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"Culture" has been described as \'a way of life\' encompassing ethnicity, spirituality and class. Within any culture there may exist a sub-culture or co-culture based on gender or age or class. In turn, our culture determines and guides our decisions and responses to the world.

It is important to remember that the care givers basic role: "is to assist clients in understanding the ways their own worldview can provide strength, comfort, and meaning rather than attempting to impose another world view on them." (Doka, 1998).

Our culture determines our \'world view\' or \'assumptive world\'. It guides our decision-making process and influences how we respond to the world around us.

We will be examining cultural differences in the next few units, but if we are to understand the differences that exist in other cultures we must start from an understanding of our own \'death culture\' and it\'s differences and its impact on our dying and mourning.

Metcalfe and Huntington (1991) have pointed out the distinct ways in which the behavior of North Americans is influenced, and in some cases dictated, by cultural expectations. Think of how individuals behave, the protocol they observe, and the roles they accept upon the death of a loved one or as family and friends offering consolation at a funeral home.

When a loved one dies in hospital, there are definite rules regarding notifying their family. Next of kin usually expect notification of the death from a physician. To be notified by a member of the administrative staff would be unacceptable.

Who notifies who within the family and community follows a definite hierarchy. A brother of the deceased would not expect to be notified by a member of the deceased\'s bowling club or employer. At the very least, notification usually comes from someone with the same level of intimacy. The task of notification is usually broken up into manageable parts and delegated to members of the family or the community.

Visitations or encounters with sympathizers are regulated. Normal rules governing the privacy of the bereaved family are put aside. Neighbors drop in, telephone, often unannounced, to offer condolences. The visits may not be appropriate in terms of family function but family is not expected to reject or disregard them.

There is an obligation to view the corpse and \'say the right things\'. Even though there is considerable social exchange between friends and relatives during visitation there is the expectation that upon arriving at the funeral home visitors go immediately to the coffin to view the deceased and offer condolences to the next of kin.

Flowers are an expected and usually welcome token of respect and affection but who sends what kind and the value of flower arrangements is regulated by custom and culture. The presence of an expensive coffin spray, usually arranged for by the spouse, from the deceased\'s secretary may cause a stir. The position of ones car in the procession to the cemetery is usually arranged so that immediate family, usually in a rented limousine, follows immediately behind the hearse. Other family members follow behind in their vehicles with the deceased\'s social and business acquaintances following in the rear.

There is a definite protocol to be observed at the graveside. Where people stand in proximity to the grave, which places the first flower on the casket, are examples of the influence of culture on our behavior and beliefs.

These, and many other variables that we may consider to be part of the norm in North America, may distort our perceptions of the validity and use the customs and beliefs of other cultures.

It\'s important to keep this in mind when we begin to explore the richness of our own heritage and that of the cultural diversity that exists in our world.




Bibliography:

(Doka, 1998).

Metcalfe and Huntington (1991)