BUDDHIST ASPECTS OF DEATH GRIEF AND LOSS
Through religion, issues of death and life thereafter are elicited and these often generate fear and uncertainties. This is because different religions have different views on the same which often brings about a lot of confusion (Wen, 2010). For instance, Christianity believes in the states of hell and heaven whereby sinners are destined to hell while the righteous are destined for heaven. Buddhism believes in the cycle of death and rebirth while Islam also has the concept of hell and the Day of Judgment (Benore & Park, 2004). Grief is a normal process associated with death. In light of this, some of the realms in which one may be reborn according to Buddhist beliefs are heaven, hell, human, hungry ghost, and Asura or animal.
The realms, as mentioned early, as a result of the effect of karma. Due to the belief in the concept of birth and rebirth, even these realms are not permanent and as such, it is never too late for Buddhists to engage in good deeds to attract good karma for their next life. The topic of death is not considered taboo in Buddhism as Buddhist faithful are often taught about death by their clergy with a lot of emphasis being put on being deeds so as to attract good karma which guarantees the dying of a place in the higher realms in their next life. As pertains to preparation for death, Buddhist clergy stress on the closeness of death, emphasizing the importance of being aware of the concept of death and taking time to prepare for one’s death.
Even after that, it is important that the corpse is handled with care so as to ensure that the spirit peacefully embarks on its journey to the higher states (Smith, 2005). Failure to observe this is believed to anger and confuse the spirit and may even result in rebirth into lower realms. The dead continue to be prayed for the next 49 days following their death as it is believed that the spirit takes approximately that long to be reborn in another realm. The Buddhist beliefs on grief following the death of a loved one would be considered by most other people as rather insensitive. This is because grief is not advocated for and the first advice or message of condolence offered to someone undergoing grief is usually that death is inevitable and we all have to die.
However, the Buddhist clergy such as priests, nuns, and monks among others can be easily accessed by the Buddhist faithful and they help in the recovery journey mainly through encouragement that death is not the end of life but just a transition into the next realm (Patterson, 2009). Friends and family are easily the most natural support system in times of grief mainly because they share in the pain of losing the loved one. As such, they would be in a great position to offer thoughtful counsel to the bereaved (Patterson, 2009). One of the most significant barriers to seeking counseling after the death of a loved one in Buddhism is the fact that grieving is advocated against and therefore, grieving in a manner that is considered as wrongful by the Buddhist beliefs could result in possible stigmatization and reproach.
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