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Death Education Essay

7874 words - 31 pages



Death education is in many ways an awkward phrase that may convey undesirable meanings to some who hear or read it. One of its faults lies in the implication that it refers to a type of education intended for or aimed at those who are already dead. Alternatively, some may incorrectly think that it refers to explaining to living people what the state of death is really like. We begin this chapter by illustrating the proper meaning of the term death education by listing and discussing briefly some of the many subjects that fall within the scope of education about dying, death, and bereavement. After that, we look at several examples of death education in action, four central dimensions of this type of education, and its principal goals. We also offer some comments concerning who might be interested in death-related education and who might find themselves functioning as death educators, and we conclude with some observations concerning lessons about life and living that can be learned from the study of dying, death, and bereavement.


The phrase death education is actually a shorthand expression for education about any death-related topic. Pine (1977, 1986) provides reviews of the early history of death education in the United States in two helpful articles. Currently, this type of education reaches across a broad range of topics, such as those found in college textbooks in the field (e.g., Corr, Nabe, and Corr 2003). These include the following:

Encounters with death: This topic area includes the numbers of deaths in given populations, death rates, causes of death, average life expectancy, locations of death, and experiences with particular types of death, such as deaths from long-term degenerative diseases (diseases of the heart; cancers; neuromuscular diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig's disease; and dementing diseases such as Alzheimer's disease) and their differences from deaths caused by communicable diseases.

Attitudes toward death: This area includes death anxiety as well as individuals' attitudes about their own dying or death, about the dying or death of someone else, or about what happens after death.

Death-related practices: This topic area covers practices related to death within a given death system (e.g., contemporary American practices), such as language about death, the media's relationship with death, and human-induced forms of death (including accidents and homicide).

Dying: This area includes the ways in which people die as well as the ways in which they cope with dying and help those who are coping with dying. It also includes societal programs that are concerned with caring for the dying or end-of-life care, such as hospice programs and programs of palliative care.

Bereavement: This area includes death-related losses, the grief that follows a...

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