Grief Programs: Native Americans and Death

1722 Words Oct 9th, 2012 7 Pages
Grief Programs: Native Americans and Death
Lisa Shewmaker
University of the Rockies


This paper will look at existing organizations and programs that provide parent home visits for infant and child loss in culturally diverse populated areas in the United States. These programs generally do not encompass grief recovery for the Native American community. As social workers and providers of these services, it is important to understand this cultural group, know their rituals and beliefs surrounding death and the burial of their dead, and to be open to changes that might be needed within their programs to address the needs of the Native American community. This paper will address the Native American beliefs on death, their rituals
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Some professionals may mistakenly view the silence, use of metaphors, and indirectness as resistance or lack of understanding (Sutton & Nose, 1996, p. 32). Native Americans may avoid direct or sustained eye contact and may not demonstrate affect, even during a crisis. Thus, effective communication becomes the very foundation from which the relationship between the worker and client progresses (Sutton & Nose, 1996).
Across cultures, common experiences after a child’s death such as disconnectedness from friends and family, abandonment of faith, isolation, and guilt can create multiple dilemmas for families. Shaking their belief in the order of the world, this type of traumatic loss often fosters a sense of total helplessness. Spirituality can play an important role, across cultures, in helping families to heal and discover meaning after a child’s death. In many Native American tribes, soul-searching, meditation, and ancestor prayer may play a role in providing an altered state of consciousness that is necessary for some to discover meaning in the loss. The social worker can do the following to encourage and facilitate an open dialogue that enables, empowers, and engages Native American families: * Ask permission to act. * Ask about their rites and rituals, culture, religion, and belief system. Caregivers can humbly admit their own lack of knowledge, becoming willing students and
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