How Different Cultures React to Death and Dying
This research explores the literature across cultures on death and dying in order to highlight the impact of culture on reactions to death and the dying process. A theoretical framework is established, using Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of dying, followed by a succinct discussion of the reactions and attitudes toward death and the dying process of four cultures (Buddhist, Hindu, Native American and American). By illustrating the different reactions and attitudes toward death of these cultures, it is revealed that through increased cultural understanding health care workers can provide more personalized care to the dying.
Keywords Fear, Mortality, Burial, Religion, Buddhists, Hindus, Native Americans, Americans
According to Kart and Kinney (2001, p. 532), “Death is something that must be faced by everyone.” Despite the inevitability and universality of death and the dying process, different reactions and perceptions of death arise in different cultures, from the conventional Judeo-Christian reaction in American culture to the belief in reincarnation in the Hindu culture. Bereavement, grief, and mourning often accompany the death and dying process, but as Kart and Kinney (2001, p. 532) make clear, these aspects of the process are typically “culturally proscribed.” This discussion of different reactions to death and the dying process across cultures will focus on Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of dying with a comparison of how different cultures (Hindu, Buddhist, Native American and American) react to death and dying.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Death is one of the few experiences shared by all humankind. In her groundbreaking book, Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross begins her book with a discussion of Western man’s fear of death and dying and by pointing out that this subject has become, for many individuals, a taboo. Kubler-Ross (1969)
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