PSY 802 Study Guide - Final Guide: Suicidal Ideation, Stillbirth, Waheguru
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Chapter 1: The Challenge of Death
A History of the Portrayal of Death
The Ancient Perspective
•Interest in the area of death and dying and bereavement, called thanatology, has been sporadic.
•Death is not a natural outcome of life, but a curse imposed on human kind by a vengeful power in retribution for
•In the Bible’s book of Genesis, Adam and Eve, is told to explain the origins of death and suffering. God gave Adam
and Eve a perfect place to live, the Garden of Eden. Their only restriction was that they could not eat from the Tree of
Knowledge. Eve was tempted by the Devil and she ate the fruit and so did Adam. God discovered this and in anger
punished them by sending them to a world where they would be masters but they would know what pain and death
•Sir James Frazer found four categories that the majority of death origin myths fit into:
1. The two messengers: Prevalent in Africa. This tale is about how God sends two animal messengers to
humankind. The first is charged with God’s message that human beings will not die. The second animal must
deliver the message that human beings will die. The second messenger was fast and that was the message
received by the humankind, which was human beings will eventually die.
2. The waxing and waning moon: In these tales, the people lived, died and then lived again in cycles, like the
waxing and waning of the moon. In some way, human beings lost this ability, leaving only the moon to
remind them of their former abilities. The Hindu beliefs in the rebirth of the soul for into this category: the
Yogic spiritual tradition of the Vedas, tells us of the death of the body but the rebirth of the soul in a new
3. The serpent and his cast skin: This is typified by the Melanesian myth in which God who hated snakes, sent a
messenger to tell people to shed their skins in renewal and so live eternally. The messenger was also directed
to tell snakes to shed their skins and die. The messenger however made an error and reversed the messages so
that fate was sealed: “snakes lived forever” and human being die.
4. The banana tree: People ask God for something other than what has been given to them. In the version told in
the Celebes, the people ask for a change from the food that God has been giving them, and God lets down a
stone on a rope. People protest and God next lets down a banana on a rope, which people receive happily. But
God tells them that in punishment for their demands they will be like the banana tree and die after they have
produced their own fruit, children.
•Conviction of afterlife was believed in Egypt. The individual was thought to have at least 4 types of soul, which
would live on in various ways after the death of the body. The Great Tombs of Egypt, the Pyramids, stand as a tribute
to the Egyptian belief in immortality, providing a dwelling and a place to store items needed for life after death.
Death was not an end but a transition to another plane of existence,
•The ancient Greeks regarded death a passage into afterlife as well. But that afterlife was not pleasant. Homer in the
Odyssey, made this so. In 1000BC Odysseus travels to the land of the dead where he meets dead heroes and friends
who wish for the joys of an earthly existence. Plato, in The Republic, paints a picture of an afterlife that has hell and
heaven. After spending 1000 years in one of these realms, the individual may choose to be reborn as human or
animal. 00 BCE
•The ancient Israelites, before 600 BC, regarded death as a transition to a shadowy underworld where life went n in a
limited fashion. After 600 BCE, when the belief in monotheism developed the belief in the underworld, Sheol
continued. Existence was marginal and the dead were isolated from living people and from God. From the Babylon
captivity to the 4th century, death still meant a transition to Sheol, but now people who had been good and faithful
were expected to be resurrected to live for another 500 years. Then they died again and remained dead for eternity.
Virtuous people were thought to live very long and have many children.
•After the invasion of the Palestine by Alexander the Great, the belief changed to the idea that all the dead will be
judged by God and sent to an eternal reward or eternal punishment. As time went on, emphasis was placed on living
the virtuous life.
•The advent of Christianity in the first century brought a belief in death leading to an afterlife to be determined by the
individual’s deeds and beliefs while living. The Islam shared this belief. Both religions see death as the ending of
only life on earth; life eternal after death.
The Classification of Philippe Aries
•Social historian Phillipe Aries examined the history of Western culture’s view of death from a psychological
oHe stated that a society’s view of death was organized around the individuals’ self-awareness, the defense of
society against the uncontrollability of nature, the belief in afterlife, and the belief in the existence of evil.
From these themes, Aries derived 5 models of death:
1. The Tame Death: Society’s aim is to tame death through ceremonies and rules in the belief system. The
individual is connected to this or her society. When an individual dies all society is affected and weakened.
Thus the society feels insecure and anxious and vulnerable to defend itself. Ceremonies are done to represent
the death and it is a celebration that the society rejoices in its ability to absorb the death and to reaffirm the
continuity of society. The afterlife is considered a place where the dead wait for final judgment. The dead
who have been virtuous may sleep peacefully but those who did not, can’t rest and may return to haunt the
oAries states that to tame this aspect of death, society makes rules that the dead can return only on
certain days such as Halloween or Hallows Eve, when society can guard itself against the effects
of the dead’s’ return.
oSome ceremonies keep the dead asleep so that they will not return to haunt anybody.
2. The Death of the Self: In large societies, the concept of individualism predominates. A person is no loner
regarded as interwoven within society and is seen as a distinct being whose destiny lies apart from other
people. In many, societies the individual death was concealed with a ceremonial covering of the dead
person’s face and removal of the body to a casket, which often remain closed. At death the individual who
had been so distinct in life was expected to continue being distinct. The dead could control and indicate their
wishes from beyond the grave. The dead were seen as asserting their individual identities through their wills.
The dead were living in some fashion in the afterlife either in Heaven or Hell.
3. Remote and Imminent Death: According to Aries, before the 16th century, death had been tamed by the
ceremony and belief system surrounding it. Then change took place and death started to be seen as violent.
By 18th century the Western word ad experienced technological advances. Pain and pleasure were intermixed
and death was imbued with an erotic tinge felt by the individual (hence the term “remote” in its removal from
common experience and “imminent” in its closeness to human sexual experience. A new fear developed,
which was the fear of being buried alive.. The first mechanism for alerting people that the corpse was alive.
For example, there was a string thrown into he coffin that was attached to a bell and so if the dead rung the
bell it meant they were alive.
4. The Death of the Other: The 19th century with the advances in agriculture and industry strengthened the
sense of family. The individual was seen as part of the family, a unit smaller than family but greater than an
individual. The anxiety of death was no longer just about the individual but also about their loved ones. In
consequence a person’s own death was no longer seen as an evil but as a state to be desired as it meant
reunion with the deceased loved ones.
The whole concept of evil changed and the conception of Hell was diminished and the idea of
Purgatory (waiting/purifying place for the less than virtuous, predominated among Catholics).
Heaven was seen as a place for reunification with God. Some did not believe in afterlife.
5. The Invisible Death: Until the 20th century death had been a visible part of life, with the family and
community responsible for grieving and sending the dead to the next life. However, in the 20th century death
became dominated by the concept of success. Death represented the failure of medical science. To cope with
this failure compassion was shown to a dying person that death was imminent. The scene shifted from the
family home and familiar beside to the hospital in which medical science prolonged life to the point of
6. A Contemporary View: Elizabeth Kubler Ross, talked to people who were dying and their families abut
death as it pertained to them and she asked how they felt about their situation. This was regarded as horrific
and thought it would do more harm than good. The major point is that people were talking about death. In the
model of Aries (2004_ death is no longer viewed as evil but the process of now dying now. With medical
advances people live longer and can prolong their life. To many the thought of being in the hospital and
suffering is more fearful than death itself.
In addition to literature, new methods of caring for the dying and for the families had been formed.
Care for the dying aimed at reliving symptoms to improve the quality of time remaining and not
directly intended to prolong life or bring about a cure is called palliative care (coined by Dr. Balfour
Palliative care can take place in the patients’ home, in a hospital or in a setting devoted to the care of
terminally ill patients, known as hospice.
The History of Hospice Palliative Care
•Hospices were instituted and maintained by Christian religious orders in the Middle Ages as shelters for the poor, ill
oMadame Jeanne Garnier in France founded the Dames de Calvaire, a hospice for the terminally ill
oIn Dublin Ireland, 1879, the Irish Sisters of Charity opened Our Lady’s Hospice for needy and sick seniors.
They expanded their work to London’s East End, in 1905, opening St. Joseph’s Hospice to care for the
victims of tuberculosis.
oDame Cicely Saunders, British physician, opened St. Christopher’s Hospice in 1967, which has become the
preeminent model for hospice care throughout the world.
oThe palliative care movement started in Canada in 1974 with the formation of specialized units and beds
Education in Death, Dying, And Bereavement
•Corr, Nabe and Corr (2006) discussed 6 goals of education in thanatology:
i. Personal enrichment: Most people cope better when they have info about the situation they are facing.
Knowing about death allows individuals to face the facts that life is a terminal condition.
ii. Plans for the future: People need to know what decisions they will need to make and the resources that will be
available to them for their own death and the death of their loved ones. The study of thanatology helps people
make informed choices.
iii. Participation in society: Decision about end-of-life issues need to be made on a broad basis. Municipal,
provincial or territorial and federal policy decision about the resources available to people at the end of life
must be governed by the will of the citizens. Thanatology, the individual can make informed choices in
directing governing power to allocate resources and to provide guidelines for the adminis of these resources.
iv. Professional and vocational training: People that deal with death and dying need information on it to work
effectively. For example, medical personnel need to know about the psychological, social, emotional, and
spiritual needs of terminally ill patents to give them the best possible care in their final days and to help their
v. Communication: The topic of death and dying is hard to discuss. Education in this area makes communication
with others about death easier. For example, it becomes easier to discuss end of life issues without trying to
avoid the subject. People who want to do and say the right things when dealing with a bereaved person have a
better idea of what the right things are with an education in thanatology.
vi. Understanding the continuing effects of bereavement: By studying death, dying and bereavement, people
can understand the different feelings and reactions to death throughout the life span and how issues faced at
one developmental point may need to be addressed and worked through at other developmental points. The
person who has studied thanatology knows that the question of how long it takes to get over the death of a
loved one often depends on what is meant by “get over”.