Universal and Cross-Cultural Models of Grief

After the loss of a loved one, people often enter a period of bereavement filled with grief and mourning of the person they have just lost. Many people experience grief, but the scientific community is yet to make a universal model for grief. Grieve is experienced in different ways. In different cultures, the bereaved have different practices, ceremonies, and ways of coping with grief. Some forms of grief are controversial and others are seen as unhealthy. There is still much more to be known about grief. As research has been done on the topic, they have found more about how grief is similar and different between people. We argue that grief, although experienced in similar patterns, is not able to be put into a universal model. One’s experience of grief is unique to them and is influenced by many factors. Making a universal model for death is not what is needed in further research of this topic.

People experiencing bereavement often experience some form of emotional symptoms and physical symptoms including increased irritability, numbness, bitterness, detachment, preoccupation with loss, inability to show or experience joy, digestive problems, fatigue, headaches, chest pain, and sore muscles during their period of grief.[1] This raises the question, is there physical evidence of grief in the body?

Saavedra Pérez et al. showed that there may be a change in cognitive function during grief. However, they used a small sample of people that they classify as experiencing complicated grief (now classified as Prolonged Grief Disorder in the dsm-5). He studied how people experiencing “complicated grief” performed on cognitive testing (Mini-Mental State Examination, Letter–Digit Substitution Test, Stroop Test, Word Fluency Task, word learning test – immediate and delayed recall) while looking at total brain volume. His results showed that when people experience “complicated grief” they have lower cognitive ability and smaller overall brain volume.[2]

Other researchers including Peter Freed, Ted Yanagihara, Joy Hirsch, and John Mann have looked to see if there is a short term change in neural pathways to explain some symptoms of grief experienced. They had 20 recently bereaved subjects rate the amount of interfering thoughts related to their deceased loved one versus their ability to avoid those thoughts. During the experiment, subjects completed an Emotional Stroop (ES) task that contained words relating to the deceased and control words. The team of experimenters measured reaction time and used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The second part of the experiment consisted of subjects visualizing the death of the deceased and rating the emotions elicited. Results of the study showed that there was an attentional bias toward words pertaining to the deceased that correlated with an increase in activity in the amygdala, insula, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (FLPFC). The increase in brain activity in these regions corresponds with the sadness intensity, a double dissociation between grief style, intrusiveness, avoidance, and lower ability to complete tasks.[3]

Since there is some evidence to indicate that grief is in part a biological function, some might look to doctors as experts on what grief is and how to manage grief. However, Margaret Stroebe Henk Schut, and Kathrin Boerner criticize physicians aiding grieving patients and their use of the stages of grief model. They draw attention to the intent of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s model which was for the terminally ill. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s was adapted from Bowlby and Parkes’ theory which consisted of 4 stages of grief.

5 stages of grief model expanded

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307949910_Emotionally_sustainable_change_two_frameworks_to_assist_with_transition [4]

Ross adapted this model to fit what she was seeing in her work with terminally ill patients in their process to cope with their own death. Somehow people accepted this model as a universal model for grief. Physicians explain grief as if it has time limits and universal patterns through the scope of this model.[5]The Cleveland Clinic even has a manual that is supposed to be a resource guide for children’s grief.[6] However, as Maciejewski et al. argue many people do not experience grief in the way Ross describes in her model. If they experience some form of these stages, they often do not present similarly among people and they are rarely chronologically similar.[7]As physicians push this model, it makes bereaving people more likely to feel that they are grieving incorrectly. This also opens up the possibility for the bereaved to think their grief may be abnormal. Because of their unwarranted concern, people out of the scope of Ross’s model may more likely be misdiagnosed with Prolonged Grief Disorder or Major Depressive Disorder.

The DSM was updated and removed the exclusion of people grieving from being diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. The change has raised the concerns of many researchers and clinicians in the field. The consensus among many in the field including Richard A. Friedman is that it is important that people that meet the criteria for MDD are treated and should not be excluded if they are experiencing grief.[8]However, moving forward the definition of grief and knowing more about the subject will be important as clinicians try to distinguish between symptoms of grief and depression. It will also be crucial for more studies to collect more diverse samples to get a greater understanding of grief in different cultures as well as learning more about various cultural practices on a broader scale.

As mourning practices and reactions to grief are increasingly researched in the scholarly world, these studies become increasingly aware of the inherent ethnocentrism in believing certain mourning and grieving practices are universal. As a response, more and more interest is being poured into the cross-cultural perspective that compiles accounts of different cultures and analyzes the universal patterns in human mourning and grieving. [9] An interesting subfield is in the study of the transformation of cultural norms and expectations that go along with mourning and grieving practices.

Within the U.S. itself there is already a melting pot of cultures from the diverse amount of ethnic and cultural groups residing in the country. This serves as a unique cultural context for these different groups to take in and transform Western mourning practices along with interaction with their own.This cultural appropriation serves as a way for residents to blend their own cultural ways of mourning and expressions of grief with the traditional Western ways that surround them. For example, when third or fourth generation assimilated ethnic groups like Jews or Italians that choose to identify as their ethnic group after bereavement. [10]

Another example of blending cultures is the cultural context that surrounds digital mourning practices. This includes clicking the ‘Like’ button when somebody posts in honor of a recent death and replying with positive messages about the person who died. Because of the rise of mediatization, specifically emotions, social media has become a place where friends and family can share recent deaths and mourn the social death of the person.[11]Anna J.M. Wagner points out the cultural norms and expectations for digital mourning practices, with an emphasis on the forms of mourning expression and reactions to such expressions on social media.[12]Social media, in turn, has become a digital space for mourning and grief.

A Facebook post of a wife announcing her husband’s death. Words such as “legacy” and “always” emphasize the prolonging of the husband’s social death, past his biological death.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3222086/Rest-beloved-love-forever-Wife-army-trooper-died-aged-36-dementia-caused-roadside-bomb-blast-Iraq-posts-loving-tribute-hero.html [13]

Despite the amount of groups and cultures invested in adopting other cultures and their mourning and grieving practices, there are many cultures that are relatively unbothered and choose to stay true to their roots. In Japanese culture for example, there is an emphasis of death being understood as a natural process and norm of respecting the bodies of the dead and by undergoing Buddhist practices.[14]

In investigating mourning and grieving practices using the cross cultural approach, a question that naturally rises is if there are “good” grief and “bad” grief, and what are the consequences of such definitions? Using the cross-cultural approach is challenging the inherent ethnocentrism present by only focusing on Western practices of bereavement. However, using this approach requires judging other cultures and discriminating what is “universal.”

The ethnocentrism in believing Western mourning practices are common throughout the world poses detrimental implications for medical practitioners and their patients. Medical practitioners that want to guide patients and loved ones through the mourning process should be aware of non-Western practices, as these can cause communication issues when applying Western models of grief and mourning.

Grieving takes many forms. Psychologist Ralph Rayback writes that grief “ can manifest itself in the form… of physical suffering, and we may experience anything from anger to denial…to despair.” [15]These grief stages have ethical consequences. The ethics of grief depend on a few factors: (1) one’s culture and how it views grief, whether it be as a healthy process or a sign of weakness (2) how you grieve and whether you commit unethical acts as a result of your grief (3) how grief affects others in the community. These factors make it difficult to prescribe a one size fits all view on the ethics of grief. Seemingly, no one has objectivity in the matter. In R. Bargo’s book The Ethics of Mourning, he writes “much of the limit placed upon mourning as an ethical act comes from those who stand outside of its perspective.” [16] What he means is that we cannot judge an act of grieving as ethical or unethical because of our limits in perspective. In my section, I will focus on the grieving process in the United States and contrasting it with Ilongot tribe in the Philippines and see if there are ethical dilemmas on the problem of grieving and propose that there is no universal answer for the ethics of grief.

There’s no universal answer on whether grieving is ethical because it brings up the question of who gets grieved and who does not. The United States culture of grief is ethically gray on grief. John Chuckman, a writer for Counterpunch, puts it as, “Death in America does not come easily…unless you are homeless or live on an Indian reservation or in one of the nation’s vast urban ghettos.” [17]This quote cleverly brings up the conundrum we face in the United States of grieving the death of those who the United States exemplifies, but we look the other way when oppressed people such as immigrants or poor people die.

A woman grieving at a traditional US military funeral.

https://www.politico.com/gallery/2014/08/funeral-for-u-s-army-maj-gen-harold-greene/001990-028297.html [18]
A practical example is the death of a member of the military. In the United States, we throw elaborate funerals for those who are killed in action, but when the US military kills a civilian, we look the other way. While we do treat the privileged with compassion and care, we ignore those who are not as valuable to our society. The act of grieving those who are close to us while ignoring the deaths of the oppressed appear to be unethical. Ethics of care states that beneficence and caring for relationships is imperative for human lives, but the US approach to grieving is ethically gray and does not follow this.

There are a variety of cross cultural grief rituals, and some would be considered unethical according to western moral standards, and the United States is not morally neutral in their process of grief. An example of a grieving process the west would deem unethical is the headhunting of the Ilongot tribe in the Philippines. Headhunting is the ritual of decapitating those who they kill. When members of the Ilongot tribe lose a loved one, they will go headhunting and kill other men as a way to process their rage, sadness, and anger. Anthropologist Renato Rosaldo lived with the tribe to understand their process of grief. At first he was dumbfounded by what seems such a heinous act, but as his time went on, he realized that as westerners, we cannot force other cultures to hold to our ethics on grief and death, and there is no universal consensus on the ethics of grief. He wrote, “This book argues that a sea change in cultural studies has eroded once-dominant conceptions of truth and objectivity. The truth of objectivism – absolute, universal, and timeless – has lost its monopoly status.” [19] Rosaldo found that no one can make a moral claim on another culture’s dealing with death in his time with the tribe, and that he had no objectivity over what his views on the ethics of grief were.

In conclusion, the ethics of grieving are morally gray. Not only for the United States and our process of selective grieving, but other cultures that commit what Western cultures would deem as unethical acts are also not in the right. Grieving will always be morally gray because grieving and many of the feelings that come from it are not logical, but they help humanity cope with loss and that should be enough. Dr. Randall Horton, a professor of medical humanities, writes about what all societies should agree on in regards to ethics of grief when he writes, “It is true that people grieve in their own way and their own time, but compassionate care, free from judgment, might help people reach acceptance of the reality of a world that often seems to lack moral order, fairness, and predictability.” [20]There is no one size fits all approach to grieving, and ethical questions come up no matter what culture one examines.

Even with the research from the scientific, cultural, and ethical angles compiled into this post, further research needs to be done in the field of mourning practices and reactions to grief to gain insight into how death affects the living, as well as the implications it poses for medical practitioners and patients.

In addition, when it comes to universal and cross-cultural models of grief there may not be a correct answer that will be able to generalize the majority population, as the vast amount of cultures provide many iterations of mourning and grieving practices. Furthermore, the act of grieving and mourning can be illogical and thus cast a fundamental moral gray ground onto models of grief.

Madelein Ngo

Jason Satterfield

Caroline Vincent

[1]”Grief Symptoms, Causes and Effects.” Psych Guides2019. Accessed April 07, 2019.       https://www.psychguides.com/guides/grief-symptoms-causes-and-effects/

[2] Saavedra Pérez, M. Ikram, N, Direk. H. Prigerson et al. “Cognition, Structural Brain Changes and Complicated Grief. A Population-Based Study.” Psychological Medicine45, no. 7 (05, 2015): 1389-1399. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0033291714002499. or http://libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1672117893?accountid=14244.

[3] Peter J. Freed, Ted K. Yanagihara, Joy Hirsch, and John Mann. “Neural Mechanisms of Grief Regulation.” Biological Psychiatry66, no. 1 (2009): 33-40. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.01.019. or http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006322309001000.

[4] Stephen Leybourne.“Emotionally Sustainable Change: Two Frameworks to Assist with Transition. International Journal of Strategic Change Management 7, no. 1 (2016): 23 doi:10.1504/IJSCM.2016.10000308. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307949910_Emotionally_sustainable_change_two_frameworks_to_assist_with_transition.

[5] Margaret Stroebe, Henk Schut, and Kathrin Boerner. “Cautioning Health-Care Professionals.” OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying74, no. 4 (2017): 455-73. doi:10.1177/0030222817691870. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0030222817691870.

[6] “Understanding Death, Grief & Mourning.” Cleveland Clinic2008. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/ccf/media/Files/bereavement/understanding-death-grief-mourning-resources-manual.pdf?la=en

[7] Paul K. Maciejewski, Baohui Zhang, and Susan D. Block. “An Empirical Examination of the Stage Theory of Grief.” Jama297, no. 7 (2007): 716-23. doi:10.1001/jama.297.20.2200. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/205661.

[8] Richard A. Friedman. “Grief, Depression, and the DSM-5.” The New England Journal of Medicine366, no. 20 (2012): 1855-1857. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1056/NEJMp1201794. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1201794?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3dpubmed

[9] Dennis Klass, “Developing a Cross-Cultural Model of Grief: The State of the Field.”OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying 39, no. 3 (November 1, 1999): 155. doi:10.2190/bdtx-cye0-hl3u-nqqw. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2190/BDTX-CYE0-HL3U-NQQW

[10] Maurice Eisenbruch, “Cross-Cultural Aspects of Bereavement. II: Ethnic and Cultural Variations in the Development of Bereavement Practices.” Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 8, no. 4 (December 1984): 325. doi:10.1007/bf00114661. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6499505.

[11] Korina Giaxoglou, and Katrin Döveling. “Mediatization of Emotion on Social Media: Forms and Norms in Digital Mourning Practices.” Social Media Society 4, no. 1 (January 25, 2018):1. doi:10.1177/2056305117744393. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2056305117744393.

[12] Anna J. M. Wagner, “Do Not Click “Like” When Somebody Has Died: The Role of Norms for Mourning Practices in Social Media.” Social Media Society 4, no. 1 (January 25, 2018):1. doi:10.1177/2056305117744392. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2056305117744392.

[13] Teresa Millhouse, “Rest now my beloved. I love you more forever’: Wife of army trooper who died aged 36 from dementia caused by roadside bomb blast in Iraq posts loving tribute as hero is laid to rest,” Daily Mail.com,  (September 4, 2015). https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3222086/Rest-beloved-love-forever-Wife-army-trooper-died-aged-36-dementia-caused-roadside-bomb-blast-Iraq-posts-loving-tribute-hero.html

[14] Margaret Lock, “Contesting the Natural in Japan: Moral Dilemmas and Technologies of Dying.” Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 19, no. 1 (March 19, 1995): 18. doi:10.1007/bf01388247. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7671618.

[15] Ralph Rayback, “The Ways We Grieve.” Psychology Today. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truisms-wellness/201702/the-ways-we-grieve

[16] Spargo, R. “The Ethics of Mourning.” The Ethics of Mourning | Johns Hopkins University Press Books. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/title/ethics-mourning.

[17] Chuckman, J. “America’s Culture of Grief and Dying.” Counter Punch. Accessed April 7, 2019. https://www.counterpunch.org/2002/02/03/america-s-culture-of-grief-and-dying/

[18] M, Mahaskey. Army 1st Lt. Matthew Greene comforts his mother, Dr. Susan Myers, as they prepare to bury Maj. Gen. Harold Greene at Arlington National Cemetery.,  2014. Politico, Arlington National Cemetery. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://www.politico.com/gallery/2014/08/funeral-for-u-s-army-maj-gen-harold-greene/001990-028297.html

[19] Mario D. Zamora and Renato Rosaldo. “Ilongot Headhunting 1883-1974.” Anthropological Quarterly 54, no. 3 (1981): 172. doi:10.2307/3317898. https://www.jstor.org/stable/i274755.

[20] Randal Horton,  “The Ethics of Grief.” Ethics Beyond Compliance. April 06, 2015. Accessed April 07, 2019.

12 Comments

  1. The explanation of the physical symptoms of grief was well-integrated and explained. The summary of the studies that tested the physical symptoms of grief indicated that there was scientific backing of your statements. Adding in the limitations of the studies and a brief synopsis of the methods helped me understand how the results were found.
    I appreciated that you made sure to point out that not everyone grieves in the same way. Recently, I have heard recently that children with depression or anxiety may not say that they are sad, but that their stomachs hurt, and I think that this is an excellent example about how everyone grieves differently. On the other hand, I did not realize that the Kubler-Ross model of grief was one that many relied on as guidance for the grieving process. I had not thought that people might feel that they are grieving incorrectly if they do not follow the model. I think that is interesting, and may raise some interesting issues about how to not only cope with the loss, but how to cope in a way that is appropriate for society. That sounds like a lot of extra stress for the bereaved. Does the extra stress of coping “incorrectly” hinder the coping process?
    The blogpost indicated the concerns about allowing the diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder to those who are grieving. The blogpost also indicated that there would need to be criteria indicating the difference between those grieving and those with depression. What do you think would be the defining factor between grief and depression?
    I thought it was clever how you transitioned with America being a melting pot of different cultures, followed by the discussion of cultural differences regarding grieving in the bereaved. I also appreciated that you addressed what grieving looks like in the digital realm. I thought this section presented a well-rounded view of how different cultures view death and cope with it. This felt like the central piece for the “Cross-Cultural” aspect of your title. It was well-done. Is this something that generally happens in the Western culture? Or are there other cultures that practice this? What are other aspects of grieving practices in the west? The blogpost indicated that there would be a contrast between the west and other cultures, but there was no clear indication about what Western grief looks like. A lot was covered on other cultures, but I believe the post relied heavily relied heavily on the reader to already have knowledge on grieving practices in the west. I believe this post would be better-rounded if this was included.
    Another component of this blogpost that raises is the portion about the medical practitioner. If the medical practitioner is practicing medicine in the western world, what would be the benefit to the family of the loved one for knowing global grieving customs? Of course, it is always important for everyone to understand cultural differences, but how would this help the family? Is it not appropriate for the physician to simply console the family by ensuring them that it is okay for them to take as long as necessary to grieve? A deeper explanation of this would have clarified why the medical practitioner would need a cross-cultural view of grieving practices.
    Overall, I thought this was a cohesive blogpost, but some clarifications on certain topics would have been beneficial to the post.

  2. Brianna Ramgeet

    April 23, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    You mentioned the different stages of grief and it made me ponder on whether the stages of grief would be different when a loved one dies in a less common way. Specifically I can relate this to my topic of physician assisted death, and ask, “how does physician assisted death change the grieving process?” Has there been any research done on the grief experienced by families whose loved one died from a medically induced death?

  3. This was a very interesting post to read about because I have yet to experience the death of a loved one. Based on how grief and mourning is expressed is the media it definitely seems like there is a “right” way to grieve the loss of a loved one and it is a relief to know there is not a correct or incorrect way. You used the example of headhunting to show that some people grieve in different ways and growing up in a Western culture this seems kind of wild to me. Are there practices in Western culture that are seen as wild or “unethical” by other cultures? Towards the beginning of your post you also mentioned the different stages of grief and how this is not necessarily true for all people because it was created for those who are terminally ill. DOes this model fit only the terminally ill in Western culture or does it also pertain to those around the world?

  4. This was a great analysis of the way people grieve in cultures all over the world. I found it especially interesting that social media has caused the way people grieve in the United States to evolve, therefore emphasizing the prolonging of social death beyond biological death. Your argument that everyone does not grieve the same way and that, therefore, there is no incorrect way of grieving was very strong throughout your writing. One question that this post leaves me with is: how do clinicians differentiate between grief and depression, given the circumstances of their patient?

  5. I enjoyed reading this post because it discusses the physical effects of grief on the body in addition to the psychological effects. Most people do not think of death as a biological function, or they forget that grief is so much more than just “sadness”. Many people also seem to forget that not everyone grieves in the same way, and I liked the fact that this was discussed in this post. Most people assume that everyone will follow the Kubler-Ross stages of death, but many times this isn’t the case because grieving is not a linear process. I also liked how it was mentioned that this belief that grief is a linear process may cause the bereaved to believe that they are grieving “incorrectly”. I assume that this would only make the grieving process more difficult. I also thought that the discussion of the digitalization of death in this post was interesting. It was mentioned that “social media has become a digital space for mourning and grief”; does this reduce the intimate nature of the grieving process?

  6. This post was great at highlighting both the physical and emotional impacts of grief. Grief is a hard thing to measure and I think it is fascinating to see that in cases of “complicated grief” they have proven lower cognitive ability and smaller overall brain volume. I think it is an important subject to continue researching and understanding. I’ve also noticed throughout this course that we hold an inherent ethnocentrism in assuming many cultures mourn the way we do and that if they don’t, they are wrong. As pointed out in the post, we cannot judge grief because we have a limited perspective. It was also eye opening to see we only grieve certain deaths in the US and tend to overlook the homeless or poor. However, I do not think that the paradox of elaborate rituals of military death compared to these often overlooked deaths is fair. I think there is a problem in the way that we mourn certain populations, but instead of toning down how we mourn for the military we should work on better acknowledging and grieving for those who are not as privileged in socioeconomic status. I agree that grieving will always be a moral grey area, though I wonder if there would be less judgement if different forms of grief and different cultures ways of grieving were introduced to us earlier in life such as elementary school.

  7. I commend you for taking such a broad topic and narrowing it down some. However, I would argue that Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief model can be applied as a universal model. Kubler-Ross was one of the first psychologists to openly discuss death and the grieving process, and because of that her findings were considered monumental for the field. However, I could also see where defining a specific model of grief is difficult because grief is such an intense emotional. I think, in the end, how we process grief can be narrowed down to a model, but grief itself cannot be. Much like how my group found that there are not differences between the grieving process in men and women, it just depends on societal reinforcements, I think universal grief can be seen the same way.

  8. The most interesting aspect of this post for me was your comments about how social media has changed the way we mourn. It makes me wonder, since mourning posts are essentially expected nowadays, especially if a celebrity passes away, if it takes away from the actual process of mourning for the bereaved. For example, recently, the 18 year old sister of singer Louis Tomlinson passed away suddenly from suspected heart complications and all I saw on her family’s Instagrams and Twitters was comments from strangers wondering where the memorial post was, it’s almost as if the privacy of grief and mourning has been taken away, everybody wants to know the circumstances of death and have no problem criticizing how the people close to the deceased are affected by their death.

  9. I liked how you mentioned that grief is not a one-size-fits-all topic and that people go through death differently. I never knew about Prolonged Grief Disorder and I think it is really interesting that the change to Major Depressive Disorder has been a controversial topic in the realm of psychology. I also liked how you went into the physical symptoms of grief. It is really interesting that one of the studies you mentioned found higher activity in the amygdala, insula, and prefrontal cortex, as all of these regions have something to do with emotion. Another cultural example of how different people grieve is the mortuary cannibalism that Wari’ people participate in.
    One additional perspective to expand upon could be how social media has influenced how we grieve. You touched on it in your post, but I wonder if the use of social media has extended a person’s grief at all. For instance, my boy friend’s mother passed away a few months ago and I wonder just how hard it is for my boy friend’s sister to see notifications come up on her mom’s phone from someone posting on her wall about her death. In a family that is already overcome with grief, I wonder if social media has influenced the level of that grief, or if they view her profile as a commemoration and smile when they see it. Great post!

  10. This post was of particular interest to me because I feel like it really speaks to one of the main things that this course as a whole has opened my mind to, being the fact that while death and mourning are universal parts of the human experience, the ways in which they are articulated across different contexts can be profoundly variable. It was interesting to read about what might be considered “good” grief or “bad” grief from a Western perspective, leading to the dismissal or disapproval of certain cultural practices. However, this makes me wonder about how these definitions might be applied within specific cultures, and not just across them. Is performative-ness something that remains relatively universal in expressions of grief? Also, your continual use of the word “grief” holds implications of distress and related emotions, but I wonder if there may be other examples/case studies in which death is celebrated?

  11. The insight provided by this article that was most unique, was describing grief as a biological process. It seems that although mourning does not have a universal procedure, the act of grief itself is universal. Furthermore, there are certain physiological ways our bodies may respond to grief, one of which being lowered cognitive function. In retrospect, this makes a lot of sense because even culture-less beings, like animals, seem to grieve. Therefore, it does not seem overconfident to say that grief is a universal symptom of death. Another, interesting aspect of this article delved into American mourning. It was interesting as social media was listed as one of the vessels through which Americans share their grief. Social media tends to be a shallow, idealistic platform in which people find value from likes and comments. Therefore, I find it very ironic that basically exploiting a loved one’s death for more positive feedback on a social media platform is part of the accepted mourning practice. To me, this arguably as barbaric as some of the customs Americans denounce such as ritualistic cannibalism and headhunting. This another example of the strength of ethnocentrism around mourning practices in shaping what we believe is moral and justifiable.

  12. Mary Ellen Frank

    April 25, 2019 at 7:46 am

    a. It is interesting that humans feel strong emotions over death throughout other cultures, yet some emotions are more accepted than others for each culture. I would have liked to learn more about “complicated grief” and how it relates to brain activity. I was unclear on what complicated grief was so did not understand that section of the post. Learning about the patterns of grief made me re-think human emotions as a whole. Since all humans feel similar ways about death, it takes some of the edge off of my personal emotions, because I can know that everyone goes through the same thing I do. My emotions and views on death are from a human perspective and that is all they ever will be.

Leave a Reply

© 2019 Death & Dying III

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑