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Communication at the End of Life


Jon F. Nussbaum, Howard Giles and Amber Worthington

Communication is at the heart of any complete understanding of the end of life. While it is true that individuals physically die as a single entity, the process of ending an individual life is located within a complex system of relationships and roles connected and constructed through communicative processes. In this volume, top scholars from numerous disciplines showcase the latest empirical investigations and theoretical advances that focus on communication at the end of life. This multi-contextual approach serves to integrate current findings, expand our theoretical understanding of the end of life, prioritize the significance of competent communication for scholars and practitioners, and provide a solid foundation upon which to build pragmatic interventions to assist individuals at the end of life as well as those who care for and grieve for those who are dying. This book is suitable for undergraduate and graduate courses in Death and Dying, Communication and Aging, Health Communication, Life Span Development, Life Span Communication, Long term care, Palliative care and Social Work.
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Chapter Eleven: Bereavement and Post-Death Adjustments: A Lifespan Approach to Bereavement



Bereavement AND Post-Death Adjustments: A Lifespan Approach TO Bereavement


We will all grieve the death of a loved one at some point in our lives. As children and adolescents, we may experience the death of a beloved grandparent or pet. During adulthood, we will encounter “expected” deaths, such as the death of an elderly parent. As older adults, our lifelong friends and family members will die. During the course of a lifetime, some of us will experience tragic and life-changing deaths, such as the death of a child or the death of a spouse/romantic partner.

The death of a loved one is more than physical absence. Our relationship(s) with the deceased is (are) forever changed, as we can no longer enact familiar patterns of communication. The death of a loved one also changes how we see ourselves and the world around us. Indeed, the very purpose of grieving is to learn how to exist in the world without our deceased loved ones (Attig, 1996). Communication is at the heart of the grieving process as we create narratives and stories of loss to find meaning in our loved one’s death (Neimeyer, 1999). Through rituals, conversation, storytelling, writing, and other forms of communication, we co-construct our stories of grief and loss (Neimeyer, Klass, & Dennis, 2014; Neimeyer, Prigerson, & Davies, 2002). Talking with others about a loved one’s death validates our pain (Harvey, 2000) and helps us bear witness...

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