A Single Leaf Orchid: Meaning of a Husband's Death for Taiwanese Widows

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Abstract

Based on interviews with 35 Taiwanese widows, the authors analyze indigenous beliefs and meanings associated with spousal death. The most common death-related beliefs brought up in these widows' narratives were attributing human characteristics to or deifying deceased husbands, fearing ghosts, perceiving the presence of the deceased, describing the idea of a good death, and responding ambivalently to the traditional taboo against crying in the presence of a dying husband. For a significant number of the interviewees, death-related meanings centered around feelings of incompleteness and opportunities for growth. The authors found that many of these beliefs and meanings contributed to the widows' successful coping and healing processes, and concluded that contemporary death-related beliefs are still in accordance with traditional Chinese cultural ideology, especially in terms of family continuity and ideal family life.

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