DEATH AND DYING IN GREEK CULTURE
Written by: Elizabeth Vlachoulis
The Greek Orthodox Religion plays an important role within the Greek culture regarding death and dying (Taylor & Box 1999), and for many Greek-born people, it is important that they follow their traditions, beliefs and rituals on funerals and memorials. In order that they follow the rituals appropriately, the Greek families would often consult their priest about what certain procedures that needs to be followed.
The Greek culture also imposes on the children the duty to care for aged parents, and not doing so is to dishonour their parents (Diversicare 2006). Shame and guilt are often felt by family members if they place their aged parent in a residential care. For many Greek-born families, their home is preferred to hospital, if possible, in order to continue to enjoy the quality of life of the dying person despite “that terrible sickness” (Taylor & Box 1999). However, they still utilise doctors and health professionals and it is important that they have a good, trusting relationship with their doctor. Since privacy is of utmost importance, Greek men prefer to have a male doctor and Greek women prefer to have female doctor, especially if they have to undress (Diversicare 2006).
Many Greek-born people are very sensitive on issues of terminal illness, dying and death. It is, therefore, very common that Greek families do not want the dying person to be told of their diagnosis and prognosis. The families, even the relatives and friends, believe that telling the person of his/her actual health condition will only aggravate the suffering and shorten the dying person’s life because he/she will just give up hope and lose the will to live (Taylor & Box 1999). At the request of the dying person or the family, or of the priest’s own volition, the priest will visit the dying person in hospital, facility or in their own home. The priest will never say to the dying person “you’re going to die’....
References: Diversicare 2006, ‘Greek Culture Profile’, An initiative of Community Partners Program, Diversicare, Castletown Hyde Park, Queensland, viewed 24 November 2013, .
Loddon Mallee Regional Palliative Care Consortium (LMRPCC) 2011, ‘An Outline on Different Cultural Beliefs at the Time of Death’, LMRPCC, Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia, viewed 24 November 2013, < http://lmrpcc.org.au/admin/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Customs-Beliefs-Death-Dying.pdf>
Pentaris, P 2013, ‘Death in the Modern Greek Culture’, Academia.edu, San Francisco, California, USA, viewed 24 November 2013, .
Taylor, A & Box M 1999, ‘Multicultural Palliative Care Guidelines’, Palliative Care Australia, Eastwood, South Australia, viewed 7 November 2013, .
© Elizabeth Vlachoulis 2013
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