Exactly one year ago, between February and March 2020, the COVID-19 infection went from an epidemic confined to China to a worldwide pandemic that was particularly lethal in Italy . This study examined the media accounts during that period by analysing the representation of death-related constructs in Corriere della Sera, the most widely read newspaper in Italy . A textual and thematic analysis of articles published between period A (epidemic : 23 January–22 February 2020) and period B (pandemic : 23 February–31 March 2020) was conducted using Nvivo-11 . A total of 141 articles comprising 48,524 words were collected . The most utilised words and meanings linked to COVID-19 were computed . In the rank distribution, ‘ China ’ and ’ virus ’ were the terms most frequently used in both periods . The terms ‘ death ’ and ‘ dead ’ were completely absent in period A and appeared in the 535th position in period B . The term ‘ dead ’ was used primarily to indicate the number of deceased . From a Terror Management Theory perspective, it is possible that the minimal reference to death-related issues was a reflection of death denial and a manifestation of efforts to deny death to manage terror . These findings highlight the ambiguities and ambivalence surrounding any issue pertaining to death; on the one side, undue alarmism may provoke exaggerated reactions, such as moral panic, while on the other denial-based messages that minimise references to mortality may reduce safe behaviour during a pandemic.