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I Muri i Te Ārai: Ko Ngā Mōrehu Ka Toe: Healing processes in Tangihanga for Wāhine Māori

This study involved a qualitative examination of the healing elements of tangihanga as described by eight female Māori respondents whose loss was not spousal but was dearly loved. Few substantive contemporary works on the subject of tangihanga experiences and processes existed (Nikora & Te Awekōtuku, 2013). To contextualise, western society’s cultural death practices were explored from an interdisciplinary perspective. Literature on death and bereavement, the western contemporary funeral industry, the medicalisation of death, western gender roles in death and bereavement, hygiene and contamination issues, ethnicity and cross cultural studies were discussed. These provided an international background against which this study made explicit the cultural differences of death practice and grief in tangihanga for Māori. Cultural issues for Māori were then discussed in terms of grief, literature on tangihanga, research about Māori women, women and death, issues for Māori women researching Māori women, and where colonization placed Māori women in society. I then described the traditional procedural processes which were sequentially carried out upon the death of a person. I noted the existence of modern variations in death practice, particularly among urban-based Māori. The diverse situations in which we as modern Māori have found ourselves were discussed with some historical context, however it was noted that despite change and diversity, we continued to share many experiences. The perpetuation of tangihanga has been important to the resilience and survival of Māori culture. The methodology was described, including interview development and recruitment of respondents. The interview experiences, analysis of information provided, and the development of theory and identifying themes were described. The rationale for exploring the backgrounds of the respondents in terms of whānau upbringing, cultural values, and cultural identification over time were discussed. Specific tangihanga were explored in depth as case studies, with analysis and discussion throughout each korero. Key themes in the respondents’ accounts were identified, of the grief and healing processes, examining culturally defined gender contributors to recovery. Social structures and support, ritual, spiritual beliefs and grief practices were described. Aspects of modern life or even tradition which hindered the healing process were identified, as was the impact of grief on the life respondents lead subsequently. The findings of the research were next discussed. The narratives supported existing literature that the tangihanga was an effective forum for sharing and expression of grief, honouring and farewelling the deceased, and ensuring that members of whānau pani were supported, protected and nurtured by others. Attending tangihanga from childhood allowed respondents to enjoy a sense of belonging and comfort. Two respondents whose childhoods had featured acculturation, felt confusion about their roles and expectations but overcame these feelings when they later learned more about their culture. By adulthood each of the respondents was in a position to control and influence choices made for the tangihanga, thus enabling them to grieve fully. In the final discussion my theoretical model was presented, limitations of the research discussed, and future research recommendations made.
Type of thesis
Paterson, K. J. (2015). I Muri i Te Ārai: Ko Ngā Mōrehu Ka Toe: Healing processes in Tangihanga for Wāhine Māori (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9750
University of Waikato
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