Journal of Gods and Monsters, and the co-editor of The Religion Matters Reader.

Your Host

Jue Liang

Jue Liang is a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism. She is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Severance Professor in the History of Religion at Case Western Reserve University.
View Profile