Grief from a Native American Perspective: Interview with Damita Sunwolf Larue

At the annual ADEC (Association of Death Education and Counseling), I spoke with Damita Sunwolf Larue about the Native American people and the loss and grief they have suffered throughout their history.

Damita is a Cherokee from Oklahoma and her grandmother is a medicine woman. Damita says grief and loss have been a part of their history since Columbus came 522 years ago. She goes into more detail about this in the video below.

Here are some key takeaways from the video:

  • In the 522 years since Columbus came to America, there have been a number of instances of genocide against the Native American people. Some tribes have even gone extinct as a result of what happened during that time.
  • Historical trauma and historical loss are huge things that people have a challenge with acknowledging, Damita says.
  • In Native American culture, grief and loss gets handled differently depending on the tribe. As an example, the Cherokee people believe that in order to help the deceased person move on their death needs to be avenged. Obviously that’s not something that can happen in today’s culture, so ceremonies have taken the place of some of these outdated rituals.
  • Grief and loss rituals are a very private thing for Native American tribes, and are something the tribes keep to themselves. Ceremony specifics aren’t typically shared with others.
  • Damita shares some advice for dealing with loss, which is to build resiliency by grabbing on to your culture and not letting pieces of it die and fly away. Hold on to your culture, or come back to it if you have gone away from it for a while.

For more video interviews, please see the Open To Hope YouTube channel.

Gloria Horsley

More Articles Written by Gloria

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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