Below are excerpts from an interview with Ligia M. Houben, author of Counseling Hispanics through Loss, Grief, and Bereavement: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals.
SpringBoard: How would you say Hispanics may experience loss differently than non-Hispanics?
LH: Losses are universal and grief is unique. We (Hispanics) bring our values and traditions to the way we demonstrate grief, bereavement, and mourning. For example, Hispanics traditionally want to keep grieving at home; they count on family support instead of going somewhere else to ask for help. There have been changes now because of assimilation and acculturation, but mainly these are values that are intrinsic in our culture, and that’s why there may be a difference in how we deal with grief or loss.
SpringBoard: What are a few important points to keep in mind when working with Hispanics experiencing loss?
LH: One thing that I find very important when working with Hispanics is to take into consideration their values, their traditions, the importance they give to family, and religion. It’s also important not to stereotype, because although we are Hispanics, we come from different countries. Sometimes the customs vary from country to country, so it’s important to know that there is diversity. It’s also important for the counselor to look out for multiple losses that the patient may be experiencing. A Hispanic may come into counseling because they lost a loved one, but, in the conversation, the counselor may notice that they have gone through other losses as well. They may talk about their country with sorrow, for example, and this may count as another loss.
SpringBoard: How may different Hispanic subgroups experience loss differently?
LH: We have older adults, first generation, second generation, immigrants, immigrants by choice, immigrants by exile—all of these are different subgroups and each of them may experience loss or grief differently. For example, older adults who come into this country may not know the language, so that is a loss; there is a different lifestyle between Latin American countries and the United States, and that is also a loss. They may want their grandchild to carry on their values and traditions, but the grandchild may have been born here and is already acculturated into the American culture. That can be a clash and a loss for the older adult, as well as the second generation.
To see the interview with author Ligia Houben, click here. Please note that the video was edited due to time considerations.
Ligia M. Houben, MA, FT, FAAGC, CPC, is a Fellow in Thanatology: Death, Dying, and Bereavement and a Fellow of the American Academy of Grief Counseling. She holds a BA in Psychology and Religious Studies from the University of Miami, MA in Religious Studies and a Graduate Certificates in Multidisciplinary Gerontology from Florida International University and in Loss and Healing from St. Thomas University. Ligia M. Houben is an adjunct professor at Florida International University, Miami Dade College, and Kaplan University, where she teaches courses on Ethics, Religion, and Death and Dying. Ligia offers consulting services to individuals and organizations, and her private practice is based in Miami, Florida.