"Many whānau manaaki received tohu from Atua and tūpuna when their kaumātua was preparing to pass through the ārai (veil) or had arrived safely on the other side."
Death is a time when the spiritual dimension is activated. There are many profound lessons that can be learned at this time and healing can be gained from observing everything that is going on at that time. Whānau often observe their kaumātua receiving affirming messages from wairua (spirit) and these provide encouragement. Many whānau who took part in the Pae Herenga study told us they received tohu (signs) from Atua (God) and tūpuna (ancestors) when their kaumātua was preparing to pass through the ārai (veil) or had arrived safely on the other side of the ārai. Feeling connected to the kaumātua and their tūpuna in this way was uplifting and comforting.
Grieving is helped by the ancient tikanga (customs) that were put in place by tūpuna to care for those who have died and those who remain. When we do not grieve effectively any pain and emotions that are stuck or still lingering (guilt, anger, blame, shame) can cause depression, anxiety and create dis-ease. When the losses pile up, one on top of the other, it can feel overwhelming. It is important to our health and wellbeing to release the mamae and free ourselves of these restrictions. Discussing and processing unhealed trauma before the kaumātua dies can be helpful. Talking with the kaumātua and others can be important in clearing the air and making peace.
The tangihanga process provides a supportive environment that celebrates the life of the kaumātua, and it provides a safe and supportive environment and atmosphere to say goodbye. However, tangihanga also provides a process where the older person’s life and death is reflected on repetitively during the ritual of pōwhiri; whānau pani and their loss is also acknowledged and the aroha of those present flows towards them in a healing embrace. In addition, having karakia (prayers), waiata (singing), rongoā and kai available to nurture and sustain mourners ensures that they are taken care of emotionally, physically and spiritually.
The tangihanga process provides a supportive environment that celebrates the life of the kaumātua, and it provides a safe and supportive environment and atmosphere to say goodbye.
Practicing spiritual beliefs is experienced as uplifting. For example, belief in Atua (God), tūpuna (ancestors), wairua (spirit), te ao wairua (the spiritual realm) and the eternal life of the spirit can bring comfort because whānau pani know where the wairua of their kaumātua will be traveling to after they die and they know that they will meet them again when they leave their bodies and return home.
Rongoā can help to relieve symptoms associated with loss and grief; rongoā can help to soothe aching tinana (bodies), hinengaro (minds) and wairua (spirits). In this way, grieving whānau can be strengthened to express their mamae (emotional pain) as they transition slowly through te kore (a state of intense darkness symbolising their deep and all-encompassing mamae), through te pō (symbolising deep sadness), before gradually entering into a state of te ao marama (symbolising a more settled wairua, hinengaro and tinana). The grieving process is a cycle (not linear); our lives move upwards, downwards, backwards and forwards, when we are grieving. When whānau draw on the tikanga and kawa left by their tūpuna (ancestors) this can really help to soothe their mamae.