“Culture makes a difference,” says Ana Bendana when interviewed by Dr. Gloria Horsley at the Association for Death Education and Counseling 2015 conference. Bendana came to the conference from Nicaragua to learn and share how grieving differs around the world. She says so many third world or developing countries have suffered and survived so many catastrophes that it’s shifted how grieving is done. “It does build resilience, or simply numbs you,” she says, which can make processing grief look easier on the surface, but can lead to negative long-term effects if not addressed.
Revolutions, earthquakes and other disasters have taken place in Nicaragua over the past few decades, and some residents can’t recall a time when a big disaster wasn’t happening or had recently occurred. Since the country is largely Catholic, there are many religious rituals involved in funerals and the grieving process. The majority of the country believes that disasters and illnesses are God’s will, and bearing your cross is a given. Those beliefs can provide a buffer in grief.
She notes that you do see grief and despair, but it’s in a much shorter window than other parts of the world. Bendana wonders if this shorter timeframe is due to the beliefs that deaths are God’s will, or if it’s simply that Nicaraguan’s don’t feel “allowed” to grieve for longer periods. There are always wakes, but funeral homes are reserved for those in a “higher socioeconomic status.” The wakes are largely happy events, and the entire community comes to offer support.
A mass and prayers follow, usually at a cemetery. Bodies are viewed at the home, families wash and dress the body, and this is both tradition and due to finances. Plus, in Latin America many extended families live together, which makes it easier to care for the terminally ill. Finally, the events end with a procession in the streets to the cemetery.