Book Review: Understanding Dying, Death, and Bereavement

Antonia Wadell


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The research was based on interdisciplinary subject of social thanatology to further explain the process of dying, death and bereavement. The main objectives are to sensitize people to the subject of dying, death and bereavement, to aid those who have experienced loss of a love one to help individuals examine their own feelings and reactions to death and grieving, to make readers aware of different cultural groups’ death and bereavement. The topics cover cross-cultural examples of traditions, customs and burial rites through end of life issues. The different theories are introduced from Piaget cognitive stages of development, Durkheim’s four type of suicide, and Erickson’s developmental stages through suggested readings from latent functions of a funeral. Current issues of death and dying are covered in the research and the legal issues of death in today’s society. The scholarly and academically is practical for students because it addresses personal issues relating to an individual ability to cope with psychological and the social processes of dying, death and bereavement.


The text was written to inform students in different fields how to go through end of life issues. The authors, Drs. Leming &Dickinson, wanted to prepare informative, practical, words of wisdom to be understood by understanding the emotional and psychological experience to the process of dying, death and bereavement. The textbook begins with the current interest in death from different academic perspective to the through the grieving process through the life cycle.

The American public has suffered great losses due to mass killings of the innocence bystanders so it has become a mystery to understand the loss of life and the lingering deaths of the chronic illness of love ones who come to the end of their lives. Thanatology has become a social interest in learning to deal with death emotionally and psychologically. Leming & Dickinson desire to prepare medical and theological students for work related death. Death rate is based on gender, race, chronic disease and infant mortality that track the number of deaths for the year.

The authors explains the different academia approaches to the topic of death by first understanding the biological approach, the psychological approach, anthropological approach and sociological approach through analysis of these approaches the student should acquire that this is a part of the end cycle of life. We must learn to cope with death because it will not diminish over time but continuing to be a part of life. In our society, we tend to know more about death based on causes and conditions but we haven’t learned to cope with it.

Society must learn to talk about death with our young people and explain it to those who are children need to understand their emotions and the concept of death. The more we age the less frighten we become to accept death and we began to depend on intellectual, educational and social skills because our physical prowess will diminish.

Our religious beliefs and practices are related to the preparation that Christ gave to the church that we would be transformed physical into a spiritual being. Many different societies believe in a supernatural force due to less complexity of their society however; societies which are more advance tend to rely more on scientific and advance technology to explain the causes of the situation. Religion tends to help people cope with the loss of a love one.

The thought of dying is stressful but we must learn to be aware of dying and death through the understanding the emotional and psychological especially dealing with children and siblings of children because this not the natural of life but it is apparent that the effect of the loss will impact the family. The stages of grief developed by Kubler-Ross would benefit a family experiencing grief.

The American way of life has progressed and accepted change to the way the dying has chosen to end life being surrounded by family and friends. No longer is the setting to death is at the home of the love one but now the settings can be at hospice care, nursing home and hospital. Hospice allows the younger child to be near the terminally ill and it allows the dying person to have all members there. The dying person may have the option to die where they chose which not an option of the past was. The changes of today’s care of the dying is to give them palliative care which focuses on the whole care of the person ranging from physical,social,psychological and spiritual attributes.

Technology has changed the way death is determined because scientific breakthrough can allow the body live without brain activity. An individual can have life sustained for years with life support machines. Patients have the choice to donate their organs to give the hope of life to others who suffering from chronic ailments and diseases.

The rise in suicide has been a road of debate does one have the right to take his/her life or rather die on his/her terms instead suffering through the chronic pain of an illness. Dr. Kevorkian begins to assist the terminally ill with the suicide or rather euthanasia procedure to end the cycle of life. The sociological perspective is that suicide occurs based on the feelings, thinking and doing by the person.

The most important thing about the effect of suicide is that the love ones may be left with the feelings of shame and guilt. The people who are left to grieve may have a long road to find closure due to the perception of ‘no social support’ among others who are grieving too. The average person who attempt suicide is either adolescent, elderly male and not married. Males, more than females are likely to commit suicide because the males will use deadly weapons to complete the task. The death experience is more than a biological process because it connected to social structure and correct behavior related is shared, symboled and situated by those who are relative to the dying person.

In the United States, funerals are the expression of one’s grief and bereavement period for the mourner. The development of insurance policies, cemeteries and funerals are part of the contemporary American life styles and regulation of funeral homes. The process of end of life issues by giving advance directives to dispose of personal property, living will and legal healthcare of power attorney. In the United States, the cost of a funeral expenses may run anywhere from $2500.00 to $9000.00 however; that is only one part of the expenses to death because all the deceased personal and hospital bills need to be paid. The legal system handles a person life from beginning to end.

The process of grieving, bereavement roles, normal acceptance to the loss, four tasks of mourning and coping with a violent death are the methods to start the healing process. The grief process is not automatic because those who are grieving really need to do grief work to find closure. The stages of grief developed by Kavenaugh began with the shock and denial, disorganization, volatile reactions, guilt, loss and loneliness, relief and reestablishment. The behaviors and Kubler- Ross five stages of the dying process are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The five stages are described in detail of the behaviors associated to the dying process. The transformative process within grief includes three components that can be understood by three questions:

1.What have I lost?

2.What do have left?

3. What may be possible for me?

The process of transformation takes time and each question should be given the work to understand and to accept the loss. The mourner needs to have social support and assistance in the bereavement process. The most important deed that can be given to the mourner is to give of yourself time to listen and comfort them in their loss. The life cycle will be experienced by all and it will not be easy but those who are left behind have to learn to make adjustments to their lives. The loss of a love one does promote a growth experience with those who are left behind because it teaches those to meet the challenges of life without their love one.

In conclusion, the textbook begins with the current interest in death from different academic perspective to the through the grieving process through the life cycle. The ability to understand the cycle of normal and abnormal grief by the symptoms identified through the text. To use the text to understand the stages of grief and apply them to the lives those who are suffering from depression and withdrawal from society. The authors give important steps to having a healthy recovery from grief. This is basically a map to begin the road of recovery from the need to understand the supernatural, the secular or the spiritual side of death.

Concrete Response

Upon reading this textbook of dealing with the subject of death and dying there were two topics that captured my attention. The first topic discussed those individuals who are in older adulthood. The authors talk about how the older adults are treated within the death and dying process. The elderly seem to be placed in nursing homes where they are expected to live until they die quietly. The older adults seem to be forgotten and tossed aside as if they were old news.

This topic reminded me of my maternal grandmother and how she went through her dying process. I was stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina when she died. The immediate family, which included siblings, and grandchildren, were called to the hospital to make an important family decision about her arrangements after leaving the hospital. The decisions that needed to be made were where were we going to place her? Would she be institutionalized or would she die at home? The other decision was if the family wanted her to be sustained by life support systems until death. The factors that we had to consider were her age, would her body be strong enough to undergo any surgical procedures if necessary and what type of quality of life would she be able to maintain? First of all, my grandmother was 102 years old at the time of her death. Secondly, her body was so fragile that we were afraid for the doctors to do anything else to her. The doctors let us know that they had done all they could do for her. Finally, the doctors made us aware of her condition and that her quality of life would not be a good one as her time to live was limited. The family made the decision to let her die at home in peace, and there would not be any life support equipment given to her. I noticed that my mother was not in agreement with the decision and made it known to me after leaving the hospital. My mother wanted to do whatever was necessary to keep my grandmother alive. Needless to say I felt as if I had betrayed my mother and my grandmother due to the decision that was made.

The other event that came to mind was the death of a premature baby that belonged to a friend of mine and her husband in the military. I was disturbed by the picture of a family on page 14 posing for a family photo with the dead child in the mother’s arms. I understand that this is their way of keeping record of the living as well as the deceased but I felt that the picture was so impersonal. Not only did the family seem sad but there seemed to be coldness in the picture with the deceased child.

My friend and I were stationed in Germany but we were both from the state of Georgia. My friend and her husband had not been married long but they were looking forward to becoming parents. She had to be taken to the hospital early due to some complications with the pregnancy. She had tried to have a baby before but unfortunately she miscarried. My friend had asked me to come to the hospital for moral support sense her family was not present at that time and I agreed to be there. Her husband was fortunate enough to have his younger sister stationed at the same base. When the baby was delivered the doctor told them that the baby was premature and alive but he was not sure for how long. After an hour the doctor came into her room an informed her and her husband that the baby had passed away due to being premature. The nurse came in and asked the couple if they wanted to see the baby and they of course replied yes. The nursing staff brought them their baby, placed the baby in the mother’s arms, and then took a photograph with the couple holding the baby. The father broke down in tears and my friend touched the baby for the last time. I asked the nurse was that a common procedure and why was it necessary. The nurse explained that taking the picture was a common procedure as some parents want to remember their first child whether they are alive or not. In my heart I did not agree with the procedure because of the agony I witnessed in that room but I was in no position to protest.


The textbook help me to truly understand the grief process and I would like to work further on the process for myself because of the loss I have had in my life. I have suffered a great loss within the last nine years. I agree with the author about the experience with grief and losing a child and a parent has given me the ability to finish working through my issues.

The scriptures of Lazarus allows me to look at death as an end of growth in natural rim but a new beginning in the spiritual. The key points of story are the time and the end of the story that we overcome through death. Being able to give someone the closure of losing a love one is the greatest gift that a person can give. I had to realize that I had to go on after the greatest loss of my life but God gave me the courage to keep living. I was riding home by myself and I heard the voice of God speak to me with the deepest of conviction: Now, you understand my feelings about my son whom I sacrificed for the world from that moment on I found strength in those words to help those who were suffering from a loss.

The content of the book answered a lot of questions for me because I was given a method to actually go through the process and definitely face some the things I didn’t want to face with death. The textbook was a process of healing for me because I suffered loss during my last class and now I know that I am healing from the course. The course and content showed me if I had done the grief work and I honestly say at points I had not work through all of the stages of grief.


The information from this book will influence how I will continue my own personal and professional growth process by aiding me to provide informative knowledge facts about death and dying to family, friends and clients. For example, there is a wealth of information concerning the “The Business of Dying in which I can provide help with the task of planning for funerals. I would aide my clients in researching the best options for life insurance so that they will be prepared if death does occur. I had a pastor express to me that one of the most common problems in the African American community is the lack of life insurance needed in order to provide the deceased family member a proper burial. He stated that at the last funeral he held in his church he had to take up an offering in order to assist the family with funeral expenses. I would like to offer grief support groups for parents who have lost their children. The increasing unrest happening in the different cities of our society is being plagued with the deaths of African American children. There seems to be more of a need for grief support groups. While grieving for my son I was recommended to an organization called “The Bereaved Parents of the USA”. The organization was instrumental in guiding me as well as other bereaved parents through the bereavement process.

The actions or changes that I plan to make in my career and personal life as a result of my learning are first to search out training programs that will train me to become an effective crisis response person. This book has demonstrated that death needs to be studied more in depth and that we should not be afraid of the unknown. I would like to volunteer in a church organization that provides trained individuals that are qualified to demonstrate the procedures that need to be used to in a crisis situation. I have an interest in researching what certifications will be needed to qualify to become a crisis response person.

This book has furthered my commitment to become a bereavement counselor because I have had the experience and understand the pain which will allow me to help those who have begun this journey and I can walk with them to recovery.

If given the chance, I would work with death and dying patients because I believe that they will see the love of God in me and I will offer a listening ear, a very open heart and the gift of laughter to those who need to be comforted in their time of sorrow.


Leming, M. R. & Dickinson, G. E. (2011).Understanding dying, death, and bereavement (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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