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Death, Dying, and Communication

Cecilia Bosticco and Teresa L. Thompson

Subject Communication and Development » Developmental Communication

Key-Topics age, death

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Death is considered a taboo topic in most cultures. The lack of willingness to talk about the issue reflects discomfort with the subject and attempts to deny the reality of death. Instead of talking openly about death, most people use euphemisms and metaphors to maintain distance from it. This communicative avoidance then defines death as an even more taboo issue. The topic of death was not even studied extensively by scholars until the 1970s. Death anxiety affects both terminally ill individuals and those who interact with them. The fear of death can stem from thinking about one's own end and about the uncertainty of what lies beyond death – the unknown and unknowable. Being afraid of death can contribute to anxiety about aging; however, experiencing the deaths of others may help to lessen an individual's fear of death, especially when the dying person and those around him or her accept and cope with death directly. While initially causing a heightening of fear, death education reduces denial, allows for expression and discussion of fears, lessens anxiety, and eventually leads to greater comfort for health-care providers who deal regularly with dying people ( Servaty & Hayslip 1997 ). Death anxiety is also reduced by having a relationship with a higher power. People who are facing impending death need as much information as possible, whether positive or negative ( Jenkins et ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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