Stages of Grief: Acceptance of Death in Diverse Cultures

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Topic: Culture
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Death is an inevitability, and sooner or later every human being is put to face it. Grief comes together with death, especially when a loved one dies. The depth and scale of grief depend on the psychological stance of the grieving person: the reaction can be stoic or destructive. However, there are significant similarities in the behavior of the grieving persons immediately after the death of their relatives and loved ones. Dr. Kübler-Ross has studied the phenomenon of grief and considered it possible to single out five stages of this process: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (Kübler-Ross, 2014). Denial is the stage of disbelief in death of the particular person. Denial protects the grieving people’s mental stance since the acknowledgment of their mortality would be beyond endurance.

Anger comes as a second stage: the grieving are outraged at themselves, at gods they believe in, at the ones that are still among the living. They feel guilty for doing too little to stop the death from happening; it is a natural mode of behavior, which is where the stage of bargaining comes in. Bargaining is another means of protection that human psyche has developed since the constant reference to the past shields the grieving persons from devastating thoughts in present. The devastation happens on the stage of depression: it is the stage when the bereaved admit their actual feelings and make a final step, which is acceptance. The person is still in grief, but they are already prepared to let go of the deceased and move on (Kübler-Ross, 2014). In relation to the Kübler-Ross model, we will overview the idea and cultural aspects of death in two different cultures: Hispanic and Native American.

In their cross-cultural study, Lobar, Youngblut, and Brooten (2006) interview nursing practitioners on the customs embraced by the idea and the process of dying in different cultures and spare a special place to that of Hispanic peoples (Lobar et al., 2006). It is stated that Hispanics tend to be more expressive when experiencing grief and are prone to florid physiologic response. Their perception of death is grounded on religious beliefs. Hispanics have a range of prescriptions before and after death: it is forbidden to hasten the death by any means (e.g., by performing the last rites and turning off life-supporting appliance); after death, the deceased should be clothed and made-up as they did when they were alive. Despite their reported emotionality, the Hispanics are conscientious about the matter of death, regarding it as a mere transition (Lobar et al., 2006).

Contrary to the Hispanics, the varying Native American traditions do not presuppose severe bereavement and devastation. As tribes, Native Americans had diverse death-related customs; nevertheless, as Josephy (2008) points out, they were characterized by constant awareness of deadly danger since wild nature was their habitat (Josephy, 2008). Depending on climatic conditions, they buried their deceased in different ways. In the North, the bodies were left on ice for vultures to dispose of them, while Southern tribes used to let the bodies decompose and bury the bones in earth graves; other tribes practiced pipe-smoking and invited the ghosts of the ancestors to the funeral (Josephy, 2008). The generic point was that the spirits were immortal, and that played a crucial part in the Native Americans’ perception of death: the spirits were persevering in the world of humans, which did not leave much place for grief (Gire, 2014).

Death and grief is undoubtedly a traumatic experience. On the other hand, culture and customs can impact the traumatic response in persons of diverse cultures. For example, both the Hispanics and the Native American descendants might skip the stage of denial due to their perpetual awareness of human mortality. Hispanic peoples believe in heaven as a better place for souls, while Native Americans used to consult with the deceased on the matters of the living. Consequently, the anger in these cultures may be reduced since the Hispanics are glad for their deceased in Heaven, and the Native Americans made use of the ancestors’ wisdom. The Hispanic peoples might experience bargaining and depression due to their emotive response while Native Americans were always in contact with the deceased and did not need to refer to the past. Thus, the Native American descendants who value their cultural beliefs can be reserved in their grief and not severely depressed on their way to acceptance.

To recapitulate, culture perspective might determine whether death can count as a traumatic experience or a mere interstage between the worlds. Furthermore, culture affects the interpretation of death and the response to them. In cultures where death is not considered the absolute ending of life, such stages as denial and anger can be abated. Cultures with distinguished emotive response can be characterized by bargaining and depression, while others are more philosophically inclined in their grief. Thus, culture is a very important aspect not only in terms of burial customs but also the stages of grief and acceptance.

References

Gire, J. (2014). How Death Imitates Life: Cultural Influences on Conceptions of Death and Dying. Web.

Josephy, A. M. (2008). The Indian Heritage of America. Paradise, CA: Paw Prints.

Kübler-Ross, E. (2014). On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Lobar, S. L., Youngblut, J. M., & Brooten, D. (2006). Cross-cultural beliefs, ceremonies, and rituals surrounding death of a loved one. Pediatric Nursing, 32(1), 44-50.