Denial is really bloody interesting as at some level, in formulating the defense, there must be some acceptance of the truth, or at least what the truth might be.
And to an extent from what conscious or unconscious level does this question, in the sense that the whole thing basically is a problem seeking solution, actually exist? Therein the personal denial could be a result of questioning a cultural denial, a sense deep within the individual, using themselves as the bait, to create a perspective from which to question the given sense of how to perceive a situation not questioned on a cultural level.
This example of death of a loved one could include this. That these women don't feel the accepted ways of dealing with death suit their own relationship... yes, I know that's stretching it but still it kind of illustrates the possibility.
I suppose what I'm saying is that the type of denial, almost the width of it's creative possibilities, could be given more scope to address what might be deeper misgivings. These women, whilst on the surface might have denied death with their own mother, they were, within all the time to reflect and determine their own parts, giving themselves time to review their own places within a bigger picture.