Cultural differences in views of death during COVID-19
The world has experienced unprecedented deaths and losses related to COVID-19. The daily reporting of deaths at the height of the pandemic created apprehension and fear. This fear was realised when a family member, friend, friend-of-a-friend or colleague died from COVID-19. The lack of physical human contact through daily interactions at work or socially created physical, emotional, psychological isolation and mental health issues. The losses have impacted on both academic staff and nursing students in different ways from financial, social, mental, psychosocial and physical loss.
Death during the pandemic is a subject that can be spoken of widely but in the context of cultural differences this has impacted our students and staff greatly. In the African and Afro-Caribbean cultures and societies the grieving process can be complex. It can be expressed openly and requires close and extended families to gather and offer their condolences in person. There are rituals and preparation of the dead for their final journey, there is a period of mourning depending on culture—such rituals would have been interrupted and in some cases suspended. Being able to bury one's dead and carry out the rituals that go with the passing of a life is embedded in faith beliefs and cultural norms. Not being able to observe these rituals or even attend the funeral of those who have died can have a profound impact on the grieving process. During the pandemic, funeral arrangements were challenging as restrictions and guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19 were in place in almost every country. Numbers of those who could attend funerals were limited. For the African and Afro-Caribbean cultures this had huge implications. Many staff and students were not able to travel abroad and lay to rest their family members. Many staff and students would have ‘attended’ funerals virtually through video calls or live streaming. Many families abroad would not have had the privilege of access or resources to take part in funerals in this way.
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