Celebrating life and death: Resiliency among post-earthquake tibetans’ religious community

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8 Citations (Scopus)


When the Sichuan earthquake occurred in 2008, some “Chinese psychological experts” brought harm to the local survivors by immediately focusing on the pathological effects of trauma and on diagnosing PTSD. Since then, more awareness of a culturally-sensitive approach to psychological relief work during emergencies and disasters has been raised locally and internationally. In 2010, when an earthquake shook the Tibetan community of Yushu in Qinghai, China, my on-site involvement in long-term voluntary relief work there allowed me to gather anthropological data on the survivors’ healing process as they dealt with loss and poverty. In this paper, I have used a case-study approach to illustrate elements of resiliency within the community of Tibetan survivors. Four distinctive vignettes are narrated to highlight the Tibetan “open-hearted” attitude as a way to celebrate life and embrace grief. The first case illustrates a “good death” of a terminally ill Tibetan survivor and how her sky burial modeled a cosmology and spirituality of “cel-ebrating death.” The next 3 cases are stories of “celebrating life” with emerging themes of resilience, including receiving support from extended families, living life for a deceased, and finding happiness in helping others. This study suggests that modern psychologists have much to learn from the life-celebrating and resilience of this ethnic community in China. When providing psychological relief aid, a new paradigm of care is needed, and religion could play a pivotal role in recovering the strengths of the suffering individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-132
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychology and Theology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes

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