People are hiding that their unvaxxed loves ones died of COVID

Vitriol doesn’t come just from familiar names, but also from strangers. Websites, message boards, and social-media accounts have cropped up as forums to insult the unvaccinated dead. They scour social-media pages for “covidiots” and screenshot their photos and posts, turning them into memes. One Reddit page even gives out “awards” to those who refused the vaccine and then died.

“A few months after the vaccine became available, that was really the turning point for when we began to see an acceleration in the lack of empathy for those who passed away due to COVID,” says Kristin Urquiza, who co-founded Marked by COVID, a grassroots group that advocates for those affected by the pandemic, after her dad died of COVID in June 2020. She told me that even in forums dedicated specifically to grief, when someone posts about a COVID death, often the first thing people ask is whether the person was vaccinated.

That interrogation, and the judgment that may follow if the answer is no, has made opening up, especially online, hard for those who lost an unvaccinated loved one to COVID-19. “I have people reaching out to me confiding on a more one-on-one level that they’re struggling and they want to talk about their loss, but they don’t feel safe. They’re afraid they will be attacked or they’re afraid of their loved one being attacked,” said Urquiza, whose organization works with thousands of people across the country.