Spiritual care

Spiritual support at time of death

When death is approaching whānau manaaki often gather near the beloved kaumātua. Typically, this is a time when prayers are said. The older person is never left on their own at this stage. Family and friends gather together to comfort the dying, and to ease the mamae (emotional pain) of the grieving whānau. Kaumātua may provide te ōhākī (final instructions) to their whānau for example. They may wish to leave information about the disposal of their possessions, transference of their lands and taonga (treasured objects) and their preferences for the succession of their leadership role in the whānau or iwi.

During this time is it very common for the person that is approaching the ārai (veil) to see or speak to ancestors on the other side. Whānau manaaki draw comfort from this knowing that the kaumātua will be taken care of once they leave their body and depart for their spiritual home with their tūpuna. Karakia are important to care for the residue of energy when someone is close to death or has died; this includes the practice of whakanoa (cleansing rituals to protect humans), and whakawātea (clearing rituals to protect the environment). Prayers can be said when the body is handled, and while being moved (to a funeral home or to its final resting place). Prayers are said to cover tangihanga (death customs and funerals), and kawe mate (post-death memorial rituals). Underpinning these customs is the belief in tapu (restrictions, under atua protection) and the lifting of tapu. Another way this happens (to remove tapu and return things to an ordinary state) after a tangihanga is to have a hākari (feast) following the nehu (burial) or cremation.

Tangi (tears) are seen as a way to heal the body, as many of the customs relate to the way water moves and are connected to the body. Crying is seen as healing and should be seen as a good sign and not as a sign of distress. Although there should be a natural process of going in and out of tangi, much like the breath or waves that rise and fall to the natural rhythm of the ocean. Water is also used for spiritual cleansing rituals to remove tapu and restore noa (to be free from the restrictions of tapu).

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