Posts Tagged With: culture

Grief and Cultural Cliches

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There is an ongoing battle occurring as I sit down to write this blog.  It is over the death of a soldier and the response of the current President.  

 

In our present, ever-changing, lightning speed culture we have pushed and squeezed death into a tidy box or urn, as far away from us as possible.  We no longer know how to comfort those who mourn.  As a people who have lifted the value of physical comfort high on our list of our God-given rights, death makes us very uncomfortable. We do not know what to do with it.  Death takes too much of our valuable time.  We no longer go to those who have lost a loved one and sit with them in silence or tears.  We send cards or perhaps flowers.  We rarely go to funerals or memorial services.  When we do, the focus is often on celebrating the lives of the ones who have left us and leaving out the grief.

 

When confronted with grief we often don’t know what to say or do. If we speak we use clichés and platitudes. Instead of entering into the grief with our friend, neighbor or coworker we distance ourselves from the grief with phrases such as, “She died doing what she loved.” or “He knew what he signed up for when he joined the army”.  These unthinking, unfeeling phrases roll off the tongue and put the blame on the person who just died, for their choice.  I don’t need to be uncomfortable, it wasn’t my fault.  These kinds of phrases do not help the grieving person.

 

Living in Central Asia with people who value the observation grief has helped me understand it. They do not leave relatives, neighbors, or friends alone with their grief, they enter into it together.

 

What helps a grieving person is to enter the grief with them and feel the pain they are going through.  Silence is better than saying something that distances us from them.  When someone acknowledges my pain with words like  “I’m so sorry you lost your son”, they enter into my grief with me. When someone let’s me cry or even wail it makes my grief just a little bit more bearable.  Often those grieving need to process with their words what they are feeling or talk about their loved one.  If my goal is to listen and help bear their burden I can truly help instead of shoving their grief away.  

 

Maybe one thing this president is doing is highlighting the unhealthy, even dangerous places in our society. We need to pay attention! Let’s take another look at our responses to death and grief, sexual abuse and harassment, racial injustices, greed, idolatry and poverty, to name a few.

 

 

Categories: grief and death, growth, Life, pain, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Greetings In China

For many years my family and I lived in China.  Even though I had the basics of the Chinese language, there were so many things to learn each day, not only about the language but also the customs and culture of the Peoples around me.  We were fortunate to live in an area where there were several ethnic groups. This made for lots of diverse and rich experiences.

Everyday when I would step out of my apartment building I would be greeted by different people in different ways.  In Chinese language school we had learned that “Ni hao” was the traditional greeting.  The only thing was that it was usually I who would say that, but the locals would say something different, such as “Have you eaten enough?” or “Going to the market are you?” or “Where are you going?” or “Where are you coming from?” It took me awhile to figure it out but, I think stating the obvious or asking an obvious question was the greeting. One year we came back from America after the birth of our little baby girl. Each day when I stepped out I would hear over and over again:  “Oh, your baby isn’t wearing enough clothes!”  So the next day I would try to bundle her up a bit more.  It didn’t seem to matter because I would hear the same thing every day, especially from the Grannies.  It wasn’t until a particularly warm, sunny, early spring day that it dawned on me.  I was sure I had her bundled up enough and I knew a little sunshine would be good for her, so I wasn’t prepared for the usual: “Your baby isn’t wearing enough clothes!”  In fact I kind of lost it! “What do you mean she isn’t wearing enough clothes??? Look how sunny and warm it is, and I have her all bundled up anyways!”  When I saw the confused stare on this particular Granny’s face, then I realized she was just saying “good morning” to me.  So after that experience I would calmly remind myself when ever I heard that particular phrase that they were just saying hi!

This was right around the same time that I noticed my 4-year-old son had his own particular greeting.  He and his friends were playing out in front of our apartment.  The young girl who helped me make lunch called me over to the window and pointed.  It was the time of day when the teachers came back to their homes for lunch.  Many of them had stacks of hot naan in their arms.  My son was putting his hand out and my generous neighbors walking by were pulling off pieces of naan and giving it to him!

Categories: borderlands, Life, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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