“Just Eliminate the Illness; Do Not Eliminate Dharmas”: A Case Study on the Lived Experience of a Buddhist Surviving Spouse

Abstract

Despite the fact that myriads of publications, basing on Western theories, have investigated spousal loss, which threatens to physical health and psychological well-being; few studies examine how Buddhists tackle this difficulty. Thus, the present case study aims to explore the lived experience of a Buddhist surviving spouse who suffered from a sudden loss of her husband. Qualitative data was collected through in-depth semi-structured interviews, whilst interpretative phenomenological analysis was used for data analysis. In order to enhance the trustworthiness, peer analysis (inter-rater reliability=92%) and different levels of member checking were adopted. Emerging data revealed how the Buddhist surviving spouse was living with her feeling of guilt, for her effortless to take care of her husband when he was sick, which also facilitated her to internalize the continuing bonds. This internalization of continuing bonds was resulted from applying Buddhist wisdom, including the teaching of cause-and-effect, hopes of a reunion in future lives due to the cycle of birth and death, impermanence, and living in the present moment, to deal with afflictions. By working through this internalizing process, the surviving spouse could let the sense of guilt peacefully coexist with her, which aligns with the dharma of "just eliminate the illness; do not eliminate dharmas". This dharma hints at accepting life difficulties and coping with distress, by a deep understanding of the formation of the phenomenal world. Conclusively, Buddhist philosophy does not only offer alternative views to interpret the continual relationship between survivors and the deceased, but also inspires practitioners of helping professions to extend the horizons of counselling services. Further research on how to apply Buddhist ideas to grief and bereavement therapy is proposed.



Author Information
Fung Kei Cheng, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Samson Tse, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Paper Information
Conference: ACP2014
Stream: Psychology

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