Journal of African American Studies

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 300–320 | Cite as

We who are Strangers: Insights into how Diasporic Nigerians Experience Bereavement Loss

  • Buster C. Ogbuagu


Death and dying are respectable normative components of the human and living condition. Regardless of how the dying is accomplished, those who are mourners bear a significant burden of the loss, contingent on several variables, but especially the level of attachment to the deceased. This loss is accommodated or exacerbated depending on culture, social location, and degree of importance accorded to the bereavement. In the case of Diasporic Nigerians all over the world, the bereavement process is a long and arduous one due to their social location outside of their cultural home. Using bereavement theory, this phenomenological and ethnographic study attempts to elicit an understanding of how Nigerians in the Diaspora experience bereavement loss when it happens in the Diaspora but especially in their far away homeland. The study found that Diasporic Nigerians experience bereavement loss differently from those of their host countries. Poignantly, such bereavement loss produce significant stressors than those from mainstream host countries, contingent on social location, absence of culturally relevant mourning rituals, distance to cultural homeland, consanguinal ties, cultural expectations, and financial burden for completing rituals and rites of passages. The study has cultural competency implications and applications for exploring nonlinear ways of revisiting and understanding Diasporic bereavement loss, and the deployment of culturally sensitive and relevant social work practices and interventions with such minority populations.


Diasporic status Bereavement loss Social and cultural location and alienation Mourning rituals and rites Lived experience 


  1. Agar, M. H. (1996). The professional stranger: an informal introduction to ethnography (2nd ed.). San Diego: Academic.Google Scholar
  2. Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA). (1987). Ethical guidelines for good practice. London: Association of Social Anthropologists.Google Scholar
  3. Babbie, E. (1989, 1999, 2004). The Practice of social research. (5thEd.). Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  4. Becvar, D. S. (2001). In the presence of grief: helping family members resolve death, dying and bereavement issues. New York: Guildford Press.Google Scholar
  5. Beins, B. C. (2004). Research methods: a tool for life. Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  6. Cowles, K. V. (1996). Cultural perspectives of grief: an expanded concept analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 23(2), 287–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: choosing among five traditions. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  8. Davies, C. A. (1999). Reflexive ethnography: a guide to researching selves and others. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Dobbert, M. L. (1982). Ethnographic research: theory and application for modern schools and societies. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  10. Falola, T. (1999). The history of Nigeria. The Greenwood Histories of the modern nations. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  11. Freud, S. (1957). Mourning and melancholia. In T. Standard (Ed.), Edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 14, pp. 243–258). London: Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  12. Freud, S. (1961). Letters of Sigmund Freud. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  13. Gilanshah, F. (1993). Islamic customs regarding death. In D. P. Irish, K. F. Lunquist, & V. J. Nelsen (Eds.), Ethnic variations in dying, death and grief: diversity in universality (pp. 137–145). Washington, DC: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  14. Glaser, B. G. (1998). Doing grounded theory: issues and discussions. Mill Valley: Sociology Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hammersley, M. (2000). Taking sides in social research: essays on partisanship and bias. London; New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Hammersley, M., & Atkinson, P. (1995). Ethnography: principles in practice (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Harvey, J. H. (2000). Give sorrow words: perspectives on loss and trauma. Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  18. Hogan, N. S., & DeSantis, L. D. (1996). Adolescent sibling bereavement: toward a new theory. In C. Corr & D. B. Balk (Eds.), Helping adolescents cope with death and bereavement (pp. 173–195). Philadelphia: Springer.Google Scholar
  19. Hooyman, N. R., & Kramer, B. J. (2006). Living through loss: interventions across the life span. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Irish, D. P., Lundquist, K. W., & Nelsen, V. J. (1993). Ethnic variations in dying, death and grief: diversity in universality. Washington, DC.: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  21. Jeffreys, J. S. (2005). Helping grieving people when tears are not enough: a handbook for care providers. New York and Hove: Brunner-Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.Google Scholar
  22. Kagawa-Singer, M. (1998). The cultural context of death rituals and mourning practices. Oncology Nursing Forum, 2510, 1752–1755.Google Scholar
  23. Kamel, H., Mouton, C., & McKee, D. (2002). Culture and Loss. In K. J. Doka (Ed.), Living with grief: loss in later life (pp. 289–294). Washington, DC: Hospice Foundation of America.Google Scholar
  24. Khaleel, I. (1996). The Hausa. In M. U. Okehie-Offoha & M. N. Sadiku (Eds.), Ethnic and cultural diversity in Nigeria (pp. 37–62). Toronto: Africa World Press, Inc.Google Scholar
  25. Klapper, J., Moss, S. Z., Moss, M. S., & Rubinstein, R. L. (1994). The social context of grief among adult daughters who have lost a parent. Journal of Aging Studies, 8, 29–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Klass, D. (1996). The deceased child in the psychic and social worlds of bereaved parents during the resolution of grief. In D. Klass, R. Silverman, & S. Nickman (Eds.), Continuing bonds: new understanding of grief. Washington, DC: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  27. Lewis, M. P., Robinson, P. T., & Rubin, B. R. (1998). Stabilizing Nigeria: sanctions, incentives, and support for civil society. Sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and The Century Foundation. New York: The Century Foundation Press.Google Scholar
  28. Lipson, J. G., Dibble, S. L., & Minarik, P. A. (1996). Culture and nursing care. San Francisco: UCSF Nursing Press.Google Scholar
  29. Lund, D. A. (1999). Giving and receiving help during late life spousal bereavement. In J. D. Davidson & K. J. Doka (Eds.), Living with grief: at work, at school, at worship (pp. 203–212). Washington, D.C.: Hospice Foundation of America.Google Scholar
  30. Lutovich, D. S. (2002). Nobody’s child: how older women say good-bye to their mothers. Amityville: Baywood.Google Scholar
  31. Moller, D. W. (1996). Confronting death: values, institutions, and human mortality. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Moss, M. S., & Moss, S. Z. (1983, 1984). The impact of parental death on middle-aged children. Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 14, 65–75.Google Scholar
  33. Moss, M. S., & Moss, S. Z. (1989). The death of a parent. In R. A. Kalish (Ed.), Midlife loss (pp. 89–114). Newbury Park, California: Sage.Google Scholar
  34. Moss, M., Moss, S. Z., Rubinstein, R., & Resch, N. (1992). The impact of elderly mother’s death on middle aged daughters. International Journal of Aging & Human Development, 37, 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Moss, M. S., Resch, N., & Moss, S. Z. (1997). The role of gender in middle-age children’s responses to parent death. Omega, 35, 43–65.Google Scholar
  36. Moss, M. S., Moss, S. Z., & Hansson, R. O. (2001). Bereavement and old age. In M. S. Stroebe, R. O. Hansson, W. Stroebe, & H. Schut (Eds.), Handbook of bereavement research: consequences, coping and care (pp. 241–260). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nwoye, A. (2005). Memory healing process and community intervention in grief work in Africa. ANZJFT, the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 26(3), 147–154.Google Scholar
  38. Okehie-Offoha, M. U. (1996). Introduction. In M. U. Okehie-Offoha & M. N. Sadiku (Eds.), Ethnic and cultural diversity in Nigeria (pp. 1–7). Toronto: Africa World Press, Inc.Google Scholar
  39. Orozco, Manuel (2006). “West African financial flows and opportunities for people and small businesses.” Report prepared for the United States Agency for International Development.Google Scholar
  40. Parkes, C. M. (1996). Bereavement: studies in grief in adult life. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  41. Parkes, C. M. (2001). A historical overview of the scientific study of bereavement. In M. S. Stroebe, R. O. Hansson, W. Stroebe, & H. Schut (Eds.), Handbook of bereavement research: consequences, coping, and care (pp. 25–46). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Raphael, B., & Nunn, K. (1988). Counseling the bereaved. Journal of Social Issues, 44, 191–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Riches, G., & Dawson, P. (2000). Daughters’ dilemmas: grief resolution in girls whose widowed fathers remarry. Journal of Family Therapy, 22(4), 360–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rosenblatt, P. C. (1993). Cross-cultural variation in the experience, expression and understanding of grief. In D. P. Irish, K. F. Lundquist, & V. J. Nelson (Eds.), Ethnic variations in dying, death and grief (pp. 13–20). Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  45. Rosenblatt, P. C. (2001). A social constructionist perspective on cultural differences in grief. In M. S. Stroebe, O. R. Hanson, W. Stroebe, & H. Schutt (Eds.), Handbook of bereavement research: consequences, coping and care. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  46. Rosenblatt, P. C., Walsh, R. P., & Jackson, D. A. (1976). Grief and mourning in cross-cultural perspective. Washington, D.C.: HRAF Press.Google Scholar
  47. Sanders, S., & Corley, C. S. (2003). Are they grieving? A qualitative analysis examining grief in caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Health and Social Work, 37, 37–53.Google Scholar
  48. Schensul, S. L., Schensul, J. J., & LeCompte, M. D. (1999). Essential ethnographic methods: observations, interviews, and questionnaires: ethnographer’s toolkit. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press.Google Scholar
  49. Shapiro, E. R. (1994). Grief as a family process: a developmental approach to clinical practice. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  50. Smith, S. H. (1998). African American daughters and elderly mothers. New York: Garland.Google Scholar
  51. Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic interview. Toronto: Holt, Rhinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  52. Spradley, J. P. (1980). Participant observation. Montreal: Holt, Rhinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  53. Sutcliffe, P., Tufnell, G., & Cornish, U. (Eds.). (1998). Working with the dying and the bereaved: systemic approaches to therapeutic work. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  54. Swift, P. (1989). Support for the dying and bereaved in Zimbabwe: traditional and new approaches. Journal of Social Development in Africa, 4(1), 25–45.Google Scholar
  55. Torczyner, J.L. (1997). Diversity, mobility and change: the dynamics of Black communities in Canada. Canadian Black Communities Demographic Project. Preliminary Findings. Montreal, Quebec: McGill University, McGill Consortium for Ethnicity & Strategic Social Planning.Google Scholar
  56. Umoren, J. A. (1996). Democracy and ethnic diversity in Nigeria. New York: University Press of America, Inc.Google Scholar
  57. Walter, T. (1996). A model of grief: bereavement and biography. Mortality, 1, 7–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wright, C. (2003). Saving the differences: essays on themes from truth and objectivity. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Younoszai, B. (1993). Mexican American perspectives related to death. In D. P. Irish, K. F. Lundquist, & V. J. Nelsen (Eds.), Ethnic variations in dying, death, and grief (pp. 67–77). Bristol: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  60. Zisook, & Schucter. (1986). The first four years of widowhood. Psychiatric Annals, 15, 288–294.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Social WorkUniversity of St. FrancisJolietUSA

Personalised recommendations