Part 3: Finding Meaning Until the End

While it is true that death occurs more commonly at the later stages of age, death can occur at any point in the life cycle.  Death is a deeply personal experience evoking many different reactions, emotions, and perceptions.  Children and young adults in their prime of life may perceive death differently from adults dealing with chronic illness or the increasing frequency of the death of family and friends. If asked, most people envision their death as quick and peaceful. However, except for a handful of illnesses in which death does often quickly follow diagnosis, or in the case of accidents or trauma, most deaths come after a lengthy period of chronic illness or frailty (Institute of Medicine [IOM], 2015). While modern medicine and better living conditions have led to a rise in life expectancy around the world, death will still be the inevitable final chapter of our lives.

Learning Objectives

  • Define death and describe the characteristics of both physical and social death
  • Compare leading causes of death around the world
  • Discuss the philosophy and practice of palliative care
  • Explain how attitudes about death and death anxiety change as people age
  • Discuss the impact of culture on end-of-life decisions, euthanasia, funeral rituals, and mourning practices
  • Explain and critique the Kubler-Ross and the dual-process models of grief



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