Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2008


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Counselor Education and Supervision (ExCES)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Lisa Lopez Levers

Committee Member

William J. Casile

Committee Member

Emma Mosley


Botswana, ethnographic examination, cultural rituals, widows, death and loss, counseling


The purpose of this investigation was to examine experiences of widows in Botswana regarding the performance of cultural rituals, as they mourned their husband's deaths. The study sought to find out aspects of the rituals that enhanced or hindered healing; and how insights and knowledge gained from the results of the investigation can inform culturally relevant and sensitive psychosocial interventions. The study involved two focus group discussions and seven key informants from two villages in the Northern and Central districts of Botswana. A semi-structured interview guide was used to collect data through focus group discussions which were video-recorded; data from the key informants was captured through note-taking.

The results of the study revealed that if cultural rituals were undertaken timely by a designated elder, they provided grieving widows with multiple sources of support, and thus, enhanced healing. However, when the tradition protocol was disorganized, widows reported feeling insurmountable pain and emotional hurt and perceiving elder attitude as that of neglect. Cultural rituals carry specific and special meanings to widows and their community; as such, they are observed to satisfy personal needs, comply with societal expectations, as well as prevent mysterious and lethal ailments that are believed to be harbored by a new widow.

Despite the comfort and solace that widows said they enjoyed from the support provided by elders and performance of traditional rituals, widows reported experiencing other issues that did not fall under the realm of the cultural practices, which were subsequently not addressed. Widows expressed feelings of loneliness, intrusive thoughts, overwhelming pain, and extreme anxiety regarding their future without their husbands. In some instances, these experiences were compounded by struggle with their in-laws over the deceased's estate, pointing to the need for legal and psychosocial supports.

Traditional and professional interventions represent two compatible approaches of care to grieving widows, but they are provided to the same population in a noncollaborative way by service providers. If these approaches could be combined, they would ensure a comprehensive, culturally appropriate, and sensitive service. The findings of this investigation call for recognition of traditional culture during counseling interventions and their incorporation into counselor education and supervision programs.