Death Edu ca tion
Today, there is greater public awareness about dying and death because of publications such as Tuesdays With Morrie by Morrie Schwartz; Embraced by the Light by Betty Eadie; The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche; and Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss. Professional journals like Omega: Journal of Death and Dying; Death Studies; Illness, Crisis, and Loss; and Hospice Journal focus on care of the dying, ethical issues related to terminal care, and end-of-life decisions. For a complete list of resources see Part Four-The End. The field of thanatology has greatly facilitated a change in our attitudes toward dying and death and has strived to bring death back into our consciousness. Although death is becoming more human and dying is becoming more humane, the emotional aspect of death still seems beyond our grasp. John D. Morgan (1995) noted “We do not have an affective consciousness of death. We do not seem to take seriously that death is the end of our possibilities, the collapse of our space and time.” Death education was first introduced into the educational system at the undergraduate college level. Later, palliative and hospice care became a focus of study for health care professionals. More recently, death education was brought into the elementary and secondary school systems. An institute known as Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC), has changed the scene of death education. This nonprofit organization was incorporated in 1976 with the purpose of improving the quality of death education and death-related counseling. To pursue these goals, ADEC introduced national training workshops and certification procedures for professionals working with grief, dying, death, end-of-life issues, and bereavement. I sincerely believe that interpersonal and family relationships would greatly improve if we provided required courses throughout the school years of one’s life. These courses need to be provided at different stages of the developmental cycle of life. The course content would focus on death as a part of living, medial influences on beliefs regarding death, risk-taking behavior, reaction to loss, coping with loss, helping others to cope with loss, preparing for death, suicide, and losses other than death. The goal would be to strengthen individuals and families and enhance the quality of individual and family living. Because loss and death are inevitable aspects of living, family life education needs to include education for dealing with these experiences. One can only come to terms with life by coming to terms with death first. Education about dying and death is at its best when it is taught holistically-when the instructor clearly understands the interdisciplinary nature of the subject and when students are involved in the teaching process. I believe it is important to invite the student to help decide the course content-asking them what they wish to learn from a course about dying and death. When students are involved in the teaching process, they learn better. Great strides have been made in death education. Death 101 will be of enormous practical value to grievers as well as educators and parents who wish to participate in the evolution of this much-needed subject as it becomes a more accepted part of the overall process of education.