Death and Healing were the subjects under the spotlight during a webinar hosted by UKZN’s School of Social Sciences. The event was facilitated by the Acting Academic Leader for Community Engagement, Dr Maserole Kgari-Masondo, who wanted to ‘organise a healing space where – as a University and the general public – we can learn about issues of death and coping strategies so we can be empowered to heal from such pain, especially during COVID-19’.
Dean and Head of the School Professor Vivian Ojong, who reflected on the death of staff members within the School, said she saw the webinar as both timely and important for healing. ‘We understand that grief is nature’s way of healing and death is the process for humanity but we must find the strength to continue after losing a loved one.’
Said College Director of Professional Services (acting) Dr Phumelele Zakwe, who has formed a bereavement team within the College offering assistance with funeral arrangements, processing of UKZN policies for funerals, and general support and financial aid for staff: ‘We must not fear death instead we must embrace it as part of being human. Grieve, heal, rebuild and learn to live with the loss.’
Delivering the keynote address, Dr Fumane Khanare of the University of the Free State (UFS) spoke on Conceptualising Death and Healing, recounting her own experiences of loss and how they had affected her. Khanare focused on how educational psychology contributed to understanding conditions of possible ‘attachment’ and ‘detachment’ for human development. ‘People’s well-being and agency are expanded towards more meaningful life and rest. Death can be seen as a form of rebirth in that you learn and grow from the experience and in a way, it shapes who you are as a person,’ she said.
Supported by Dr Siyanda Kheswa (UKZN), mortuary specialist Mr Deon Mbaile (Icebolethu Group) discussed procedures involved in caring for a corpse before a funeral service. ‘We offer relief from the emotional and financial stress of planning a funeral which helps families honour their loved one.’
Mbaile discussed the collection of the deceased, storage of the body, washing and preparation of the body, assistance in registration of a death certificate, coffin spraying for COVID-19, and organising a hearse.
Offering a religious perspective on death and healing and facilitated by UKZN’s Dr Mabuyi Gumede, Dr VVO Mkhize of the Umsamo African Institute spoke from the perspective of ‘African religion’. ‘When a person has passed on we usually bury them in a dignified manner so that generations of their clan can visit the grave when they need to,’ he said.
Pundit D. Raghubir of Arya Samaj, South Africa, spoke on Hindu beliefs and practices while the Rev Lawren Mathew discussed Christianity and the concept of heaven and hell and the separation of the body and the soul.
UKZN lecturer Dr Cherry Muslim discussed death, burial and the afterlife according to Islamic beliefs.
Examining the Healing process after death, Pastor Mervin Naidoo, facilitated by Professor Mariam Seedat-Khan, focussed on cremation and how an individual can learn from death in order to lead a good life. Mr Che Chetty of UKZN presented a Hindu perspective on karma and reincarnation and the urgency of the spiritual path, delving deeper into facing death without fear and daily communion with God.
UKZN’s Ms Ntombekhaya Mtwentula examined the concept of mourning after the death of a loved one and the accompanying signs of depression and compromised mental health. Mtwentula advised that when an individual was consumed by grief and their life subsequently negatively impacted, therapy and counselling support were required.