Death, Dying, and Bereavement: new book edited by Judith Stillion and Thomas Attig

Published on: Author: David Clark Leave a comment

Thanks to David Clark for allowing us to introduce readers of his blog to our recent publication entitled Death, Dying, and Bereavement: Contemporary Perspectives, Institutions, and Practices. Written by luminaries who have shaped the field, this capstone book distills the collective wisdom of foremost scholars and practitioners who together have nearly a millennium of experience in the death and dying movement. The book bears witness to the evolution of the movement since the 1950s and presents the insights of its pioneers, eyewitnesses, and major contributors past and present. Its chapters address contemporary intellectual, institutional, and practice developments in thanatology: hospice and palliative care; funeral practice; death education; and caring of the dying, suicidal, bereaved, and traumatized.
Released by Springer Publishing (New York) in November 2014, it is available for purchase directly from the publisher at;death-dying-and-bereavement.html or through Amazon.

The editors

The two of us met in 1979 at an early conference sponsored by the then newly formed Forum for Death Education and Counseling, each having already devoted several years to work in the emerging contemporary death, dying, and bereavement movement.  It was so good to gather with others from such diverse backgrounds in teaching, research, healthcare, and counseling professions and volunteer service.  We were not alone in sensing the excitement of meeting others who were passionate about learning from one another and about changing ways of understanding, living with, and caring for others facing death, dying, and bereavement.

We were privileged then, and have been in the years since, to learn from, work with, and in many cases befriend pioneers and major contributors in the field.  Two years ago, while looking back at how remarkably far the movement has come, we realized how many leading figures and friends have died.  We saw an opportunity to capture the collective wisdom of living pioneers, major contributors, and participant witnesses to the founding and evolution of the movement before more voices were lost.  We would bring those voices together in a book that would be a testament to and celebration of the work of all those who have led us to where we are today. We are excited to have gathered together an extraordinary team of twenty plus authors with nearly a millennium of experience in the field to tell stories that only they can tell about unprecedented changes that have been unfolding since the movement began in the middle of the twentieth century.

The new collection

We asked all of our authors to describe what drew them into the field, discuss the most important strands of early development in the area of their chapters that they consider to be foundational and not to be forgotten, review the most valuable current work in the area, and assess major challenges and hopes for future development in it.  While we hope that all will live long and continue to prosper, we wanted to harvest the insights of these seminal figures before it became too late to do so.

We are amazed and enormously grateful for the foundational and revolutionary efforts of the thought leaders, institutional innovators, imaginative practitioners, and concerned citizens whose stories our authors tell.  As their informative and often provocative chapters came flooding in and we began the editorial review and polishing process, we realized how collectively they were expanding our own understanding and appreciation of how rich and varied the contributions of the death, dying, and bereavement movement are. Taken together, we believe these writers have created a unique and lasting contribution to the growing body of work that is defining a new discipline: thanatology.

Shared convictions

We brought together Death, Dying, and Bereavement: Contemporary Perspectives, Institutions, and Practices out of the following shared convictions.

We pay too high a price individually and collectively in missing what matters most in life if we persistently turn away from and remain silent about the realities of mortality that are so intimately interwoven in the fabric of our being.  Everyone can benefit from development and dissemination of better understanding of the meanings of death, dying, and bereavement for individuals, families, and communities and of their implications for how we live.  We do well to counter tendencies to isolate the dying and bereaved that increase their dependence on professionals. We believe there is a deep human need to come together as family and community while loved ones are dying, grieving, traumatized, or contemplating suicide to hear their stories, bear witness to their suffering and offer support and compassion.  We endorse efforts to reach past the limitations of disease-focused medical care and pathology-focused bereavement support to recognize and respond more effectively to the multi-dimensional needs of whole persons living with disease and re-learning the world in grief. We affirm and call for increased understanding and support of the resilience and capacities for overcoming suffering and finding healing that are inherent in the human spirit. We heartily support revival of the art of medicine as at least co-equal with the science and value team-based and volunteer-based approaches to end-of-life care. We applaud resistance to professional paternalism in favor of informed consent, respect for human dignity, attunement through dialogue to the particularities of individual, family, and community experiences and needs, and affirmation of their freedom to shape their own experiences.  We seek to enable families and communities to reclaim responsibilities for death education and care and support of those who are dying, bereaved, traumatized, or suicidal.  We eagerly await the day when death education will be integrated into schooling at all levels to prepare citizens for those responsibilities, scholars to deepen understanding, and professional caregivers to use the best of what is known wisely.

Who the book is for

We intend this book for all who have been interested or actively engaged in the movement through the years, and especially for those relatively new to the field as students or practitioners who share these convictions and passions and will carry on, extend, and creatively transform the efforts discussed here.  Our authors trace the development of thanatology as an interdisciplinary field of study (in Part I) and organizational and practice developments in response to the diverse needs of dying, bereaved, suicidal, and traumatized individuals, families, and communities (in Parts II and III).  A unique feature of this book is a detailed chronology that includes many, though of course not all, of the most important milestones in the last sixty years.  It is intended to serve as an overview as well as the foundation for understanding this burgeoning field and as a guide for readers who wish to understand in detail its short, but rich history.

Robert Kastenbaum often casually defined the emerging academic field of thanatology as “the study of life with death left in.” Clearly, we have in this book stretched beyond the study of death, dying, and bereavement to encompass institutional and practice developments in response to these universal human experiences. Ghandi charged us to “be the change you want to see in the world.”  The pioneers and major contributors to the movement (including our authors) have done that and in so doing crafted better, more humane ways to conceptualize and cope with the many faces of death, dying, and bereavement in our times. We invite you to join them and learn from them as we move forward together.

Death, Dying, and Bereavement: Contemporary Perspectives, Institutions, and Practices

Table of Contents

Chronology of Developments in the Movement:  Thomas Attig


Part I: Intellectual Developments


Chapter 1                Seeking Wisdom about Mortality,  Dying, and Bereavement   Thomas Attig

Chapter 2               Know Thyself: Psychology’s Contributions to Thanatology         Judith Stillion

IChapter 3              Sociological Perspectives On Death, Dying, and Bereavement    Tony Walter

Chapter 4               Science and Practice: Contributions of Nurses To End-of-Life and Palliative Care

                                    Diane Wilkie and Inge Corless

Chapter 5                Legal Issues in End-of-Life  Decision-Making        James Werth

Chapter 6                The Ethics of Caring for the Dying and Bereaved  Thomas Attig                          

Chapter 7                 Theoretical Perspectives  on Loss and Grief     William Worden                                       

Chapter 8                 The Psychologization of Grief and Its   Depictions in Mainstream, North American Media      Leeat Grane

Chapter 9                 Developmental Perspectives on Death & Dying & Maturational Losses     Judith McCoyd and Carolyn Walter


Part II: Institutional Developments


Chapter 10            Hospice Care of the Dying   David Clark

Chapter 11             Hospital-Based Palliative Care    Bernard LaPointe

Chapter 12             Palliative Care for Children  Betty Davies

Chapter 13             The Global Spread of Hospice  and Palliative Care   Stephen Connor

Chapter 14             Death and Funeral Service  Vanderlyn Pine

Chapter 15             Death Education at the College and University Level in North America       Charles Corr

Chapter 16             Death Education as a Public Health Issue       Allan Kellehear


Part III: Practice Developments


Chapter 17                  Spirituality: Quo Vadis?    Kenneth Doka

Chapter 18                  Using the Arts and Humanities with the Dying, Bereaved…and Ourselves   Sandra Bertman

Chapter 19                  Family Support for the Dying  and Bereaved    David Kissane

Chapter 20                 Supporting Grieving Children     Linda Goldman

Chapter 21                  Helping Each Other:  Building Community   Phyllis Silverman

Chapter 22                  Treating Complicated Bereavement:  The Development of Grief Therapy   Robert Neimeyer

Chapter 23                  When Trauma and Loss Collide  The Evolution of Interventions for

                                        Traumatic Bereavement Therese Rando

Chapter 24                 To Be or Not to Be:   Suicide Then and Now   Judith Stillion

Chapter 25                 Grief after Suicide:  The Evolution of Suicide Postvention Jack Jordan

Chapter 26                 Responding to Grief and Trauma in the Aftermath of Disaster    Colin Murray Parkes

Chapter 27                 Care of the Caregiver:  Professionals and Family Members  Mary Vachon

                                       Afterword   Judith Stillion and  Thomas Attig


About Judy Stillion and Tom Attig

Dr. Judith Stillion is professor emerita of psychology and currently serves as a consultant on a variety of issues including meaningful aging, applied positive psychology, facilitation of grief groups, and strategic planning for individuals and groups.

Dr. Stillion’s varied career includes teaching and counseling in the public schools and at the university level. She also served as associate and vice-chancellor for academic affairs at Western Carolina University, associate vice-president for academic affairs in the University of North Carolina system, and founding director of the Institute for Leadership, Ethics, and Character at Kennesaw State University. She has written three books and numerous chapters and articles in her fields of expertise, which include suicide across the life span, aging, gender, and bereavement issues.

Dr Thomas Attig is the author of The Heart of Grief: Death and the Search for Lasting Love and How We Grieve: Relearning the World, both with Oxford. He has written numerous articles and reviews on grief and loss, care of the dying, suicide intervention, death education, expert witnessing in wrongful death cases, the ethics of interactions with the dying, and the nature of applied philosophy. Tom is also a well known speaker, having offered conference programs across the United States, Canada, and Japan and in England, Australia, Israel, and Germany as well as innumerable talks and workshops for nurses, physicians, funeral directors, clinical psychologists, social service providers, gerontologists, hospice workers, bereavement coordinators, clergy, educators, civic organizations and the general public.

Tom was born and raised in the Midwest. He received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Northwestern University in 1967 and his MA (1969) and Ph.D. (1973), again in philosophy, from Washington University in St. Louis. He taught philosophy at Bowling Green State University for nearly twenty-five years, serving as Department Chair for eleven years and leading efforts to establish the first Ph.D. in Applied Philosophy in the world in 1987. Tom left as Professor Emeritus in Philosophy in 1995 to become an independent applied philosopher. A Past President of the Association for Death Education and Counseling, he also served as Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the International Work Group on Death, Dying, and Bereavement.












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