Grief from a Cross-Cultural Perspective

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Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss. Although primarily focused on the emotional reaction to loss, it also carries a physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical connotation. Doctor Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the idea of the stages of grief in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. Although it has received much criticism since then, the Kübler-Ross model remains to be the most widely accepted model of grief today. However, as most psychological research conducted in the 20th century was based on people living in the North America and Western Europe, the Kübler-Ross model could be culturally biased. In the Laws of Absence, Ahmed El-Madini introduces the readers to grief and mourning in the Islamic culture. Through this journey with the narrator, the readers realize that despite cultural and chronological differences, human nature is essentially the same in regards to coming to terms with loss. El-Madini writes this entire text as an interior monologue, a stream of consciousness with no physical setting until the very end. Coined by the American psychologist William Jones, this representation of the narrator’s consciousness includes perceptions, impressions, thoughts incited by outside sensory stimuli, and fragments of random, disconnected thoughts. All these are presented in an apparently random form, without regard for logical sequence, chronology, or syntax. Often such writing makes no distinction between various levels of reality – such as dreams, memories, imaginative thoughts, or real sensory perception. El-Madini chooses the stream of consciousness approach as it creates the impression that the reader is eavesdropping on the flow of conscious in the character’s mind, gaining intimate access to their ... ... middle of paper ... ...e not placed here for any particular reason other than to express genuine confusion of the narrator. This shows that although the character has accepted the death of his loved one, which is the last stage of the Kübler-Ross model, he is still in a state of confusion. The above comparison between El-Madini’s work, The Laws of Absence, and the Kübler-Ross model, asserts that despite cultural and chronological differences, human nature is essentially the same in regards to coming to terms with loss. From the analysis, it is also seen that El-Madini has successfully created a thought-provoking chronicle that explores a more intimate side of grief – something that all readers, in spite of cultural and socio-economic background, will be able to relate to. All in all, The Laws of Absence is an insightful recount of an Islamic man’s odyssey in coming to terms with loss.

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