A Commonsense Book of Death: Reflections at Ninety of a Lifelong Thanatologist

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Rowman & Littlefield, 2008 - Psychology - 191 pages
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Thirty-five years ago, in 1973, the author, then in the middle of life, age 55, wrote Deaths of Man, a set of essays about death. The book was nominated for the National Book Award in Science and recently the American Psychological Association selected it as a "classic" and provided a retrospective review. Now, in 2008 the author, age 90, revisits some of his original concepts with the experience of thirty-five years of clinical perspective and personal travail and what it is to face his own death. This book touches on provocative topics such as some proposed criteria for a good death, a variety of ways in which we seek to survive our own death in our postself; the world-wide coarsening of death, and a chapter on suicide in which the author discusses his theory that the black heart of suicide is psychological pain. The book contains ideas like subintentioned death in which the individual, unbeknownst to the self, plays an indirect, unconscious role in bringing the death date forward. Perhaps the most dramatic feature of this new revision is an essay by the author's psychotherapist (about what he was like as patient discussing his own death). It is an essay which the author will not have seen.
  

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Contents

Introduction
3
Death Work and Stages of Dying
9
An Appropriate Death
16
Postvention and the SurvivorVictim
23
The Postself
28
Personal and Impersonal Aspects of Death
35
Ambivalence and Subintention
40
Death and the State
48
Three Stances toward Death Intentioned Subintentioned Unintentioned
100
Four Traditional Categories of Death Natural Accident Suicide Homicide
105
Clarifying Equivocal Deaths
110
A Psychological Autopsy in a Military Setting
114
An Appropriate Death Criteria for a GoodEnough Death
127
Commonalities of Suicide A Cubic Model
137
The Coarsening of Death Postvention
148
The Postself Survival after Death
150

The Death Certificate
55
The Psychological Autopsy
65
Megadeath Children of the Nuclear Family
71
Afterword
83
A Retrospective Review of Deaths of Man
85
Introduction
86
A Review of Deaths of Man
87
Revised Thoughts of Deaths of Man Thirtyfive Years Later
93
Introduction
94
One Fundamental Attribute of Death On and Off
95
Two Basic Orientations toward Death Mine and Yours
97
Matinee
155
Introduction
157
A Report by the Authors Psychotherapist
159
Mourning After
173
References
174
Acknowledgments
179
Monody
181
Name Index
183
Subject Index
185
About the Author
191
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Edwin Shneidman, Ph.D., Lett.D. (Hon) is professor emeritus of thanatology at UCLA. He is the founder of the American Association of Suicidology and founding editor of the quarterly journal Suicide and Life-threatening Behavior. While at at the National Institute of Mental Health he directed the nationwide program in suicide prevention. He has been a fellow at the Center for the Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University)and a visiting professor at Harvard University. He has written or edited a dozen books, primarily on suicide and death. In his nineties, he is a widower, has four sons, all health professionals, and six grandchildren.

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