Bereavement and Coping of South Asian Families Post 9/11
Inman, Arpana G., Yeh, Christine J., Madan-Bahel, Anvita, Nath, Shivani, Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development
Eleven first-generation South Asian family members who lost a relative in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, were interviewed about their loss and their coping strategies. Data were analyzed using consensual qualitative research (CQR) methodology. Participant responses clearly delineated bereavement reactions and coping within a cultural framework.
Once miembros de una familia surasiatica de primera generacion que perdieron a un pariente en el atentado contra el World Trade Center el 11 de septiembre de 2001 fueron entrevistados acerca de su perdida y las estrategias que emplearon para soportarla. Los datos se analizaron siguiendo una metodologia de investigacion cualitativa consensuada (CQR, por sus siglas en ingles). Las respuestas de los participantes delinearon con claridad sus reacciones ante el dolor sufrido y como lo sobrellevaron dentro de un marco cultural.
The death of a loved one is considered to be the most disruptive of all of life's experiences (Holmes & Rahe, 1967), with the mode of death having a significant impact on the grieving process. When a death is sudden or violent, the griever not only has to process the loss (Horowitz, 1990) but she or he also has to deal with the traumatic nature of the loss (Redmond, 1996). When coupled with immigrant experiences and contrasting worldviews (Marsella & Christopher, 2004), the mourner's capacity to grieve and cope can become challenged.
The World Trade Center (WTC) attacks on September 11, 2001, had a profound impact on the South Asian community. Nearly haft of the 184 Asian and Asian Americans who perished in the attacks were South Asian immigrants (defined as people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indo-Caribbean, Sri Lanka, and Burma). As these victims' families struggle to recover from deeply personal losses, they are challenged on multiple levels (e.g., emotional, financial, immigration-related). This study sought to understand the culture-specific bereavement and coping methods used by South Asian family members who lost a relative in the WTC attack.
Cultures have their own sets of beliefs about bereavement and death. For example, how emotions are felt and expressed, the meaning attributed to loss, types and length of death rituals used, extent to which others are involved in the death rituals, and disposal of the body vary across cultures (Rosenblatt, 1997). When death or loss occurs outside of one's community of origin, there is a heightened need to apply beliefs and practices that are culturally meaningful. Furthermore, when the death is a traumatic one and there is no social structure to assist with cultural practices, the bereavement process can become complicated.
Traumatic loss frequently disrupts fundamental assumptions of personal security and sense of world order, resulting in prolonged stress. The literature suggests that although psychological and biological responses to prolonged stress (in the context of disasters) are universal, the specific stress reactions related to reexperiencing and avoidance of emotions may vary across cultures (Marsella & Christopher, 2004). Thus, understanding how culture may influence bereavement reactions and coping among South Asians who lost a relative in the 9/11 tragedy becomes integral to understanding their experiences.
Understanding how individuals cope with traumatic loss has been the topic of significant empirical research (e.g., Galea et al., 2002). However, researchers of coping with trauma (Yeh, Inman, Kim, & Okubo, 2006) have noted that previous research has focused primarily on an individualistic, traitlike conceptualization of coping that is believed to remain relatively stable regardless of the situation or culture. Such studies minimize the role that a culture's symbolic structures play in coping with loss. Coping strategies must be understood according to a cultural group's values, norms, and orientation (Lee & Lu, 1989) and must be recognized as being situated in a specific event or trauma. For example, Lee and Lu found that, when faced with catastrophic events, Southeast Asian refugees used culturally specific coping strategies (e.g., fatalistic beliefs). Similarly, Yeh et al.'s (2006) study of East Asian American coping post-9/11 revealed that this community not only attributed fatalistic notions to their experience but used similar culturally relevant, collectivistic coping methods such as familial coping, relational universality, forebearance, spirituality, and indigenous healing methods (see Yeh et al., 2006 for a discussion of these coping strategies). Although coping with trauma has been examined among East and Southeast Asian groups, there remains a dearth of research on South Asians. Using consensual qualitative research (Hill et al., 2005), our study sought to understand how culture may have influenced bereavement and coping for South Asian immigrant families within the context of a major traumatic event.
Participants were first-generation immigrants who had lived in the United States for 1-20 years. The 4 male and 7 female participants ranged in age from 27 to 59 years. Participants represented a range of relationships to the victims: 6 wives, 2 husbands, 2 fathers, and 1 sister. In terms of nationality, there were 2 Bangladeshis, 8 Indians, and 1 Indian-Guyanese. As their primary language, 4 participants spoke Telgu, 2 spoke Marathi, 2 spoke Hindi, 2 spoke Urdu, and 1 spoke Kannada. Eight participants were Hindus, and 3 were Muslims. The participants were highly educated, with 5 having graduated from college and 5 having received graduate degrees; 1 person did not respond. Participants represented a range of socioeconomic status, with 7 identifying as middle class, 1 as upper middle class, and 1 as working class; 2 did not respond regarding socioeconomic status.
Approval for the study was sought from each of the universities with which the authors were affiliated. Recruitment took 6 weeks from the initiation of the project. Contacts were made through Asian/South Asian organizations in New Jersey and New York. Of 21 families contacted, 11 (one member from each of 11 families) South Asian individuals who lost a relative in the WTC attacks agreed to participate in the study. Interviews were conducted approximately 9-10 months following the WTC attacks. Telephone calls were made to assess participants' preferred spoken language, to describe the interviewee procedures (use of a demographic form and a 90-minute audiotaped telephone interview), and to obtain informed consent. Next, on the basis of the preferred spoken language, a questionnaire packet (in English or Hindi) that included a cover letter, the demographic form, and the interview protocol was mailed to each participant. Shortly thereafter, potential participants were contacted, informed consents were signed, and three telephone and eight in-person interviews were conducted. …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Bereavement and Coping of South Asian Families Post 9/11. Contributors: Inman, Arpana G. - Author, Yeh, Christine J. - Author, Madan-Bahel, Anvita - Author, Nath, Shivani - Author. Journal title: Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development. Volume: 35. Issue: 2 Publication date: April 2007. Page number: 101+. © 2008 American Counseling Association. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.