In sociology and social work how would you describe a family's culture of death?
In sociology and social work, one of the most impost tasks is to build a picture of family dynamics so that the family, or individuals in that family, can be helped and supported. Sensitive, targeted information gathering is crucial and can be aided by asking the right questions in the right way. Throughout this process, careful attention must be paid to multiculturalism and diversity, and to tolerance and respect for the beliefs of others. This is a very delicate task as this does not mean that damaging actions driven by cultural traditions can be condoned or ignored. Children could be hurt or wives intimidated and repressed in such a scenario and this is not acceptable.
However, different cultures have different approaches to the rites and rituals associated with the passing on of loved ones and these variations can be accommodated as long as they do not involve socially unacceptable habits. For example, in some cultures it is traditional to bury the dead quickly within a couple of days. In others, it is customary to 'lay out' the deceased in order that loved ones can pay their respects. Cremation is another option and in many eastern cultures this is done very publicly. Mourning is another area where cultures differ, and where families may have their own traditions. Some religions encourage very prolonged and vocal mourning, particularly by women. In other cultures, families suffer their pain and grief almost in silence, or by sharing it quietly with other bereaved family members and the shedding of a few tears may be all that is openly visible. Some countries, for example Ireland, have a tradition of holding a party or 'wake' to celebrate the life of the individual who has died, choosing to focus more on the good and positive aspects. They may have speeches and perhaps even songs and dancing. Speeches can be formalised during religious ceremonies, for example in Christian services such as Funeral Masses where a relative may speak or write about the deceased (eulogy, elegy.) What matters is that children have as positive and as wholesome an experience as possible in terms of their own feelings about the death.