Cross-Cultural aspects of bereavement. II: Ethnic and cultural variations in the development of bereavement practices

Abstract

Despite a growing interest in bereavement in cross-cultural perspective, few reports have described a comparative analysis of bereavement. By examining the social contexts in the transformations of Western bereavement practices, structures common to bereavement in a range of cultures can be identified. The paper compares the contemporary bereavement practices of several ethnic and cultural groups in North America: Blacks; ethnic Chinese; Southeast Asian refugees; Haitians; Italians; Greeks; and Spanish-speaking groups. Consideration is given to the state of widowhood in different cultural systems. The impact of modernization among traditional societies demonstrates that even though Western technologies are incorporated into the procedures followed by these modernizing societies, the deep cultural code remains intact.

Five questions require further clarification: is bereavement an illness, or a rite de passage and a normal life event? How widespread and useful are protective factors, such as group support, that facilitate successful resolution of grief? How effective are mourning practices of various ethnic groups in preventing “bad grief”, and might some of these practices be beneficial if taken up by other ethnic groups? How can the Western health practitioner know that a bereaved person from an unfamiliar cultural group is suffering “bad grief”? How acceptable is Western grief counseling to non-Western clients?

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Abad, V. and Boyce, G. 1979 Issues in Psychiatric Evaluations of Puerto Ricans: A Sociocultural Perspective. Journal of Operational Psychology 10: 28–39.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Aries, P. 1975 The Reversal of Death: Changes in Attitudes Toward Death in Western Societies. In Death in America. Stannard, D. E. (ed.), Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Aries, P. 1981 The Hour of Our Death. New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Atkinson, T. L. 1982/1983 Race as a Factor in Teachers' Responses to Children's Grief. Omega 13: 243–50.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Babchuck, N. and Ballweg, J. A. 1967 Black Family Structure and Primary Relations, Phylon 28: 334–47.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bach-y-Rita, G. 1982 The Mexican American: Religious and Cultural influences. In Mental Health and Hispanic Americans: Clinical Perspectives. Becerra, R. M., Karno, M., and Escobar, J. I. (eds.), New York: Grune & Straton.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Bailey, L. R., Sr. 1979 Biblical Perspectives on Death. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Baker, H. D. R. 1979 Chinese Family and Kinship. London: Macmillan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Basham, A. L. 1959 The Wonder That Was India. New York: Grove Press.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bass, B. A., Wyatt, G. E., and Powell, G. J. (eds.) 1982 The Afro-American Family: Assessment, Treatment and Research Issues. New York: Grune & Straton.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Becerra, R. M., Karno, M., and Escobar, J. I. (eds.) 1982 Mental Health and Hispanic Americans: Clinical Perspectives. New York: Grune & Straton.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Bergmann, M. S. and Jucovy, M. E.1982 Generations of the Holocaust. New York: Basic Books, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Bonnafare, P. 1973 An Important Life and Death Ceremony: The Miyali, the Funeral of a Kukuya Lord of the Sky. L'Homme 13: 97–166.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Bourguignon, E. Dreams and Dream Interpretation in Haiti. American Anthropologist 56: 262–268.

  15. Cannon, W. B. 1979 Voodoo Death. In Reader in Comparative Religion. Lessa, W. A. and Vogt, E. Z. (eds.), New York: Harper & Row.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Carse, J. P. 1980 Death and Existence: A Conceptual History of Human Mortality. New York: Wiley-Interscience.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Cassels, N. C. n.d. A Surprising Defence of Sati. Eng. misc 327 — Russell of Swallowfield Papers. Bodleian Library, Oxford.

  18. Childe, V. G. 1945 Directional Changes in Funerary Practices During 50,000 Years. Man 45: 16–18.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Choron, J. 1963 Death and Western Thought. New York: Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Coomaraswamy, A. 1924 The Dance of Siva. New York: The Sunwise Turn, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Danforth, L. M. 1982 The Death Rituals of Rural Greece. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Dow, J. 1965 Primitive Medicine in Haiti. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 39: 34–52.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Dunne, J. S. 1978 The City of the Gods. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Fernandez-Marina, R. 1961 The Puerto Rico Syndrome: Its Dynamics and Cultural Determinants. Psychiatry 24: 79–82.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Geertz, C. 1973 The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Gennep, A. van 1960 The Rites of Passage. Vizedom, M. B. and Caffee, G. L. (trans.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press, (originally published in 1908).

    Google Scholar 

  27. Gomez, E. A. 1982 Voodoo and Sudden Death: The Effects of Expectations on Health. Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review 19: 75–92.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Goode, W. J. 1961 Family Disorganization. In Contemporary Social Problems. Merton, R. K. and Nisbet, R. K. (eds.), New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Goody, J. 1974 Death and the Interpretation of Culture: A Bibliographic Overview. In Death in America. Stannard, D. E., (ed.), Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Gorer, G. 1965 Death, Grief and Mourning in Contemporary Britain. London: Cresset Press.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Gould-Martin, K. and Ngin, C. 1981 Chinese Americans. In Ethnicity and Medical Care. Harwood, A., (ed.), Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Grinsell, L. V. 1975 Barrow, Pyramid and Tomb. London: Thames & Hudson, p. 41, quoting Jones, G. A History of the Vikings. London, 1968.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Harwood, A. (ed.) 1981 Ethnicity and Medical Care. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Harwood, A. 1981 Mainland Puerto Ricans. In Ethnicity and Medical Care. Harwood, A., (ed.), Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Hays, W. C. and Mindel, C. H. 1973 Extended Kinship Relations in Black and White families. Journal of Marriage and the Family 35: 51–7.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Hollingsworth, C. E. and Pasnau, R. O. (eds.) 1977 The Family in Mourning: A guide for Health Professionals. New York: Grune & Stratton.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Johnson, S. 1921 The History of the Yorubas. Lagos: Christian Missionary Society.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Johnson, G. C. n.d. An Exploratory Survey of the Attitudes of Black Memphians Towards Funeral Homes, the Funeral Ritual and Preparations for Death.

  39. Joyce, T. and Thomas, N. W. 1908 Women of all Nations. London: Cassell.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Kalish, R. A. and Reynolds, D. K. 1981 Death and Ethnicity: A Psychocultural Study. New York: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Kane, P. V. 1974 History of Dharmasastra. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Kastenbaum, R. 1982 New Fantasies in the American Death System. Sum 6: 155–166.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Kleinman, A. 1977 Depression, Somatization and the “New Cross-cultural Psychiatry.” Social Science and Medicine 11: 3–10.

    Google Scholar 

  44. 1984 Manuscript prepared for Committee on the Stress of Bereavement and its Health Consequences, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences.

  45. Kluckhohn, F. R. 1963 Some Reflections on the Nature of Cultural Integration and Change. In Sociological Theory, Values and Sociocultural Change. Tiryakian, E., (ed.), New York: The Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Kopf, D. 1979 The Brahmo Samaj and The Shaping of The Indian Mind. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Kubler-Ross, E. 1975 Death: The Final Stage of Growth. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Kurtz, D. C. and Boardman, J. 1971 Greek Burial Customs. New York: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Lachman, S. J. 1982 A Psychophysiological Interpretation of Voodoo Illness and Voodoo Death. Omega 13: 345–60.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Laguerre, M. S. 1981 Haitian Americans. In Ethnicity and Medical Care. Harwood, A., (ed.), Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  51. LeVine, R. A. 1982 Gusii Funerals: Meanings of Life and Death in an African Community. Ethos 10: 26–65.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Locke, C. A. and Budd, K. M. 1983 Bereavement in Three Hispanic Communities in the Boston Area. Manuscript prepared for Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences.

  53. Marris, P. 1974 Loss and Change. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Masamba, J. and Kalish, R. 1976 Death and Bereavement: The Role of the Black Church. Omega 7: 23–34.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Metraux, A. 1953 Medecine et vodou en Haiti. Acta Tropica 10: 28–68.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Moitoza, E. 1982 Portugese Families. In Ethnicity and Family Therapy. McGoldrick, M., Pearce, J. K. and Giordano, J., (eds.), New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Myers, H. F. 1982 Research on the Afro-American Family: A Critical Review. In The Afro-American Family: Assessment, Treatment and Research Issues. Bass, B. A., Wyatt, G. E., and Powell, G. J., (eds.), New York: Grune & Straton.

    Google Scholar 

  58. National Academy of Sciences in press Report on the Health Consequences of the Stress of Bereavement.

  59. Pardo, I. 1982 The “Elaboration” of Mourning in a Traditional Area of Naples. Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia 23: 535–69.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Parish, W. L. and Whyte, M. K. 1978 Village and Family in Contemporary China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Parkes, C. M. 1971 Psycho-social Transitions: A Field for Study. Social Science and Medicine 5: 101–115.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Petrie, W. M. F. 1925 Tombs of the Courtiers and Oxyrhynkhos. British School of Archaeology in Egypt. London: Bernard Quaritch.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Pike, M. V. and Armstrong, J. G. 1980 A Time to Mourn — Expressions of Grief in Nineteenth Century America. Exhibition Catalogue. Stony Brook, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Pratt, L. 1981 Business Temporal Norms and Bereavement Behavior. American Sociological Review 46: 317–33.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Ragucci, A. T. 1981 Italian Americans. In Ethnicity and Medical Care. Harwood, A., (ed.), Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Raphael, B. 1984 Personal communication.

  67. Reade, R. 1981 Harsh Transition to a New Way of Death. Social Work Today 12: 11–12.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Reid, J. 1979 A Time to Live, a Time to Grieve: Patterns and Processes of Mourning Among the Yolngu of Australia. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 3: 319–346.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Ribeyrol, M. and Schnapper, D. 1976 Funerary Ceremonies in Orthodox Yugoslavia. Archives Europeennes de Sociologie 17: 220–46.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Sastri, K. A. N. 1966 A History of South India: From Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar. Chicago: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Schermerhorn, R. A. 1970 Comparative Ethnic Relations: A Framework for Theory and Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Schutz, A. 1972 On Phenomenology and Social Relations: Selected Writings. Wagner, H. R., (ed.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  73. Shepard, T. 1648 The Clear Sun-shine of the Gospel Breaking Forth Upon the Indians in New England. London.

  74. Spear, P. 1966 A History of India. Volume 2. Baltimore: Penguin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Spiegel, J. 1971 Cultural Strain, Family Role Patterns, and Intrapsychic Conflict. In Theory and Practice of Family Psychiatry. Howells, J. G., (ed.), New York: Brunner-Mazel.

    Google Scholar 

  76. Stannard, D. E. (ed.) 1974 Death in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

    Google Scholar 

  77. Stannard, D. E. 1977 The Puritan Way of Death: A Study in Religion, Culture, and Social Change. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  78. Stein, H. F. and Hill, R. F. 1977 The Ethnic Imperative. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  79. Vandeusen, J., Coleman, C., Khoa, L. X., Phan, D., Doeung, H. H., Chaw, K., Nguyen, L. T., Pham, P., and Bountninh, T. 1980 Southeast Asian Social and Cultural Customs: Similarities and Differences. Journal of Refugee Resettlement 1: 20–39.

    Google Scholar 

  80. Vovelle, G. and Vovelle, M. 1969 La Mort et l'au-dela Provence d'apres les autels des ames du Purgatoire (XVe–XXe siecle) Annales E. S. C. 24: 1602–34.

    Google Scholar 

  81. Watson, J. L. 1982 Of Flesh and Bones: The Management of Death Pollution in Cantonese Society. In Death and the Regeneration of Life. Bloch, M. and Parry, J., (eds.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  82. Williams, E. 1963 On Portugese Family Structure. In Family and Marriage. Mogey, J., (ed.), Leiden, the Netherlands: E. J. Brill.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Eisenbruch, M. Cross-Cultural aspects of bereavement. II: Ethnic and cultural variations in the development of bereavement practices. Cult Med Psych 8, 315–347 (1984). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00114661

Download citation

Keywords

  • Ethnic Group
  • Cultural System
  • Social Context
  • Protective Factor
  • Group Support