The life expectancy in Haiti is 61 years for a man and 64 years for a woman due to the extreme poverty, disease and lack of medical care available.
Death is very much the centre of most Haitians’ lives.
The Haitian Christians follow much of the traditions that belong to the Christian faith but family members will bathe their loved ones who have died to cleanse and prepare them for their afterlife.
Those that follow Voodoo have different rituals and believe that the soul of their loved one remains on earth for a week after their death.
A religious person in the form of a priest of priestess performs a ritual in which the deceased’s soul is released so that it can stay in the dark water for 366 days. If this does not take place, the soul of the deceased is left to wonder the earth and becomes a bad omen.
Once the soul has remained in the dark waters for 366 days, another ritual is performed in which the soul is called to a clay jar named a ‘govi’ and will be recognised as guidance and support for the bereaved family.
For those that can afford funeral services in Haiti may have planned for it and bought a crypt and the significance of that will depend on how important they want the deceased to be perceived. They may even pay for mourners to attend.
Poor Haitian families may rent a place of burial for their deceased loved one; and those who simply cannot afford a funeral or coffin may abandon their loved one altogether so they are not forced to pay for a burial they do not have the money for.
Deals with the bereaved are struck by freelance undertakers at the cemetery gates, thee are reports of grave robberies where a grave has been paid for but sold on, and darker still, accusations of those working in morgues have set out to kill people to keep their business afloat.
It is not unusual to see human bones and other remains overground in cemeteries which contradicts the religious beliefs of Haitians but certainly proves the poverty within he country.
Cremation is not popular due to Haitian belief that a deceased body should remain intact for one’s spirit to pass over into the afterlife.
Every year, Ancestry Day is observed by Haitians on 2nd January because their cultural values are of honouring the deceased. Regardless of title, wealth or religious beliefs, the deceased’s legacy is continued on this holiday, with parades, festivals and shared meals amongst families taking place.