Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Death Education

Authored by: Illene Noppe Cupit

Handbook of Thanatology

Print publication date:  May  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9781138430815
eBook ISBN: 9780203767306
Adobe ISBN: 9781136726507


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It could be easily said that death education began as soon as human beings realized the boundaries of their own life spans. Death education, or the formal and informal study of issues pertaining to dying, death, grief, and loss, has been a significant part of folklore, oral traditions, rituals, literature, art, and, of course, religion, throughout history. How death was understood paralleled the historical and social institutions of a particular culture anchored into a specific time. Greek mythology, the changing nature of the understanding of the universe in relation to humanity’s place within, the black plague of Europe in the 14th century, a Western shift emphasizing individualism over communal thinking, world wars, and changes in life expectancy may serve as organizing frameworks for understanding how both life and death was known (Cruz, 2010). And these factors give perspective and meaning to why contemporary death education is so important to a global citizenry.

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