Society’s approach to death (part 1): science getting involved
There seems to be an uncomfortable atmosphere about death and still today, the subject remains taboo in many populations. For centuries British people in mourning would outwardly show that they were in a state of mourning by wearing black clothes, closing the curtains, or wearing a black mourning band on the arm, for example. Today, however, this tradition is rarely continued with people rushing back to work as soon as possible in many cases. There are still many people who tell the bereaved to “just get on with it” with a “stiff upper lip”. Crying or showing emotion in public is often seen as a weakness preventing some people from allowing themselves to grieve in a healthy manner. Bereavement is difficult to get through and especially so when someone close has died. Research has found psychological and physical effects that are common although everyone deals with bereavement in their own way and there are no rules to say what is right or wrong.
Lindemann (1944)  worked with 101 people from families involved in the Boston football tragedy in 1942 and noticed that patterns of behaviour emerged that were associated with ‘normal’ grief. These were: bodily distress, recurring mental imagery of the deceased, guilt associated with the circumstances around the death, antagonistic responses, unable to function ‘normally’, and often developing similar behaviours or symptoms to the deceased.
Worden (2002)  divided the effects of grief into four categories: feelings, physical sensations, cognitions and behaviours. He mentioned commonly associated feelings such as: sadness, anger (at yourself for not having been able to do anything more to prevent the death, and at the deceased for leaving you behind), guilt (often irrational, and for feeling angry etc.), anxiety (due to fear of being on your own plus becoming very aware of death with a reminder of your own mortality), loneliness (emotional and social), fatigue, helplessness, shock, yearning, emancipation (freedom e.g., from a dominating mother), relief (particularly if the deceased had been suffering, e.g., cancer, or the relationship was not a good one), and numbness (a ‘natural’ defence mechanism usually in the early stages of the process).
Next time I will look at the common psychological and physical effects. If you liked this, be sure to subscribe. It’s free and you will have access to my weekly blogs. If there are specific areas of interest that you would like me to write about, please comment or write a question and I’ll do my very best to answer. I would love to hear from you!
1.Lindmann, E. (1944) Symptomatology and management of acute grief. American Journal of Psychiatry, 101, 141-148.
2.Worden, J. W. (2002) Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A handbook for the mental health practitioner (3rd Ed.) Springer Publishing Company inc. NY