Dr. Jon Reid: Chinese Culture and Grief

Dr. Jon Reid is a past president of the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC), and he spoke with Dr. Gloria Horsley during the 2015 ADEC conference about Chinese culture and grief. “There’s a much greater reluctance to talk about death and dying in Chinese culture, mostly because it’s considered bad luck,” Dr. Reid shares. It’s also uncomfortable for American children (adult or otherwise) to talk to their parents about death planning, but it’s seen as inevitable. However, in the Chinese culture, doing so is thought to bring bad luck and it’s avoided entirely. Dr. Reid recalls once he was in Singapore (a largely Chinese culture) and he asked a local friend to take him to a cemetery. He agreed, but his friend’s wife refused to get out of the car.

In China, cremation is legally required for land use protocol (particularly in metro areas). There’s also a ritual of spending time with the body to say good words. Chinese believe the soul will linger near the body for awhile, so it’s never acceptable to speak negatively in the presence of a corpse. It’s also believed that haunting is common, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to only speak kindly near a corpse.

Chinese Rituals

An ancient culture comes with a plethora of rituals, some of which have been adjusted to modern cultures. Memorializing the dead on the seventh, 14th, 21st and 28th day is common. However, it’s uncommon to take off work so regularly. Thus, every seven hours an activity will happen in order to condense the ritual. Every spring of the lunar calendar, there’s also a festival that’s a legal holiday. Tomb-sweeping day is an annual ritual that’s done for loved ones who have passed. It’s similar to Memorial Day in the US.

Individually, the Chinese don’t talk about grief but grieving as a culture is common.

Gloria Horsley

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Dr. Gloria Horsley is an internationally known grief expert, psychotherapist, and bereaved parent. She started "Open to Hope" to help the millions in the world with grief. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Nurse Specialist, and has worked in the field of family therapy for over 20 years. Dr. Horsley hosts the syndicated internet radio show, The Grief Blog which is one of the top ranked shows on Health Voice America. She serves the Compassionate Friends in a number of roles including as a Board of Directors, chapter leader, workshop facilitator, and frequently serves as media spokesperson. Dr. Horsley is often called on to present seminars throughout the country. She has made appearances on numerous television and radio programs including "The Today Show," "Montel Williams," and "Sallie Jessie Raphael." In addition, she has authored a number of articles and written several books including Teen Grief Relief with Dr. Heidi Horlsey, and The In-Law Survival Guide.

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