Research has shown that Latinx grief differently based on whether or not the death was expected. Research has shown that Latinx reported a “more intense” sense of grief when facing the unexpected loss of a loved one than grieving the passing of someone “whose time had come” Grabowski & Frantz, 1992

El Duelo

Facing grief and loss in the Latinx community

Xochitl Gonzalez, LCSW

Let’s start by outlining the 5 stages of grief (Kubler-Ross & Kessler, 2014)

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

And like my mom would say: ¿Y eso con qué come? It is very common among the Latinx community to face grief and loss without any type of professional mental health support, this is because we have been “doing it” “just dealing with IT” for generations.

Because saying goodbye to our loved ones is never easy, whether they have departed due to a prolonged and debilitating illness, the passage of time, or an unexpected death. As members of the Latinx community, we find comfort within our time-honored traditions and beliefs as we bid our heartfelt “Adios.”

But we also experience grief in stages, the stage of denial may look or sound different to us because of the cultural undertone that is attached to the loss of life. El “No puede ser”, “No lo puedo creer”, “No es cierto” are just some of the sayings that we grew up hearing when learning about someone’s passing, and often, this is followed by an inherent longing to understand the “when” and “how,” as if these answers could somehow unravel the enigma of the loss.

The stages of anger and bargaining, I’ve noticed, can occasionally intermingle, the anguish and emotional intensity converging suddenly. It is important to mention that not everyone experiences all stages nor do we experience them in order. The Latinx community historically finds solace in traditions and rituals that offer a sense of reconciliation honoring our loved ones after their death. As noted by Aida Wells, LICSW with Children’s Hospital Journey Program in Seattle “…there is a common assumption that many Latino families are Roman Catholic. “We share a common language and have similar values but different ways in which we approach them.” 

In the Latinx community, familial traditions in times of mourning could look like a celebration of life in the midst of pain. We honor our loved ones through food, music, flowers, candles and prayers. We  set up the Altar del Dia de Muertos with the ofrendas, those offerings that are the physical representation of bargaining, wishing and hoping that our loved ones would join us for a day of celebration.

Depression can manifest in diverse ways, varying not only among cultures but even within families. It is as unique as each of  us. Depression is one of the longest stages of grief, it is when we feel our deepest sadness and often when we need help the most. In the Latinx community familismo in addition to the stigma that comes with seeking professional help keeps many grieving Latinx from reaching out for help. Please know you are not alone and I hope that knowing this allows you to feel seeing, feel heard, feel validated.

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