Death & Dying Dr. Jim Guinee University of Central Arkansas Counseling Center

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Death & Dying
Dr. Jim Guinee

University of Central Arkansas Counseling Center
I. Introductions, Opening Remarks
II. Is anyone really ready to experience a loss?
Q: Why would you not plan for a trip you know you have to take?

III. What is Death?

A. Death is clearly a biological event

“The statistics on grieving are impressive: one out of every one person dies.”

[George Bernard Shaw]
B. Disagreement about death comes with respect to:

why we die, what happens after we die

C. Religious/spiritual issues come up a LOT with respect to death/dying

-Encourage a dialogue

-Shaking one’s faith

-Providing comfort

IV Death in a Socio-Historical Context
A. Historical-Cultural Perspectives on the Burial and the Afterlife
1. Ancient Egypt: It was believed that when the body was placed in an elaborate tomb,

its spirits would depart and late return through a series of ritualistic actions

2. Ancient Greece: About 1000BC the Greeks began to cremate their dead. The belief

in the power of the flame to free the soul acted as a strong impetus to the practice of

cremation. Cremation did not supersede earth burial.
3. Roman Empire: Romans envisioned some type of afterlife, and like the Greeks,

practiced both cremation and earth burial.

4. Anglo-Saxon England: The body of the deceased was placed on a brier or a hearse.

On the corpse was laid the book of the Gospels as a symbol of faith and the cross

as a symbol of hope.
[Source: “Contemporary Adulthood,” Turner & Helms, 1989, pp. 492-493]
5. Sitting Shiva: A seven day mourning period that begins immediately after the funeral

of a loved one. Biblical references include Genesis and Job.

B1. Historical background of grieving in United States culture
1. Death as a public moment

2. Bereaved encouraged to express emotions

3. During this time family/friends play an important role

4. Death was much more common earlier in life

5. A poetic example of the ubiquitousness of death
My childhood’s home I see again, Where many were, but few remain

And sadden with the view; Of old familiar things

And still, as memory crowds my brain, But seeing them, to mind again

There’s pleasure in it too. The lost and absent brings.

Near twenty years have passed away The friends I left that parting day,

Since here I bid farewell How changed, as time has sped!

To woods and fields, and scenes of play, Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray,

And playmates loved so well. And half of all are dead.

B2. Contemporary experiences of grieving in United States Culture
1. Death not a popular subject in conversation (as opposed to media)

2. Death a subject people avoid

3. Death has gradually withdrawn from everyday life

4. Fewer public moments, more private moments

5. Less ceremony now, more focus on "getting over it" and "getting on with one's life"
Q: Experiences with minimizing those public moments?
V. Importance of studying grief reactions
A. Everyone has the painful experience of loss
B. Our culture poorly understands, poorly responds to grieving individuals

  1. The psychological responses to grieving are fairly common

  1. Applying the pattern of grieving the deceased to other losses

VI. Complicated Bereavement
A. Defined as…
B. Other examples of complicated bereavement include
1. Bereavement Overload

2. Mummification (“Ordinary People”)

3. Frozen Grief (“Sanford Jones”)

VII. The basis for “normal” grieving

          1. Common cognitive and behavioral reactions in grief

-Preservation of personal effects

-Attachment to physical reminders

-Constant thinking, obsession, even “illusions”

-Dreams of the deceased
B. Mourners are “different”
-Seen in the “custom of seclusion”

a) allowing survivors to shelter their grief from world

b) preventing survivors from forgetting their deceased too quickly
C. Manifesting grief
-People experience a wide range of emotions, especially early on
D. The course of grief
1. Shock/Denial
Q: How can compartmentalizing grief be useful? How can it hurt us?
2. Fear C.S. Lewis: No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the

sensation is like being afraid…There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I

want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If they would talk

to one another and not to me...

3. Longing
4. Anger

5. Depression
6. and finally…Acceptance
Freud: We find a place for what we lose. Although we know that after such a loss, the acute

stage of mourning will subside, we also know that we shall remain inconsolable and will never find a substitute. No matter what may fill the gap, even if it be filled completely, it nevertheless remains something else.

Tasks include a) Accepting the Reality of the Loss

b) Experiencing the Pain of Grief

c) Adjusting to your life in which a loved one is now gone

d) Withdrawing Emotional Energy, Reinvesting It

E. Some additional thoughts:
-A cup of water

-The analogy of WAVES

-Spontaneous relapses then are common
VIII. Factors that influence grieving
-Q: What do you think affects the grieving process?
Affected by:

IX. Children and Death
A. Some Thoughts

 Children have a very hard time understanding death as a concept (remember Piaget’s stages)

-Children: ages 0-5 death equated with departure, seen as temporary (i.e., sleep)

ages 5-9 death can be undone; might not be permanent

B. Development of children’s understanding of death:

1. Death is permanent

2. Death is universal

3. Death is nonfunctional

C. Typical questions children ask
D. Suggestions: -Avoid euphemisms

-Taking a child to a funeral service?

-Be open and honest

-Plan on revisiting the issue REPEATEDLY

-Remember the stages of grief


HANDOUT: How to talk to children about death (G. Koocher)

X. Some interventions

  1. Shakespeare said it best

“Give sorrow words: The Grief that does not speak knits up the o’erwrought heard and bids it break.”

B. The Grief Circle (Guinee, 1995)
Choose someone in your life that you loved but now he/she is now gone. Put that person’s name in the middle of the page, and then draw a circle around it. Draw another circle around the first one, and keep making bigger circles until you run out of room.
Each circle represents a group of people in this person’s life who had the same “emotional attachment.” The closer the circle to the middle, the more emotionally attached these people were to the person listed.
Now begin writing names of people who have grieved this loss. Which circle do they belong in? Which circle do YOU belong in?
C. Death education
-Teach self, others what NOT to say:
“God must have had something important for him/her to do”

“You’re not still sleeping in the same bed, are you?”

“You have to be strong for your children”

“You need to get on with your life”

D. If they left…
Each person has five pieces of paper and writes down three things very important to them

Place papers in front of them, and when the whistle blows they are to take one item from

the person sitting directly on their left. If they are touched on the shoulder, this means

they have died and must leave the room. Discuss then how it felt to lose this person?

How was it for the person who was sitting to their right (and left)?
E. Writing letters [e.g., “Dear God, I am angry…”]
F. Helping yourself and others respond to grief
1. It is ok to not want to let go right away

2. You will never completely let go

3. No longer feeling bad doesn’t mean no longer loving the person

4. It is good to talk to others and let others talk to you

5. Don’t be surprised if others react differently to this person’s death than you do

6. Be patient with yourselves and others

7. Do not be surprised that a death will affect many areas of your life

8. What is “normal” and “abnormal” more often a matter of how long rather than what

9. Plant seeds of hope

10. Let us know if we can help

XI. Book Suggestions XII. Website Suggestions
1. C.S. Lewis 1. A website on pet bereavement

"A grief observed"

ISBN 0-7861-7861-2

2. Grief over the loss of a child

2. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

"On death and dying"

ISBN 0-6848-4223-8 3. Grief Recovery Institute

3. Staudacher, C.

“Beyond Grief: A guide for recovering from the death of a loved one.”

ISBN: 0-934986-43-6

4. Kenneth J. Doka, Charles A. Corr (Editor), Bruce Jenning (Editor)

"Living with Grief: Ethical Dilemmas at the End of Life"

ISBN: 1-8933-4906-3

XIII. Bible References for the bereaved

Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

Psalm 116:15 “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.

Isaia 57:1-2 “The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.”

Isaia 51:11 “So the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

Jeremiah 49:11 “Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; let your widows trust in Me."

John 14:3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

2 Corinthians 5:8 “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”

Revelation 21:4 “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

[Translation: New King James Version]

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