The problematic field of investigation for this study was for the care of bereaved human beings in the context of significant cultural shifts now shaping the twenty-first century. Deritualization was identified as a significant interdisciplinary concern that contributes to potential distress in processes of grieving. The objective of the research was the development of a practical theology of compassionate caregiving for the bereaved with deference to the problem of deritualization. The theoretical framework was guided by the Oxford Interdisciplinary Research model and the Loyola Institute of Ministries model of practical theology. The study was designed for applied research for funeral directors and vocational pastors utilizing qualitative research methods. Hermeneutical and empirical components addressed six research questions through two domains of inquiry: disciplinary perspectives and educational dynamics of bereavement caregiving. Using the method of hermeneutics to critically evaluate the first two research questions, three disciplinary fields of knowledge were examined and integrated from the perspective of pastoral care: funeral service, bereavement psychology, and practical theology. Each discipline individually converged upon meaningful caregiving, meaning-reconstruction, and meaning-reframing as significant modes of bereavement care. Using ethnographic semi-structured interviews to critically evaluate the remaining four research questions, data were collected from a Christian university and a mortuary college. The interview questionnaire included twenty-five main questions organized in four parts: Philosophy of Education, Hermeneutics of Bereaved Families, Care of Bereaved Families, and Encounter of Bereaved Families. The study utilized two cycles of qualitative coding techniques to report the findings of each participating school. A hybrid form of in vivo and holistic coding as well as a second cycle of pattern coding distilled the interview responses into actionable statements that reinforced bereavement caregiving. By synthesizing all of the findings, a compelling case was made for a paradigm of comforting presence supported by principles from a Louwian perspective of practical theology, including theological anthropology, promissiotherapy, bipolarity, and hermeneutics. The study connected a philosophy of meaning-reframing and a paradigm of comforting presence to a meta-theoretical framework within a narrative approach to care. The research elucidated an interdisciplinary understanding that contributed toward a compassionate practical theology of caregiving for the bereaved.
When three-month-old Lia Lee Arrived at the county hospital emergency room in Merced, California, a chain of events was set in motion from which neither she nor her parents nor her doctors would ever recover. Lia's parents, Foua and Nao Kao, were part of a large Hmong community in Merced, refugees from the CIA-run "Quiet War" in Laos. The Hmong, traditionally a close-knit and fiercely people, have been less amenable to assimilation than most immigrants, adhering steadfastly to the rituals and beliefs of their ancestors. Lia's pediatricians, Neil Ernst and his wife, Peggy Philip, cleaved just as strongly to another tradition: that of Western medicine. When Lia Lee Entered the American medical system, diagnosed as an epileptic, her story became a tragic case history of cultural miscommunication.
Parents and doctors both wanted the best for Lia, but their ideas about the causes of her illness and its treatment could hardly have been more different. The Hmong see illness aand healing as spiritual matters linked to virtually everything in the universe, while medical community marks a division between body and soul, and concerns itself almost exclusively with the former. Lia's doctors ascribed her seizures to the misfiring of her cerebral neurons; her parents called her illness, qaug dab peg--the spirit catches you and you fall down--and ascribed it to the wandering of her soul. The doctors prescribed anticonvulsants; her parents preferred animal sacrifices.