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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 47-50

The living will, cultural aspects of death, and mourning rituals

Department of Psychiatry, Kamala Nehru Hospital, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Manohar Dhadphale
Department of Psychiatry, Kamala Nehru Hospital, Pune, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/aip.aip_15_18

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Indian subcontinent, diverse though in many respects, has a common systematized cultural mechanism to cope with loss. What is unique about Hindus is their belief in reincarnation and the concept of karma. Writing Living Will (LW) or the Advanced Directive, I thought, was a brilliant idea to guide families to deal with the end-of-life situation of their loved ones. I enthusiastically advised my elderly colleagues in various forums to write the LW, lest had I predicted any negative fallout of this deed. I describe below the heated debates due to LW within the bereaved families. In both cases, the families argued that the reincarnation and transmigration of the soul cycle would be interrupted by not cremating the dead. Some instructions left in the LW were at variance with the traditional practices that created potentially explosive situations in the cases I describe below. Most contentious directive was no cremation and postdeath rites and rituals that created conflict of ideology and moral dilemma for the children. The author wants to share the latter with readers and stimulate discussion. Mourning and traditional grieving is encouraged in many cultures; can this not tantamount to systematic grief therapy? In many cultures, grief, and bereavement, through ages, have inspired renowned poets and scientists to express their viewpoints.

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