The cultural context of death rituals and mourning practices

Oncol Nurs Forum. 1998 Nov-Dec;25(10):1752-6.


Purpose/objectives: To focus on the universal tasks of coping with the loss of a loved one and describe how various cultures have designed rituals to channel this grief.

Data sources: Published articles, books, and clinical experience.

Data synthesis: Death is the final life transition and often is surrounded by culturally specific rituals to assist the bereaved in their expression of grief and mourning and in caring for the dying. These culturally unique rituals and mourning practices serve to facilitate completion of universal tasks of grief resolution and support the healing process.

Conclusions: In developing an awareness and appreciation for the continuity of life for all patients and families, nurses must understand that variations among rituals and mourning practices surrounding death in different cultures provide a meaningful cultural context for patients, families, and friends. This context provides them with a sense of security and coherence as well as the emotional, social, and physical resources to navigate this final journey with integrity and peace of mind.

Implications for nursing practice: Nurses in the United States need to gain a better understanding of the elements and patterns that make up a specific culture's beliefs and practices and integrate this information with an individual patient's and family's personal interpretations of their cultural heritage before prescribing one particular intervention to support the expression of grief and mourning of the bereaved. Culturally informed and tailored care increases the quality of care provided.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Death*
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Oncology Nursing*
  • United States