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Communication at the End of Life

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Edited By 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 Nine: Family Communication as a Child Is Dying

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CHAPTER NINE

Family Communication AS A Child Is Dying

KATHLEEN A. GALVIN

The death of a child is perceived as a death out of season, a monstrosity, an outrage against the natural order of things. (Viorst, 1986)

Parents never envision talking with their terminally ill children about death. Yet, when children battle a potentially fatal childhood illness, parents struggle to decide whether, when, and under what conditions they will begin an ongoing conversation about death with their 5- or 15-year-old. In addition, they confront related issues—whether, when, and how to engage their other children and extended family members in these conversations. Conversely, terminally ill children wonder whether, when, and how to share their questions and feelings with family members. If such conversations occur, no family member escapes unscathed from the pain of the heart-wrenching talks but few regret those conversations.

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