Lecture #9 Death Psych

Death & Dying
Attitudes & Stages
Based on the work of Dr. Kubler Ross
Attitudes towards Death
 Death less familiar in 20th century due to
social & technological changes
life-extending technologies increases chances
of survival
also 80% of contemporary deaths take place
in hospitals, nursing homes and other formal
 death removed from everyday life
Attitudes towards Death
 New attitude towards death has developed
i.e., death should be invisible
attitude referred to as death denied
 attitude makes death private rather than public
 denies mourning - grief expressed only privately
 community life goes on as if nothing happened
includes funeral rites that erase signs of death
 coffins become caskets
 morticians beautify dead bodies
Impact of Attitude
 Most people uncomfortable about death
confusing message to children about death
 Dying people placed in formal setting, few
 assign care to specialists
contact with death is routine & impersonal
 leave definition of death to medical science
 the dying often experience a social death
before their biological death
Impact of Attitude
 Rather not use term die - prefer to use terms
such as pass away, no longer with us, gone
to heaven.
 Caskets closed - do not view death
 Children kept away from funerals and burials
Death Awareness Movement
 Death awareness movement emerged in
70’s lack opportunities to learn about death.
 Pushed into facing death & dying due to
contemporary social issues; abortion, AIDS,
drug abuse, & alcoholism.
 Movement challenged isolation of dying,
promoted idea of the good death
dying person surrounded by family & friends
minimal technological interference
lead to development of death education.
The Dying Process
 Research of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has
influenced how we accept deaths.
 Kubler-Ross worked within a psychoanalytic
interviewed 200 dying patients
 She proposed 5 distinct stages through which
individuals pass.
 Stages are distinct but not necessarily
progressive, likely to overlap
 Denial is the 1st stage “Not me”
refusal to believe news of impending death
 Anger 2nd stage - “Why me?”
 anger likely to be displaced on caregivers
 Bargaining is the 3rd stage - “Yes me but...”
- bargaining with a higher being for more time.
 Depression - 4th stage - “Yes me” - begin to
acknowledges and mourns impending loss
represents natural grieving process of
separation from loved ones and life
 Acceptance, the final stage, reached only if
individual allowed to express and work out
earlier feelings.
 Lifelong Growth
growth is still possible for the dying person
apologies, regrets, forgiveness & to express love.
also need time for introspection, reminiscing &
affirming beliefs.
These tasks require growth & change