Women's experiences encountering loss and grief in Nyanga, Western Cape
McLea, Hilary Follett
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Research on loss and grief is based on Western contexts and assumes a level of safety and security within which bereaved individuals can be supported in coming to a resolution of their loss. The lives of women in Nyanga are however marked by various forms of violence and insecurity. Secure housing, stable employment and regular household income are not assumed. Individual physical safety is not assured either inside or outside the home. In this context grief and loss is experienced on such a scale that it has become normative rather than the exception. The aim of this research was to explore women's experiences of loss and grief in Nyanga. The objectives were to explore and describe these experiences and the contexts that influenced these experiences. The researcher has adopted a qualitative phenomenological research approach using in-depth interviews with women experiencing loss and grief following violent death. The population will be women experiencing loss and grief in Nyanga, Western Cape. Non-probability snowball sampling was used. The sample size was determined by data saturation due to the phenomenological nature of the study. The findings were primarily the loss of a sense of family, of overall health and long term economic insecurity. Coupled with this was the inability of government and community structures to offer support. Prolonged grief was a finding. Personally developed systems of support were uncovered and the importance of spirituality and prayer was noted. The context was violent deaths. It was found that these deaths are multiple and commonly experienced. The location of the deaths was within the victims home or in the near vicinity. Recommendations are made for work in economically deprived communities experiencing a high rate of violent deaths. These are for new ways to be developed to support and enhance family life and enable new ways of parenting. Governmental and community structures response to this phenomenon will require changes in policing and the local councils role in the community. Guidelines for social workers working in such communities are for a focus on community models of engagement. Group support and group facilitation rather than a focus on casework with individuals is proposed. Harnessing the knowledge and skills of local women and working collectively is suggested.