Grief is defined as the natural response to loss or bereavement. It is the collection of somatic, behavioral, and feeling components. Grief can either be expressed internally such as the emotions or externally such as rituals like funeral (Corr, 1997). Likewise, some other experts define grief as the natural reaction to a loss which may actually lead to the people’s acceptance of the loss. This leads way to the concept of grief work. This period of expressing grief ought to make sense of the lost or for the people who suffer grief to be productive.
The experience may be hard and overwhelming, but the person will later one realize that the process is “worth it” (Parkes, 1998). Some experts have also defined four distinct stages of grief. First, the person who suffers from loss and grief will experience numbness and shocks. After this stage, the person will also experience preoccupation. He or she will be preoccupied of other things may be to deny the lost. However, after some time, the person will suffer again from depression, despair, and disorganization. In this stage, the person will finally absorb the lost and emotional expression will be very high.
These three stages will be very long process. Eventually, the person is expected to experience reorganization. The person will then accept the loss of his or her loved one (Rathus, 1999). Moreover, the study of grief does not focus only in its emotional or internal aspect. The external expressions are also given consideration. The funeral rituals, death beliefs and among others are part of culture which of course, may differ from person to person. It has been recognized that practices related to death and dying vary from culture to culture is spite the fact that feelings of loss or bereavement and grief are relatively universal.
Different cultures are defined by their distinct way of expressing grief and loss (Singer, 1994). Cultural Variety of Expressing Grief Different groups of people, distinct in culture, have their very own way of expressing grief. The people of Orthodox Judaism express their grief through loud wailing and crying in rented clothes especially made for mourning. This people are very expressive of their pain because of a lost loved one. On the other hand, for the Japanese people, loud wailing and crying is not the practice. The funeral services were held solemnly and quietly (Singer, 1994).
The length of funeral services and mourning also differ from culture to culture. Rural Greek-Orthodox express their grief for five years. The immediate family will express their grief through chants of sorrow and lament. After five years, the body of the deceased will be reburied in the village and welcomed as if he or she has returned home (Parry, 1990). In contrast, Christians barely have a formal rituals for the deceased and funeral services were relatively short. The funeral services only lasts for one week and the “accepted” period of mourning last for a month only (Singer, 1994).
Some cultures also have extreme expressions of grief. For the Hindus, when a husband dies, the wife practically dies too in the eyes of the society. She will no longer wear bright colors. Moreover, she will no longer be allowed to go to the temples to worship nor participate in many community festivals, celebrations, and gatherings. Hispanic Culture and the US Culture For this paper, the expression of grief of the Hispanic culture will be compared and contrasted from that of the dominant culture, the western culture of the United States of America.
The Hispanic people are known to be religious and follow many beliefs and rituals. They are also known to have the longest period of expressing grief. Aside from the annual celebration of death of the loved one, they also celebrate Dios de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead celebrated during the November 1 and 2 (Singer, 1994). During the annual commemoration of the death of the loved one, prayers and sometimes, food are offered for the dead. Immediate family and relatives gather and they sometimes visit the graveyard. Other families still include the dead in their everyday prayers (Singer, 1994).
During November 1 and 2, the people celebrate with their dead loved ones. They have processions and parade to the graveyard. They bring food to the graveyard and family, friends, and relatives come too. They pray, eat and celebrate together. This has become an annual tradition (Singer, 1994). Prior to these traditions, during the immediate death of the loved one, people express their grief loudly. They perceive crying as a very healthy expression of grief and can help to develop acceptance of the loss. The lost of the loved one goes hand in hand in prayers and crying to ease the pain of the lost (Thompson, 1998).
On the other hand, in contrast to the western culture, in the United States, people have less thrust on death. In the United States, it has been observed that loss of a loved one is denied. No formal mourning period is observed. The expression of grief is more expressed privately and not publicly. The short period of public mourning seems to be only a form of formal acknowledgement of the death of the loved one. This serve as a some sort of announcement of the lost of the loved one (Singer, 1994). They do not celebrate the Day of the Dead and also rarely arrange celebration of anniversary of death.
Moreover, the people rarely continue relationship with the dead through prayers, visiting the graveyard and other means (Singer, 1994). This do not imply that the Americans do not give importance to the dead loved ones but it rather express that they often deny the death and try to go on with their lives as if nothing has changed. They often try to make believe that their loved one is just some where else and will come back any ways. This may also imply that Americans prefer private expression of grief. They rarely wail and cry in public and project themselves as calmly as possible.
Their expression of grief is rarely formalized for public show. The immediate family is respected to grief privately. However, although some cultures have distinct way of expressing grief, the cultural factors alone is not enough to alter one’s intrapersonal expression of grief (Cowles, 2006). Thus, this restate the idea of Singer (1994) that the feelings of grief and the emotions that come with it are universal.
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