The Diversity of Indigenous Wisdom on Grief: Exploring Social Work Approaches to Bereavement

The aim of our study was twofold: 1) to describe the diversity of indigenous wisdom on grief and maintaining relationships with the deceased by exploring Buddhists in Japan, Muslims in Malaysia and Christians in Sweden; and 2) to discuss social work approaches for bereaved families based on their indigenous wisdom. Background: The International Federation of Social Workers and International Association of Schools of Social Work established the Global Definition of The Social Work Profession in 2014, which considers indigenous knowledge as a main underpinning of social work and encourages social workers to develop approaches that accommodate local values and traditions. However, in some societies, such as Japan, psychotherapeutic bereavement interventions for bereaved families are becoming more common. Theories supporting such interventions are considered applicable to all peoples, irrespective of cultural differences. Method: Using literature reviews, the authors describe their respective society’s indigenous rituals and spiritual values concerning grief and death. They also critically examine bereavement interventions used in their respective societies. Findings and discussion: Psychological theories underpinning bereavement interventions tend to reflect Western or Christian values. This can lead to bereaved people in societies that do not share these values (such as Buddhist Japanese and Islamic Malaysians) being considered maladjusted or pathological, and ultimately to their disempowerment. Also, the rapid process of secularisation is depriving Japanese and Swedish people of the chance to utilise their indigenous wisdom. This is forcing them to depend more on Western bereavement interventions, some of the concepts of which they do not agree with.

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Author Information
Tomofumi Oka, Sophia University, Japan
Nur Atikah Mohamed Hussin, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia
Anneli Silvén Hagström, Linköping University, Sweden

Paper Information Conference: IICSSHawaii2017
Stream: Social Work

Added on Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

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Posted by amp21