Experiences of widowhood and beliefs about the mourning process of the Batswana people
Manyedi, Mofatiki Eva
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The loss of a partner seems to be considered as more serious than that of a parent or child, because of the closeness of the relationship between a wife and husband. In the South African context, widowhood is often a complicated experience because of the various beliefs and traditions within different communities. In this study the focus will be on the Batswana people. Widowhood and mourning in the Batswana context seems to be influenced by culture which contributes to stress. Part of this culture is the wearing of mourning clothes, suspension from attending gatherings, visiting other households, and other social activities which isolate the widow. Isolation also occurs due to the belief that she may contaminate other people with bad luck. It seems therefore that the widow lacks support from the community. It also seems that her experience of the mourning process and the community's beliefs are not consistent, thus predisposing her to possible poor mental health. This research was motivated by the mentioned awareness of the researcher as well as government's plight of the promotion of women's health. The purpose of this research was to explore the Batswana widows' experience of widowhood as well as the community's beliefs about widowhood and the mourning process. From these findings it was possible to formulate guidelines for the facilitation of the development of support mechanisms through which the community can be mobilised to support the widow during widowhood and the mourning process. The research is qualitative, explorative and descriptive. For data collection open ended questions were used to conduct in depth phenomenological interviews with widows, and a semi structured interview schedule to interview community members. Purposive voluntary sampling was used to identify participants in Mafikeng, Lichtenburg and Zeerust in the North West Province in South Africa. Entry was gained through written permission from the chiefs, headmen or councilors of the areas stated above. Data saturation was reached after interviewing eight widows and seven community members. Data analysis was done by means of combined techniques by Giorgi and Tesch. The researcher and co-coder reached consensus in a meeting organised for this purpose. The findings of research resulted in five major categories namely, the Batswana widows' experience of isolation due to stigmatization of widowhood, stressful life due to customs prescribed by society, hopelessness as a result of the loss of the husband, support provided by the internal and external support systems, and a sense of over-responsibility due to absence of the partner. The community members' beliefs about widowhood and the mourning process culminated into four major categories namely, perceptions about the effects of the mourning process, the beliefs of the Batswana customs that the widow has to follow, the need to support the widow and, the widow's mourning process as discrimination against women. Conclusions reached are that widows seem to experience extreme isolation and stigmatization and that the mourning process is very stressful due to the Batswana customs. Because of some community beliefs, the widow seems also discriminated against, which leads to further isolation and loneliness. It seems that the majority of community members value cultural practices and that it is important for the widow to follow these in order to protect herself and the community. Recommendations are made for nursing education, nursing research and psychiatric nursing practice, with specific guidelines formulated for psychiatric nurses to facilitate the development of support mechanisms through which the community can be mobilised to assist the widow during widowhood and the mourning process.
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