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PSYCH302A: Lifespan Development

Unit 6: The End of Life: Death and Grieving   A course on lifespan development would be incomplete without considering how humans perceive and cope with the end of life. Reflect for a minute on your earliest memories of dealing with the death of a family member, friend, or even a beloved pet. What did you think it meant when you heard that this person or animal had died? Did you understand that death is permanent and universal? What emotions did you experience and how did you express your grief? Now think about how your understanding of and feelings about death have changed as you have progressed through childhood to your current stage of life. As this unit will illustrate, there are many commonalities in how individuals perceive death at particular stages of the lifespan and in how people cope with the process of dying or with the loss of loved ones. But, as with development in any domain, there is also much individual variation in perceptions and feelings regarding death, reflective of variation in personality traits as well as in individual and cultural influences.
 
This unit begins with a broad consideration of the meaning of death and of developmental trends in our understanding of death from childhood through adulthood. Next, the unit examines common feelings about and ways of coping with dying, with special attention to the theory of Kübler-Ross and criticisms of that theory and to issues especially relevant in the last weeks and days of life. The unit concludes with a look at contemporary research on the grieving process.

Unit 6 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 3.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 6.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 6.2: .25 hours (readings for subunit 6.1 largely cover this subunit)

☐    Subunit 6.3: N/A (readings for subunit 6.1 also cover this subunit)

☐    Subunit 6.4: .75 hours

☐    Subunit 6.5: N/A (readings for subunit 6.1 also cover this subunit)

☐    Subunit 6.6: .5 hours

Unit6 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - describe what death means in biological terms; - identify and explain the five responses to dying that comprise Kübler-Ross’s theory; - discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Kübler-Ross’s theory and how it has been applied; - describe how understanding of the concept of death evolves from childhood to adolescence to adulthood; - discuss how to communicate with children of varying ages about death; - identify and explain factors that influence death anxiety; - describe three theories of death anxiety; - explain the controversy over the right of “dying with dignity;” and - describe contemporary research on the process of grief.

6.1 Defining Death   - Reading: PsyPlexus: Mental Health Reviews: Aditi Singh, Digvijay Singh, and S. H. Nizamie’s “Death and Dying” Link: PsyPlexus: Mental Health Reviews: Aditi Singh, Digvijay Singh, and S. H. Nizamie’s “Death and Dying” (HTML)

 Instructions: How do you personally define death as a biological,
personal, and cultural occurrence? After clicking on the link above,
read the review in its entirety. At the bottom of the first page,
click on “View Page 2” to access the second and final page of the
article. Note that this article also covers the material you need to
know for subunits 6.2.1, 6.3.1, 6.3.2, 6.4.1, 6.5.1, and
6.5.2.1-6.5.2.3.  

 Reading and analyzing this article should take approximately 2
hours.  

 Terms of Use: This work is licensed by PsyPlexus under a Creative
Commons Attriubution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 1.0 Generic License
(CC BY-NC-SA 1.0).

6.2 How Understanding of Death Changes across the Lifespan   6.2.1 Cognitive Understanding of Death in Childhood, Adolescence, and Adulthood   Note: This subunit is also covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 6.1.

  • Reading: Pallimed Case Conferences: Dr. Ellen M. Redinbaugh’s “What Do I Say to My Kids?” Link: Pallimed Case Conferences: Dr. Ellen Redinbaugh’s “What Do I Say to My Kids?” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this case study. The information presented focuses on how parents can discuss terminal illness with their children according to the development level of the children involved, allowing parents to tailor their approach without dismissing the feelings of their children.
     
    Reading this case study should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to Dr. Ellen Redinbaugh, and the original version can be found here.

  • Reading: Virginia Tech University: Marvin Hoffman’s “Death in the Classroom” Link: Virginia Tech University: Marvin Hoffman’s “Death in the Classroom” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this editorial, which offers information on dealing with death in the school, and how students, teachers, and parents alike go through various grieving processes at different rates and times.
     
    Reading this editorial should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to Dr. Ellen Redinbaugh, and the original version can be found here.

6.2.2 Discussing Death with Children and Adolescents   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 6.2.1. Use this reading to help you think about how to apply your knowledge of children’s understanding of death to most sensitively help children deal with the loss of family members and friends.

6.3 Death Anxiety   6.3.1 Personal Factors Associated with Death Anxiety   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 6.1. Focus on the section of this reading entitled, “Death Anxiety and Its Correlates”.

6.3.2 Theories of Death Anxiety   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 6.1. Focus on Freud’s concept of the death instinct as well as the terror and meaning management theories.

6.4 Kübler-Ross’s Theory of Dying   - Reading: Connexions: OpenStax College’s: “The Process of Aging” Link: Connexions: OpenStax College’s: “The Process of Aging” (HTML, PDF, or ePub)

 Instructions: After clicking on the link above, please scroll down
to and read in its entirety the section entitled “Death and Dying”
for a general overview on research and critical issues in the study
of death and dying, or thanatology. Also, scroll down further to the
“Short Answer” section of the page and complete Exercise 1. Note
that this reading also covers the material you need to know for
subunits 6.4.1 and 6.5.2.4. You may download the PDF or ePub version
of this text by clicking on the appropriate link under “Download” at
the bottom of the webpage.   

 Reading this resource and completing the quicz should take
approximately 30 minutes.   

 Terms of Use: This work is licensed by Rice University under a
Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY 3.0).

6.4.1 Stages of Kübler-Ross’s Theory: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance   Note: This subunit is covered by the readings assigned beneath subunits 6.1 and 6.4. Focus on the general behaviors and feelings that characterize individuals in each of these hypothesized stages of experience when facing death.

6.4.2 Criticisms of Kübler-Ross’s Theory   - Reading: Introduction to Psychology: “Late Adulthood; Aging, Retiring, and Bereavement” Link: Introduction to Psychology: “Late Adulthood; Aging, Retiring, and Bereavement” (HTML)

 Instructions: While Kübler-Ross’s work was groundbreaking, it has
been subject to serious criticisms in the decades since her theory
first appeared. After clicking on the link above, scroll down to and
read in full the section entitled “Death, Dying, and Bereavement.”  

 Reading this chapter should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: The textbook above is released under a [Creative
Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/)
(HTML) <span
style="color: rgb(35, 35, 35); font-family: Arial;">without
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6.5 Imminent Death   6.5.1 Physical Processes   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 6.1. What happens physically in the final days, hours, and minutes of life? 

6.5.2 Coping with Dying   6.5.2.1 Roles of Religion and Spirituality   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 6.1. How can religion or a broader sense of spirituality help those who know they are dying?

6.5.2.2 Psychotherapy   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 6.1. Psychotherapy may also help many terminally ill patients.

6.5.2.3 Palliative Care   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 6.1. What exactly is palliative care?

6.5.2.4 Dying with Dignity   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 6.4. What does it mean to “die with dignity” and why has this issue caused controversy? 

6.6 Contemporary Research on Grief   - Web Media: Groks Science Radio Show and Podcast: “Good Grief” Link: Groks Science Radio Show and Podcast: “Good Grief” (mp3)

 Instructions: After clicking on the link above, select “Listen to
Episode” to hear an interview with Columbia University Prof. George
Bonanno concerning his and others’ research on the experience of
grief.  

 Listening to this lecture should take approximately 30 minutes.   

 Terms of Use: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike License (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0).