Thanatology: the study of death

In the contexts in which psychology professionals are involved, there is the fact of supporting people in their grieving process. And there is a discipline that specifically studies death and its process. This is thanatology, And its goal in psychology is to help individuals understand their losses and find or regain the meaning of life.

In this article, we will see what are the fundamental characteristics of thanatology, and the psychological aspects in which it intervenes.

    What is thanatology?

    It is not a field of study of psychology as such, but they converge at various points. He works directly with terminally ill patients and their families or with anyone who has suffered a disaster. The role of psychology comes in by guiding the individual through the duel, making sure they have a satisfying hour, and helping them recognize, normalize, and control any emotions presented in the process.

    The main objectives of thanatology are to pay attention these aspects of our relationship with death:

    • Psychological suffering.
    • Meaningful relationships with patients.
    • Physical pain.
    • The last wishes.
    • Legal aspects.

    The stages of the duel

    Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross has been one of the most widely studied on the process of death, bereavement and all aspects of palliative care for terminally ill patients. He proposed a model of the five stages of the duel:

    1. Denial

    Temporary defense for a person who has suffered a loss or is about to die due to a health problem. The individual does not accept what is happening, He thinks it’s a dream, a vague idea; everything but its reality. “It can’t happen to me.”

    2. Ira

    The subject feels helpless and angry in the face of the situation he is going through. Usually, anything that represents energy, lucidity and life is totally rejected. “Why me and not someone else?” Negotiation: it reflects the hope that time can be extended a little longer, and death can be postponed. the individual consider making improvement commitments to take advantage if you had more time. “If I could stay, now I would take care of my health.” “I just wanna see my kids graduate.”

    3. Depression

    This begins the process of understanding that death is imminent, so we can isolate ourselves, reject visits from loved ones and cry frequently. “I’m going to die, what would it be like to be with my family?” It’s when the weight of the loss falls, knowing that that person is no longer there and that the feelings of melancholy and longing overlap.

      4. Acceptance

      Full understanding that death will come and that there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. The individual no longer complainsRather, prepares to die. “I know I’m going to die. There is nothing I can do.” The one who has had a loss accepts that the person is no longer there, will not come back but is already at peace.

      Coping with the dying process

      Each person experiences their grieving process differently, it can change from one stage to another in no specific order; live the same step several times; and experience his duel in different durations. There is no standardized rule of how it should be and it is the same as you should never force someone to handle it a certain wayBecause this could have negative consequences rather than beneficial.

      Thanatology is not based on religious beliefs, customs or rites, But with the relationship that each has with death and our conception of it. This is why one of the most important points within it is autonomy, which seeks to allow people to make their own decisions regarding the process of dying.

      While not such a recent discipline, it is increasingly recognized for the benefits it has provided to people who have suffered a loss or are terminally ill to have a much process. more bearable and over which they feel they have control. Now, one of the challenges in society is that the taboo around this issue continues to be broken and that from an early age there is education on what the process of dying is; what that implies; and provide psychological strategies for good duel management.

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