Professor Marshall

LESSON 6: Attitudes toward Death

Attitudes toward Death

We have moved through a lot of information in a very short period of time!

Learning about death and dying from a sociological perspective can be depressing--but it can also be liberating! You probably know more now about death and dying than you did before you began this course. And while your knowledge has increased, there is still so much more to learn. At a minimum, your beliefs, attitudes, feelings and experiences about death have likely been expanded. Now, you are likely able to better articulate your own views toward death, and to help those around you as they experience loss.

While it is not the role of a sociologist to practice therapy (although some who hold sociology degrees also hold degrees which allow them to work therapeutically with others), knowing about the impacts of death on individuals does give you a "tool kit" by which you have a leg up on many others in society--and this will allow you to assist others with the grieving process. Having learned about some of the cultural issues and concerns surrounding death and dying will also allow you to see social theory in practice. Using both of these levels of understanding--the micro and the macro--make you a more well-rounded individual as well as an important member of our complex society.

Recall from the course home page, symbolic interaction theory and some of the basic concepts it employs:

  • "Human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings that things have for them." In any situation, we act because we have knowledge about something—our knowledge may be limited or broad, but our action is formed based on the meanings we have attached to things.
  • "The meaning of such things is derived from, or arises out of, the social interaction that one has with one's fellows." Our understanding is an emergent process, meaning that through the process of interacting with other people, our understandings change—understanding arises from interaction.
  • "These meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretive process used by the person in dealing with the things he/she encounters." Meanings are taught, learned, and otherwise figured out—meanings often shift and change as we deal with the ideas and thoughts of others.
  • "Meanings are interpreted through shared language and communication." Meanings vary from culture to culture, and within subcultures.    
  • "The mediation of meaning in social interaction is distinguished by a continually emerging process." Experience, maturity, and many social factors are part of this process--this class is part of that process.      

While we covered some very important topics about the sociology of death and dying, more was left out than was covered. Below you'll find a documentary which will conclude the lessons for Sociology of Death and Dying this semester.

Flight from Death: The Quest for Immortality

(if this video does not load on this page, click HERE to go directly to the source)