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P-68 Singing to a dead infant: how music therapy promoted and valued cultural difference
  1. Victoria Swan
  1. Demelza, Hospice Care for Children, Sittingbourne, UK


Background It has long been acknowledged that death is beyond a biological phenomenon but a social and cultural one, which is understood within complex cultural meanings. This presentation outlines music therapy support, delivered to a Yoruba infant and his mother, through end of life care and post death.

Methods In the Yoruba culture, death is not perceived as the end of life, but a transition through existence. Therefore it was a priority and responsibility to respect and adapt to the mother’s emotional, spiritual and cultural beliefs. This presentation will discuss how a Music Therapist valued and responded to the cultural beliefs of a Yoruba mother through end of life care for her baby, and subsequently by singing to her deceased baby, providing the mother with reassurance through feedback. The issues encountered as a practitioner around culture will be explored during the presentation.

Results This grieving mother desperately wanted her child’s next life to be a healthy one. In her belief, the music therapy made this happen. The mother’s response to this intervention was ‘You don’t know what this means to me.’ Although cultural knowledge is a key component to culturally competent intervention, skills of communication rather than mastery of cultural traits, underpinned the therapeutic support. A recommendation for professionals working in palliative care will be made to take a broader view around cultural elements of death, with the emphasis being on skills such as communication.

Conclusions The playing of music was viewed as vital to guide the baby’s soul to find his next life. This work challenges the notion of cultural competency in therapeutic intervention within palliative care. Skilful and compassionate communication with the family enabled the Music Therapist to value, promote and support cultural difference.

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