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Psychology of Death and Dying lecture notes up to January 28th, 2014

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Mary Theresa Howard

PSY3101- Psychology of Death and Dying January 7, 2014 Personal opinion papers: Fill in the questionnaire once for each paper. Leave answers from before on the second copy. Written in third-person, personal opinion. It can be anything as long as your name and student number is on it. Write about any personal experience. You must pick this paper up for the initial 5%. January 10, 2014 Video: FYI • Older video but the topics remain the same over time • What happens when we die? • Different answers based on different people • Religion can shape peoples’ views on death • “Death isn’t the end things continue on in different forms. Talk to the dead like they are still present” • Death is a complex subject, we can’t be sure what happens until we die • Stereotype: tunnel to a white light with God waiting for you at the end to bring you to heaven • Hard to believe there is more after death for some people • Bible says we either go to heaven or hell • A lot of different definitions of what heaven will look like depending on the person’s imagination • There will be no problems in heaven according to some • A lot of people fall back on faith to deal with the greater mysteries of life • People believe in religion because they want to believe that there is purpose to life • Without the deadline of death over our heads there would be no push to get things done • May live on in things you create • Different attitudes towards death Death Education Why take this course? • Trying to deal with crisis in their own life • Aftermath of unresolved death (past, present) • Vocational reasons: medicine, human resources, etc. going to have to deal with loses • Curiosity • Preparation for life Themes • Limitation and control: o Human beings are control freaks o Death is one thing we really can’t control o Lives are limited from moment we are conceived to moment we die and outside those things are areas we really don’t know about o Before birth and after death unknown o Human beings are pushing these limits • Individuality and community: o What impact would death have on the world and individuals? o What impact would the death of a political party have on society? o Death has an impact on individuality or a community depending on who and how • Vulnerability and resilience: o We are dynamic creatures continuing to evolve o We are extremely vulnerable o The smallest living thing (a virus) in the world can still kill us o We haven’t been able to cure everything, but we can postpone most terminal illnesses o Gone through thousands of years progressing our medicine and other things to prolong our lives o We are very resilient and managed to bounce back even against odds Goals • Enrich personal lives: o Remembered by the things we do when we die • Inform and guide in relationships with society: o Death is final which once thought of makes us feel bad • Prepare for public and professional roles: o Always very helpful to know about death o 1976 last sentence of death o Euthanasia: always been turned down o Allowing doctors to ease dying patients into their death • Women consistently live longer than men but the gap between the ages is getting smaller • Causes of death: Heart 32 %, cancer 23.5%, C.V 6.8%, C.O.P.D 4.5%, accidents 3.9%, “flu” (pneu) 3.6%,diabete 2.4%, H.I.V 1.8%, suicide 1.4%, liver disease 1.1% • Heart conditions and heart attacks/ lung cancer and disease are the single highest killer of women • Men have strokes from a blood clot, women have a stroke from a blood vessel bursting • Men pain down left arm • Women heaviness in her chest, tremendous pain between shoulder blades and pain in the jaw • Places of death: hospital 62%, nursing home 16.4%, residence 17%, other 3.8%, unknown .2% Reasons for New Patterns • Industrialization: o Used to live on their farm, died there then buried out on the farm • Public health measures: o Know causes, cures, and vaccinations • Preventative health care o Using path deaths to prevent • Modern cure-oriented medicine o Curing at all costs • Nature of contemporary families o We can go anywhere in the world with our technology now a days January 14, 2014 Video: Death- The Trip of a Lifetime • Death is the final frontier that everyone has to go to one day • Looking at how people prepare for death • Journey of grief, joy, fear and hope India o Believe that the world started in India at the forest of bliss. Kashi: the city of light o Come to this place to die as well as pray o Also the city of death. Dying in Kashi means liberation o People respond to death here as they do everywhere else in the world o Grieve and hope for a better existence in a better world o Surround themselves with images of death o Cremations go on 24 hours a day o Death is part of life not it’s opposite o Make death known, don’t hide it o Great cremation grounds o River is horribly polluted due to the dead but the people still drink this water because their spirits tell them the water is so pure o Using turtles to clean up the rivers Seattle Washington o Halloween: when the dead walk the streets o Try to repel and ignore or modify death o Forget why we do this o Surrounded ourselves with death for centuries o Death images can terrify, inspire o Use death in art o Practical death art can become death business o Death business can supersede all others o Halloween used to be when the Celtic warded off the evil spirits o Death isn’t frightening anymore because we see it coming o We have video games where you slaughter many people and you can die three times before you’re over o Watching a fictional death makes us seem safer Ashanti Empire o Depend on death for art o Creates thousands of yards of a certain cloth for funerals o It is stamped with symbols each with a different meaning o Adinkra Stamp: ex. Spider is a wise insect and symbolic for wisdom o Mercedes Benz represents money o Adinkra stamps and cloth help people focus and express their feelings o Design and make extraordinary coffins that relate to the person who is going to be placed inside them o All death art serves a purpose Pasquero Mexico st o October 31 is the night of the dead. Private meeting of descendants and ascendants o Jokes caresses and sleeps with death o Flowers handed out to give to the dead o Toys of death: to reduce death to just another being o Night of the dead serves the same purpose as Halloween but it hasn’t been stripped of its original meaning o Welcome the spirits of their ancestors o Give the spirits food but believe the spirits will take the taste out of the food o Truly believe this o Before the deceased arrive they go on top of the island to hold a service o Prayers read by family fathers o Tourists come to see this scene o They don’t see them as tourists but as guests o After a brief mass it becomes a private affair Whales o Dylan Thomas’s grave: he avoided looking death in the face until he had to o Japanese performed “the dance of birth and death” and one of the men actually died o One minute he was alive the next second he was dead like it is in the real life London o Church with people buried underneath it o London dungeon: youths fascination with the dead o Used to tell the tale of death on a memorial o Mummification is seen as a better idea than burial and cremation o If you immerse yourself in death you can’t be scared of it o Auctioning off coffins Taiwan o Year round cemetery type theme park o Buddha of death o Precious gold mountain o “King of happiness” o Tunnel through mountain called “trip of a lifetime” with images and artifacts representing all the stage in life o When you come out of this you should think death is natural St. John’s o Fourth graders learn about death in school o Giving homework on death o Thought that if you know what death is you won’t be scared o Learn to celebrate life o Students don’t feel as scared as before and feel more comfortable about it Troma films o Make death a comedy o Death is diminished by making it funny o Fascination with death on film is world wide o People use film as an experience to relieve some fear o Daredevils: dare the devil to take them away Washington o Dangerous street, most likely to get killed midnight – dawn o Having to watch over your back all the time o People who live there barely think about it anymore because they are attempting to take their neighborhood back o You can’t think with fear o It is people who make communities o Didn’t take control of themselves and they were passive people. Let bad people take control o Reduced the proximity of death in their lives o Death is not so familiar anymore Cambodia o The lives of individual people seem to mean nothing o Soldiers torture and kill people o Even when they move from this place they find that the fear is still with them o A lady is not blind because she saw too much. When she can sort of see with a blur there is pain o She was too close to the edge to come back o She will never feel safe o Chasm between life and death isn’t as scary as it seems o She can’t see any sort of death Video: Attitudes to Death • Death is the cessation of life • Attitudes towards death and the expression of these attitudes are a reflection of today’s society How is it reflected? • Language • Humor The good news: • We can fix the problem if you take these pills, one daily The bad news: • Here are four pills Humor • Old wants never die: they become needs • Old watchmakers never die: they just unwind • Old wool coats never die: they just become mothballed • Allows discussion • Momentary release from pain • Is an equalizer (treats the same) • Release and relief (means of coping for caregiver and patient) • “Once the game is over the king and the pawn go back into the same box” • “There are three natural anesthetics—sleep, fainting and death” How are attitudes disseminated? • Mass media • Literature • AIDS quilt • Music • Formal death education- new phenomenon • Visual arts • Nuclear power and arms forced confrontation • Removed from the concept of death by: o Euphemisms o Isolation of the process of dying o Technologies o Institutions o By the media Factors • The aging population • The prolongation of the process of death • The nuclear age • The psychology of “entitlement” – the rights of dying • Humane approaches vs. technologies – birth and dying • Meaningful confrontation of death • The age of transition – failure and death are not synonyms Death Education • Formal (curricula) and informal (media) • Courses in death and dying have increased • Many faculties • Many professionals • Provides the knowledge • Avoiding death doesn’t remove the person from its power – avoidance only limits choices • Past: home • Today: institution Factors • Life expectancy and morality rates • Causes of death • Geographic mobility • An elderly population • Life extending technologies Therefore there is a desire to: • To personalize a meaningful response to death • To make choices rather than conform Cultural Perspectives • No matter the culture, death attitudes represent an effort to rationalize or make sense of death • Afterlife – characteristic of a society that believes in myths • Myths: o Transgression vs. the gods; or the world’s fate o Death is welcome due to the weariness of life Common themes of Myths • Death is outside of the person and his/her control • Always the sense that somehow things can be fixed or changed • Recognition of our mortality • In many of these societies the dead are powerful beings and therefore there is a deep respect for them • Elaborate funerals were constructed to ensure that the dead passed over and were not a danger to the living • Death is just another stage in the process of living • In some cultures death is not natural – a result of a accident • With no visible reason for the death, the cause is attributed to some magical force • Diseases were not well understood • Unexpected death meant misfortune and possible retribution that required the community to make atonements History th 12 Century • Concept of death- awareness of one’s own • Death became important for each person • Religion- judgment would separate souls • Tally of life’s balance sheet • The supreme challenge • Wills were a testament to the person and not a disposition of wealth th 17 Century • Death of the other was emphasized- romantic • Religion gave way to reason • Common to know when they were dying • Death was beautiful, survivors were allowed to express their emotions • Initiation of ceremonies to help the survivors • Memorilization of the dead – elaborate, ceremonies, tombstones • Death accepted as inevitable and universal • Finality made less severe by the afterlife and by perpetuating the deceased th 19 Century • Others’ death overshadowed one’s own mortality 20 Century • Death moved to hospitals • Spare the dying and pain • Grief suppressed • Gentles recapture the traditional feelings • Death became taboo (“the invisible death”) Religion • Helps individuals remain reality-oriented • Religion can help to find this meaning for many: o When facing death we realize we are unable to complete our goals and probably cannot control the situation of our death o Human can spend their whole lives looking for the meaning of their lives o Finding meaning in death is even more difficult • Society has institutionalized the importance of religion by creating such rituals as the funeral • Some experts believe religion is a function of relieving anxiety o To bring about a restoration to normalcy o Other experts say that religion indeed increases fear Functions 1. Relieve Anxiety 2. Death anxiety beings about religious activities and rituals 3. Group activities and beliefs provide a potential threat of anxiety in order to unite the group thorough a common concern 4. This secondary anxiety is effectively removed through group rituals Assumptions • The meanings of death are socially ascribed • These meanings are ascribed through socialization • Anxiety is reduced through social co-operation • Religious institutions give participants a death anxiety that unites the members in a common concern • To be viable, these institutions must provide anxiety reduction – done with the afterlife concept Temporal interpretations of death • People tend to reject a belief in the afterlife • Tend to believe that death is the end • Focus on the needs and concerns of the survivors • Tend to present-orientation for themselves and present/future for others • Immortality is related to offspring and social relationships Afterlife • Questions and answers about death and the afterlife are a reflection of one’s beliefs and values and the nature of reality • The idea that there is life after death is one of man’s oldest beliefs • A key concept is that there is some form of judgment involved in the process Judaism • Death is the curse of Adam and Eve • Some Jews believe in the afterlife while others do not • God does not save them from death but rather saves Israel for history Hebrews • The hope was for a continuation of the generations and the preservation of history • Change from a feeling of resignation to one of hopefulness was gradual – the idea of salvation • There was also the idea that the body would rise from the dead at the end of time • Believed that the soul does not take the body but the body has life • One must live righteously to ensure survival of the community – there is a divine plan Christianity • Death is the beginning of the afterlife o Heaven o Hell o Limbo and purgatory • There is a theme of loss as typified through the funeral rites • Life, death and resurrection is the foundation of religion • Death vanquished by Christ’s resurrection • Dualism (existence of the body and soul) was a concept from Greeks – life determined fate of soul • Difference between interrelated concepts of resurrection and morality Islam • After death there is a judgment • God is just and compassionate • There is one God • There is an accountability of life – determined at judgment after death • Fundamentalists – believe and emphasize religious identity in all aspects of life Hindu • There are many gods and religious approaches • Belief in reincarnation and transmigration of the soul • After death the soul is absorbed into the oversoul • Punishment for evil is not being absorbed rather being reborn continuously • Transmigration of souls past determines present living • The being never dies and is constant • Attachment to the self causes present suffering o Must be free of selfhood to be released from the phenomenal world of death o Conquers death Buddhism • Many types • The goal is to experience nirvana or the state of peace and freedom from miseries of existence • Goal is the state of consciousness and not a location of the soul • Self is a process of change • There is no soul • Two kinds of death: o Continuous (passing show of experience) o Regular (cessation of vital body functions) • Must renounce the separate self • Last thought before death determines the next incarnation • Rebirth is determined by this thought and the past life • There are guides to the afterlife Greeks • The afterlife and world was not pleasant • Preoccupied with survival of the community – moral responsibility of being a citizen • There were some who believed immortality could be gained by religious cults and their practices Philosophers: • Pythagoras: life determined the souls fate after death • Socrates: the idea that the individual soul would survive after death • Plato: death is universal and serves to keep the living good Secular • There is no afterlife • Positivism (faith is science and empiricism) and humanitarianism (centers on humanism and rejects supernatural or religion) • Immortality – brotherhood of man, children are a continuation January 21, 2014 Video: Trip of a Lifetime- Letting Go • Trial run funeral used to be popular • During the plague people became interested in staging practice funerals to make the real thing less frightening • In Japan you can pay for a completely modern funeral with technology • Have a drive thru window to see the deceased from your car. Strictly promotional • What do funerals have to have to work for mourners and mournee? • Only thing we have to do when someone dies it get rid of the body • Unidentified bodies held over 30 days are by law suppose to be cremated but they don’t follow this regulation just in case the families are able to identify them • Process of getting rid of the body is never simple • Embalming bodies is popular in America to make the body look less like a body • Part of the grieving process can be sped up by viewing the body • Remove all the blood before adding preserving solution • Bodies become a piece of work that needs to be done • In Africa it can take years before they can afford funerals • Community involvement is a important process after death during a funeral. We care who carries the body • White Lady funeral- a caring alternative •
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