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The Sibling Connection
Learn about Grief from other Cultures


          In terms of death and grieving, three patterns of culture can be found on this planet.

  • The first is death-defying cultures, like that of the ancient Egyptians. Their elaborate mummifying rituals were meant to secure life beyond the grave.

  • Next are the death-denying cultures, such as we have in the United States. Although we do seem to be undergoing some changes, in general, we prefer to keep thoughts of death and grief in the background. The bereaved are given subtle or blatant messages to get over it and move on, leaving mourners with inadequate support so they can complete the grief process.

  • The third pattern of culture is that of death-accepting cultures. We have much to learn from the death-accepting cultures about the process of grief and what it is all about.

         In this section, I will include stories and articles related to the grief process from other countries, beginning with these two: The Legend of the Tear Jar from Greece, and the Nests of the Loneliness Birds from South America.

    The Legend of the Tear Jar

         In the dry climate of ancient Greece, water was prized above all. Giving up water from one's own body, when crying tears for the dead, was considered a sacrifice. They caught their precious tears in tiny pitchers or "tear jars" like the one shown here (lifesize).

         These captured tears were considered to be "holy" water and were sprinkled on doorways to keep out evil, or used to cool the brow of a sick child.

         The tear jars themselves were kept unpainted until the owner had experienced the death of a parent, sibling, child, or spouse. After that, the grieving person decorated the tear jar with intricate designs, and examples of these can still be seen throughout modern Greece.

          This ancient custom symbolizes the transformation that takes place in people who have grieved deeply. They have not "gotten over" their grief, but rather "grown through" it. They appreciate relationships more. They appreciate life more. They find meaning in little things.

         Those whom grief has transformed are not threatened by the grief of other people in pain. They have been in the depths of pain themselves, and returned.



    Click here to read The Nest of the Loneliness Birds



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