The Management of Grief by Bharati Mukherjee

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 Why does the older Sikh couple refuse to sign the papers?

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Mukherjee's primary analysis resides in the cultural differences in how grief is managed and understood.  It can never be controlled or eliminated.  Rather, it is a dull pain, something that lingers and something in which the individual must decide which path is best to appropriate it as part of one's life.  For the elderly couple, if they sign the paper, it becomes the ultimate affirmation that their sons are dead.  In signing, they relegate responsibility that was their sons' over to the government.  It becomes acceptance that their sons are gone forever.  The Sikh couple's refrain of "God will provide, not government" is rooted in the idea that the issues of life and death cannot be elements that are able to be arbitrarily solved by the human constructs in Western government.  Judith's desire to see the Sikh couple sign the paper are in direct opposition to their belief that their children will be with them in one form or another.  The clinical and bureaucratic management of grief flies in the face of the spiritual bond and connection that the Sikh couple demonstrate.  In not signing the paper, the couple reaffirm their own values, deeply held beliefs about the most foundational of issues that exist outside the hold of human beings.  It is here where their refusal to sign the paper is something that Shaila understands as more profound and a deeper cultural link to that which is permanent in an impermanent condition of being.

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