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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A qualitative study on the meaning of widowhood in the Hindu-Canadian community Lamb, Clement McArthur


The research literature documents the relative disadvantage of widows in coping with grief, both in a greater vulnerability themselves for mortality or ill health, but also for a sudden loss of resources from losing a spouse. Moreover, widowhood in the Canadian cultural communities may be an additional burden if met with service from mainstream care professionals and agencies at variance with their culturally-appropriate grieving practices and assumptions. Specifically, the meaning(s) of bereavement and grief for Hindu-Canadian widows are not well understood, and the goal of this study is to enhance transcultural understanding of this population in counselling and beyond. An inductive, descriptive qualitative method focusing on the subjective, lived experience of key co-researchers, using selective and nonprobability sampling was utilized to maximize the relatively small sample size typical of a phenomenological approach. This was used to describe and explain the meanings and experiences of grief for five older Hindu-Canadian widows within the context of their own cultural setting and world view. Data were collected from five female members of the Hindu- Canadian communities. An additional triangulation method of a general class of culmraUy-informed co-researchers was used to help corroborate the obtained themes. The co-researcher's responses were the data for this study, and a method of "constant comparative analysis" (I^ininger, 1985) was utilized in a search for themes through a process of higher abstraction. Data analysis of the verbatim transcripts occurred simultaneously with data collection and, guided by Leininger's (1990) 'Thases of Analysis for Qualitative Data," the process unfolded with: (a) collecting and documenting raw data; (b) identification of descriptors; (c) pattern analysis; and (d) theme formulation. Ultimately six themes were abstracted from forty-five sub-categories as a portrait of the meanings and experiences of widowhood for this group of Hindu-Canadian widows. Themes for this group of key co-researchers are as follows: First, status transition from wife to widow meant resignation to the husband's death, rather than acceptance through discrete stages of recovery: Second, meanings and expressions of grief centered on beliefs about the enduring and eternal quality of the husband's life force as intrinsic and essential to the widow's own lifeways: Third, the transition from wife to widow entailed a double affliction in status loss as well as in the personal domain of intimacy and partnership: Fourth, the meanings and expressions of both grief phenomena and status transition reflect an ethic of collective good and duty-based interpersonal morality, but with acculturation causing a nascent and generational transition in such moral orientation: Fifth, status transition can entail a degree of liminality, out of bicultural dislocation and transformational variables such as education: Finally, a fundamental meaning of their Hindu-Canadian widowhood experience is its spiritual opportunity. Despite some diversity in their Hindu diaspora and sect, the explicated themes illustrate a common experience and meaning attendant on widowhood for the co-researchers. This study investigated a portion of the underlying cultural logic of widowhood and grief phenomena for these constituents of Hinduism, and highlighted their cultural constructions of meaning and experience, allowing us to improve our transcultural knowledge and understanding of the unique needs of this population in the field of Counselling and beyond. As a phenomenological study, themes and suppositions abstracted from this relatively small sample are limited beyond the precisely-defined context of its five co-researchers. Nevertheless, a counsellor might well benefit from the potential offered here for finer-grained assessments and therapeutic relationships with widows in our Hindu communities.

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