We went to visit some friends this evening. They had built a new home as they entered into their retirement. It’s a beautiful home and because we know them quite well, we could see their unique decorating tastes.
Our home is different than theirs. Even when we initially bought our home, we changed it to our specific style preference. We made it our own, because up until then it was someone else’s home.
It’s really important to make grief your own. And although there are many components that you must consider in looking at your specific grief profile, cultural background is a significant one.
Take a close look at your background. How did your family approach, enter into and move through the experiences of death, dying and grief? Your cultural heritage, your unique family background with all of its features, has formed and shaped you in specific ways. You bring to your loss experience preset coping mechanisms that have been learned from the family culture in which you grew up. Perhaps you have changed some of these grieving patterns. We do this as part of the socialization process. When we intersect with other cultures that are different from our own, we may choose, intentionally or not, to make adaptations in our transitional loss preferences.
Most people do not take time to examine the implication of their cultural background in their grief work, but I believe it’s a crucial step to healthy transition.
If we want to understand some of the interesting decisions that we make in regards to our grief work and if we want to help others, we cannot make the assumption that they are like us or like people from our own culture or that they grieve and mourn the way that we do.
The wider question is: “Do you know how your culture is influencing your grief experience?”
Think back to your experiences of loss over the years. Place yourself in the context of these experiences. What do you see? Who was present? What was spoken? How were emotions expressed? What happened during the transition? This is a very simple exercise in identifying a few important patterns that you are currently using in your life to transition through loss.
Take with you what is helpful, and leave behind what is not. Renovate your house if you need too. At least consider adding a few touches that are unique to you.