Impacts of Death Essay

This essay has a total of 976 words and 6 pages.


Impacts of Death





Personal Impacts of Death
When a person is born, we rejoice, and when they're married, we jubilate,
but when they die, we try to pretend that nothing happened.
--Margaret Mead
Odd as it sounds, there can be little question that some deaths are better than others.
People cross-culturally have always made invidious distinctions between good deaths and
bad. Compare, for instance, crooner Bing Crosby's sudden death following eighteen rounds
of his beloved golf with the slow motion, painful expiration of an eighty-year-old
diabetic. Bedridden following the amputation of his leg, the old man eventually began
slipping in and out of consciousness. This continues over a period of years, exhausting
the emotional, physical. and financial resources of his family. The essence of a "good
death" thus involves the needs of the dying (such as coming at the end of full and
completed lives, and when death is preferred to continued existence) as well as those of
their survivors and the broader society.

Whereas the prevalence of unanticipated and premature deaths led to pre-industrial
cultures to focus death fears on individuals' postmortem fates, the death fears of modern
cultures are more likely to focus on the processes of dying. Thus contemporary fears of
dying involve the anxieties of dying within institutional settings, where often life is
structured for the convenience of staff and where residents suffer both physical and
psychological pain in their depersonalization. They also involve fears of being victims of
advanced Alzheimer's Disease: being socially dead and yet biologically alive. In sum, the
dreaded liminality between the worlds of the living and the dead have historically shifted
from the period after death to the period preceding it.


Cultural coping mechanisms have not kept pace with the dramatic changes in when and how we
die. With a generation or two (rates varying by social class, religion, etc.) having died
within institutionalized isolation, Americans are forgetting about how to learn to focus
on dying as a human process, how to include the dying in their dialogues, and how to learn
the lessons of their existence. Instead, the dying process now too often features silence
or diversion. However, not surprisingly in our service-oriented economy, there are
challenges to this medicalized, depersonalizing cultural route toward life's conclusion

SOCIALIZATIONS FOR DEATH

Like those at the dawn of human species, young children understand neither the
inevitability of their own mortality nor its finality. Death fears must be learned.
Paralleling the attempts of anthropologists and historians to map the death ethos of
Western culture over time, there is a sizable research tradition in psychology and
psychiatry on exactly how children's concepts of death unfold developmentally. As social
scientists have studied the long-term social and cultural consequences of mass epidemics
or total war, psychiatrists attempt to gauge how early firsthand death encounters later
affect the motivations, psychoses, and fears of adulthood. And what lessons are learned in
childhood about death? Consider the Saturday morning catechism. The lessons begin with the
selection of breakfast cereals. Consider the products to the right, featuring flawed but
immortal creatures (Frankenstein, a creature created from body parts, and Dracula, who
subsists on the blood of the living). While eating their immortality flakes, children may
watch their favorite cartoon: "The Roadrunner." The story line never varies: a coyote
employs a number of strategies to kill (we assume to eat) the bird, only to have each
attempt lethally backfire before he is once again resurrected to resume the hunt. This
cartoon is followed by others bearing similar messages of violence, death, and
indestructibility.

The following is the breakdown of their responses to the question "When you were a child,
how was death talked about in your family?"


Openly 39%
With some sense
Continues for 3 more pages >>




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