Loss and grief pūrākau

Te Ipu Aronui - Kete Aronui

"Not only is this pūrākau the first love story recorded, it is also the first story of heartbreak and loss."

The first pūrākau belongs to Ranginui (Sky Father) and Papatūānuku (Earth Mother). The couple were entwined in such a close and intimate embrace that their love smothered their children. It was a time of intense darkness, known as Te Kore. Many of their children, but not all, wanted to bring light to their world. For example, Tāwhiri-mātea (God of weather patterns) did his best to try and stop Tāne Mahuta from achieving his goal of locating and retrieving knowledge.

Despite numerous attempts by different siblings, Tāne finally separated their parents (he is known by many names including Tāne Mahuta, God of the Forest). Upside down, Tāne placed his hands on his mother’s body and his legs against his father and used his strength to push his parents, Ranginui and Papatūānuku apart. Te Kore (the intensely darkest night) was slowly transformed, shade by shade, into Te Pō (the night) and Te Pō was slowly transformed, shade-by-shade, into Te Ao Mārama (daylight).

Torn from the arms of Papatūānuku, Ranginui now looked down upon his beloved from the skies. Their love was unending, and their loss brought great mamae (emotional pain) creating never-ending tears. There are many references made within speeches and songs about the deep love Ranginui and Papatūānuku had for each other as well as the deep mamae they experienced when they were separated.

"Each whānau manaaki kete is woven with the cultural and spiritual values that they choose to guide and support their grief process."

Te Kete Aronui

Tāne’s journey to obtain Kete Aronui was important because this kete (basket) contained information about aroha (love, care, compassion), arts, crafts and rituals to benefit humankind and all living things. For example, this kete informs knowledge of the tikanga (customs) and kawa (ceremonies) that support whānau as they care for their dying, express their grief as whānau pani (bereaved families), and plan and carry out tangihanga (funeral customs), kawe mate (mourning ceremonies at subsequent tangihanga) and hura kōhatu (unveiling) ceremonies.

In the Māori creation pūrākau (story) Hine-Titama (first natural born woman) transformed herself into Hine-Nui-Te-Pō (often translated as the ‘Maiden of the night’ or the ‘Goddess of death’). Hine-Titama left Earth to live in Te Pō (which some call Rarohenga), the realm beyond this time and space. She is the eternal loving mother who resides in the underworld (some refer to this place as the ‘heavenly realm’ or the ‘underworld’). Hine-Nui-Te-Pō waits to receive her children’s wairua (spirit) when they leave their bodies, and earthly home, leaving their father Tāne to remain on Earth to care for and protect the living.

Each whānau manaaki kete is woven with the cultural and spiritual values that they choose to guide and support their grief process; aroha (loving, compassionate, empathic care) incorporates the emotional and practical support for bereaved whānau. Spiritual care runs across and through every aspect of living and dying and it includes the emotional, physical and spiritual care of whānau pani.

Hiki te mamae, hiki te pōuri, hiki te taumaha - Lifting the weight of grief

Grief can place a great burden upon the whānau who remain after someone has died, and although it is emotionally, physically and spiritually painful, grief is a normal part of living. Grief accompanies loss and Māori accept that its expression is a natural part of the human life cycle. Everything that is created will change, transform and eventually perish. Whānau can experience grief at different times and phases during the older person’s end of life. Particularly as the older person’s illness progresses; each new loss, little and big, is mourned. For example, loss is experienced when kaumātua become unwell and can no longer work or they lose their independence and cannot drive. Whānau may experience a sense of loss when the older person can no longer enjoy their favourite foods, lose physical mobility, or suffer from mental incapacity (as with dementia). When the kaumātua dies, the thought of not seeing them again physically, is heart breaking. This experience has a ripple effect back to other losses and these too will be mourned again, and again over the life course. We have provided some information and links for you to access information:

Grief and loss support (resources)

Information about grief and grief support. There is information about support groups across the country for whanau experiencing bereavement.

Information about sources of support for whanau bereaved by suicide:

We support people of all ages throughout New Zealand who are facing any kind of tough life situation, but we specialise in grief, loss and trauma.

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