Coping with bereavement

Improving a bereaved person’s financial literacy is a crucial intervention in his or her grief support care

April 16, 2017 12:02 am | Updated 12:02 am IST

Lignting of Praying candles in a temple

Lignting of Praying candles in a temple

Coping with the death of a loved one is never easy. And Indians, according to a new study, are “completely unprepared” to cope with death because of cultural resistance where most people consider it inauspicious to talk about it openly, much less prepare for impending loss.

The findings are a part of a paper on contextualised psychosocial care released by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) this week.

The authors of the white paper found that patriarchy and gender played a huge role in how people cope with death. For example, the death of a patriarch could lead to the wife undergoing changes in terms lowered social status, legal problems in claiming her inheritance and pressure from family to take over care giving responsibilities. Conversely, the loss of a wife might lead to the husband having to take over roles of care giving. Death of a child, for parents and grandparents, can cause reactions similar to post-traumatic stress.

Women most vulnerable

Research indicates that women display an intuitive grieving style, with sorrow, guilt and depression. Men are taught grieve through managing tasks related to the funeral, finances and property matters. “This indicates that men in patriarchal set-ups may not know how to deal with the emotional impact of grief as the coping mechanisms available to them are mostly focussed on addressing practical needs following the loss of a loved one,” says Aparna Joshi, assistant professor at the School of Human Ecology at TISS and one of the Project Directors behind iCALL (Psychosocial Helpline). “In India, the mourning rituals take place in an elaborate fashion but the impact of loss remains for years. The feeling of grief continues to impact the bereaved person long after the socially observed period of mourning has ended. There is a dire need for psychosocial services that are sensitised and equipped with the capabilities to provide required support and intervention to help people cope with grief. Women and children are a more vulnerable group when it comes to dealing with a loss.”

The researchers offer a solution after studying India’s crude death rate and the insurance market.

Issue of insurance

The white paper states that “the crude death rate, which is the average annual number of deaths per 1,000 people in India, was 7.3 in 2016 (United Nations, 2015). Estimates from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) indicate that while India has over 57 crore insurable individuals, only 4.20 crore are actually insured. Large sections of the Indian population continue to remain uninsured. This leaves many families vulnerable to severe financial setbacks, over and above the intense trauma brought on by the death of a loved one.”

The authors of the paper recommend that offering help to improve financial literacy is one of the crucial interventions in grief support care. While the West relies on support groups and community-based programmes for grief support, no such support groups for bereaved individuals are available in India as of now.

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