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Updated 28 June 2013

Culture, grief and mourning

Grief felt for the loss of a loved one, the loss of a treasured possession, or a loss associated with an important life change, occurs across all ages and cultures.

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Grief felt for the loss of a loved one, the loss of a treasured possession, or a loss associated with an important life change, occurs across all ages and cultures.

However, the role that cultural heritage plays in an individual’s experience of grief and mourning is not well understood. Attitudes, beliefs, and practices regarding death must be described according to myths and mysteries surrounding death within different cultures.

Individual, personal experiences of grief are similar in different cultures. This is true even though different cultures have different mourning ceremonies, traditions, and behaviours to express grief.

Helping families cope with the death of a loved one includes showing respect for the family’s cultural heritage and encouraging them to decide how to honour the death.

Important questions to ask people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one:

  • What are the cultural rituals for coping with dying, the deceased person’s body, the final arrangements for the body, and honouring the death?

  • What are the family’s beliefs about what happens after death?

  • What does the family feel is a normal expression of grief and the acceptance of the loss?

  • What does the family consider to be the roles of each family member in handling the death?

  • Are certain types of death less acceptable (for example, suicide), or are certain types of death especially hard to handle for that culture (for example, the death of a child)?

Death, grief, and mourning spare no one and are normal life events. All cultures have developed ways to cope with death. Interfering with these practices may interfere with the necessary grieving processes.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

 
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