Gaining Perspective on Death: New Article Published in APA Journal

Gaining Perspective on Death: New Article Published in APA Journal

The September issue of Spirituality in Clinical Practice published an article I authored titled, “Gaining perspective on death: Training program and language use outcomes assessment.” With co-authors, Jonathan Schooler, Alan Pierce, Angela Murphy, and Arnaud Delorme, this paper examined how structured, supportive discourse on death, dying and what may happen after can have positive, therapeutic outcomes, especially in clinical contexts for both patients and caregivers.

We used journaling data from a telecourse I taught called, “Death Makes Life Possible: Mapping Worldviews of the Afterlife,” to specifically highlight the various ways the course material may have shifted participants’ relationship with death, dying, and their own mortality.

These were some of the course objectives:

  • Examine the factors that cause us to have a fear of death.
  • Discuss how our perspectives of death inform the way we live our lives.
  • Describe what we can learn from the world’s cultural and wisdom traditions that can help us understand death and the worldviews people hold about the afterlife, including our own.
  • Evaluate what science can tell us about life after death and how it speaks to people’s transpersonal experiences, such as near death experiences, out of body experiences, past lives, etc.
  • Consider different methods for dealing with grief.
  • Identify evidence that dreams may help us prepare for our death and beyond.
  • Explore the question of whether or not it is possible to remove the fear of death so that we may live more freely and fully.
  • Develop tools for communicating with others about death and what people believe will happen after.

By analyzing the language found in the journal entries we identified trends in the way that participants engaged with the topic before and after exposure to the course material and group exercises. These results and a discussion of their implications are found in the recently published article in Spirituality in Clinical Practice.

Also found in this issue of the journal is an insightful response to our article, authored by Dr. James Lomax, and a response commentary I wrote to address the thoughts brought forth by Dr. Lomax.

Our publication lends unique insight to the academic dialogue, which will eventually open the door for patients and caregivers to embrace that dialogue with themselves and with others. I believe the material from this learning course and the implications of our research results hold great potential for the future of clinical care.

Further Reading

  • Check out a previous blog post reporting on preliminary results from this study and offering reflections on the telecourse.
  • The documentary film, Death Makes Life Possible, includes interviews of many of the thought leaders, scientists and spiritual teachers used in the telecourse. Click here to visit the film’s web site.
  • Interested in starting a dialogue in your own community? Follow this link to learn how you can host a screening.
  • Stay tuned to this web site and blog for upcoming Death Makes Life Possible facilitator trainings!