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One person dies every minute in the UK and so far, 59,000 people have lost their lives as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As part of National Grief Awareness Week, we want people to know they are not alone and highlight the support we can offer to those in our communities who are grieving.
Many people experience grief after the death of a loved one but the ways in which they experience and express these feelings may differ across cultures. We asked some of our Health Link workers to talk about their cultural differences and how Covid-19 has impacted the grieving process.
I am Shahnaz Chowdhury a Bangladeshi Muslim (also applies to the Indian, Pakistani & Somali communities) and in my culture death is viewed as a huge loss for the family and the community. When someone is passing away, people in my community would normally visit the dying person to pay their last respects, with most people often preferring to be surrounded by their family. Prayers are read continuously (especially reciting surah Yasin), and ‘Zamzam’ holy water (from Saudi Arabia) is given to the dying person.
When a person dies, a special washing is performed on the body, usually at the Mosque by appropriate family or community members, then wrapped in simple white sheets called Kapon, and a special perfume called Attar is applied on the face and on the Kapon. On the day of the burial, a funeral prayer is performed at the Mosque for the deceased person’s soul, after which the body is taken to the cemetery for burial.
The body needs to be buried as soon as possible, avoiding a post-mortem if possible. Mourning for the family of the deceased is for 40 days. The widowed wife is expected to mourn for 4 months and 10 days, staying at home during this whole time if possible but is permitted to go out for medical needs.
Covid-19 restrictions have changed things because, prayers to dying person cannot be offered in person, therefore recitation of surah Yasin is requested to be played next to the dying person on mobile. Following a Covid 19 death of a Muslim, the body is given a wash at the ward where the death takes place. Before the body is taken to the mortuary, the death registration needs to be issued remotely. After that, the documents are given to the Funeral Director who then arranges the burial. The body is wrapped in plain white burial cloth and plastic bag, and a maximum of 30 people can attend the funeral.
Further information can be obtained from Muslim Funeral Director (Shahid Akram on 07831663730), and general information on Islam can be obtained from (Bristol Muslim Cultural Society) www.bmcs.org.uk
I am Henrietta Fung and in my Chinese culture, death is viewed as a negative life event. Life is lost forever when death occurs. Even for those who are dying, discussions about death are avoided because it is believed that such talk may hasten the pace of the dying process. Occasionally some very elderly people may choose and buy their own coffin, as they believe that it will bring a longer life for them and good fortune for their descendants.
Talking about death or even mentioning it in conversation is avoided because it may jinx one’s fate. So death as a subject is taboo in Chinese culture.
When someone passes away in my community, the extended family members and friends will send their condolences to the grieving family in the form of money and a wreath at the funeral. A white candle (red candle if the deceased is over 90 years old and has grandchildren in the family) is lit throughout till the burial is held. The tendency is usually towards a land burial as opposed to cremation because the whole body will be preserved in a complete state. It is also this reasoning that organ donation is hugely unpopular. If a person had had a difficult life before death, the family normally wouldn’t go for cremation because burning the body is very cruel to the deceased who already had a difficult time before death. Funerals are normally held over two days so that more family and friends can attend to pay their last respect. The deceased family will host a thank-you reception with a sit-down meal served in a restaurant at the end of the funeral as a conclusion to the event.
Covid-19 restrictions have changed things because family and friends cannot meet up to grieve together or console the grieving family prior to the funeral. The funeral is normally a big send-off event but it will now be organised with minimal detail. The whole event creates a very desolate feel.
This adds guilt to the immediate family as they are not able to organise a good farewell for the deceased.
I am Sahra Adan and in my Somali culture death is viewed as a route that we will all go through and no one can deny the pain and facts that associate with it.
When someone passes away people in my community would come together to pay respect and send condolences and to moan with the grieving family. This can go on for days, weeks or even months.
Back home there used to be a huge gathering for the third, seventh and 40th day and some people do a yearly ceremony to remember the person who passed away, especially if that person was well-known or had a big title in the community like a Sheikh or Sultan.
Covid-19 restrictions have changed things because people fear for their life and the life of their loved ones. Not being able to hold a proper funeral for a loved one is very sad and heartbreaking for my community but people are trying to accept the reality of the world that we are living in.
Magacaygu waa Sahra Adan (haqanka Somalida) dhimashadu waa dariiq lada marayo oo aan qofna dafiri karin xanuunka iyo xaqiiqda ku xeeran. Markuu qof dhinto dadku way u yimaadaan qoyska laga dhintay si ay murugada ula qaybsanadaan una qadariyaan. Taasi waxay socon kartaa maalmo, wiigag ama bilo. Wadankii dadku waxa la alla baryaa maalinta 3aad, maalinta 7aad iyo maalinta 40tanaad. Khaasatan haduu qofka dhintay ahaa qof aad looyaqaanay sida sheikh ama Suldaan oo kale.
Hada laakiin Covid 19 intuu dhacay xaalku wuu is bedelay oo dadku naftooda iyo dadka ayay jecelyihiin ayay u cabsoonayaan waana arin murugo leh qofkaagii ooaan aas fiican loo samayn waase xaqiiqda jirta ee aan cidina dhaafi Karin.