BEHS 380 Cross-cultural Perspectives

BEHS 380 Cross-cultural Perspectives

BEHS 380 Cross-cultural Perspectives

Grief and mourning are common experiences following the demise of a loved one. The expression of grief, mourning and death rituals in a particular community are determined by various factors such as gender, culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age of the deceased, education, and religion (Shelvock et al., 2021). The diversity in these rituals is a common encounter, especially in the context of the cross-cultural and multi-religious nature of many countries. Rituals play different roles such as the legitimization of grief, acknowledgment, and acceptance of death and its eventuality, appropriate expression of grieving emotions, and fostering of connection between the deceased, family, and friends (Hidalgo et al., 2020). These rituals are performed at different points after death like handling the remains of the deceased, wakes, funeral ceremonies, gathering celebrations, cremation, and anniversaries (Hidalgo et al., 2020). Healthcare professionals need to understand their patient’s ritual practices to provide appropriate supportive care.

Death rituals share some practices across different communities. However, notable differences also exist depending on the specific aforementioned factors such as culture and religion. African Americans have unique death and mourning practices. Their perception of death is that it is a transition into the spirit world and not a finality. The common death practices include customary wailing, weeping, singing, dancing, drum beating, and praying to ease the transition into the new afterlife and appease the ancestral spirits as the deceased joins them (Hidalgo et al., 2021). This is contrary to practices by whites who perceive this way of expressing grief and mourning as disruptive and unnecessary. There is also a provision of support and meals to the bereaved which is normally shared till the conclusion of the mourning period. Attendance of the funeral ceremony is a uniting obligation whose ignorance is associated with perceived misfortunes. Cremation is considered a taboo that may impede a smooth transition into the spirit world. The use of caskets is not prohibited.

Grief and mourning practices are also integral in the emotional expression of loss among the American population. Funeral services enable the performance of rituals and practices such as burial, cremation, and memorials (Shelvock et al., 2021). Religion, in addition to culture and other factors, may dictate a population’s practices around mourning and death. A common concept among most religious denominations is the transition to eternal life after death (Sarmiento et al., 2020). In the Islamic religion, for example, death rituals and practices are guided by the Quran and Islamic tradition (Gabay et al., 2022). Muslims believe that death is the will of God and that there is life after death. Prayers for the deceased are held and led by a male person usually within 72 hours of death (Swihart et al., 2021). Other practices include the physical and spiritual purification of the deceased body, shrouding of the body or remains, and subsequent funeral ceremonies (Gabay et al., 2022). Physical purification and preparation of the body are done by individuals of the same gender as the deceased with the help of the bereaved family.

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A comparison reveals some similarities that exist between Islamic and African American death practices. These

BEHS 380 Cross-cultural Perspectives
BEHS 380 Cross-cultural Perspectives

include the prayers for the deceased who is believed to proceed to the afterlife, the gathering during a funeral, and the prohibition of cremation. The duration for mourning is shorter among Muslims with a maximum of 72 hours after demise whereas African Americans give ample time of up to two weeks before burial for planning and arrival of distant friends and families. The Islamic traditions also restrict females from attending burials which is not the case with African Americans.



Gabay, G., & Tarabeih, M. (2022). Death From COVID-19, Muslim Death Rituals and Disenfranchised Grief – A Patient-Centered Care Perspective. Omega, 302228221095717. Advanced Online Publication.

Hidalgo, I., Brooten, D., Youngblut, J. A. M., Roche, R., Li, J., & Hinds, A. M. (2020). Practices following the death of a loved one reported by adults from 14 countries or cultural/ethnic groups. Nursing Open, 8(1), 453–462.

Sarmiento, P. J. (2020). Changing landscapes of death and burial practices: Public health response in time of COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Public Health, 43(2).

Shelvock, M., Kinsella, E. A., & Harris, D. (2021). Beyond the corporatization of death systems: Towards green death practices. Illness, Crisis & Loss, 30(4), 640–658.

Swihart, D. L., Yarrarapu, S., & Martin, R. L. (2021). Cultural Religious Competence In Clinical Practice. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.