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Thanatology: the study of death

Thanatology: the study of death

November 27, 2022

Within the contexts in which the professionals of psychology are involved is the fact of supporting people in their grieving processes. And there is a discipline that studies justly death and its process. It's about the Thanatology , and its goal in psychology is to help individuals understand their losses and find or recover the meaning of life.

In this article we will see what are the fundamental characteristics of the Thanatology, and the psychological aspects in which it intervenes.

  • Related article: "The duel: facing the loss of a loved one"

What is Thanatology?

It is not an area of ​​study of psychology as such, but it does converge on several points. Work directly with terminal patients and their families or with anyone who has suffered a loss. The role of psychology is to guide the individual through grief, ensuring that he or she is having a satisfactory one and helping him to recognize, normalize and control all the emotions that are presented in the process.


The main objectives of Thanatology are to give attention to these aspects of our relationship with death :

  • The psychological suffering.
  • Significant relationships of the patient .
  • Physical pain
  • The last wills.
  • The legal aspects

The stages of mourning

The Swiss psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, has been one of the most studied in the process of death, grief and everything related to palliative care for terminal patients. He proposed a model of the five stages of mourning:

1. Denial

Temporary defense of those who had a loss or are about to lose their lives due to a health condition. The individual does not accept what is happening , believes it is a dream, a vague idea; anything but your reality. "This can not be happening to me."


2. Anger

The subject feels impotent and angry about the situation he is going through. Normally, anything that represents energy, lucidity and life are totally repelled by it. "Why me and not another?" Negotiation: It reflects the hope that you can lengthen the time a little longer and postpone death. The individual think about making improvement commitments to enjoy if you had more time . "If I could stay, now I would take care of my health." "I just want to see my children's graduation."

3. Depression

The process of understanding that death is imminent begins, so you can isolate yourself, refuse visits from loved ones and cry frequently . "I'm going to die, what's the point of being with my family?" It's when the weight of the loss falls, knowing that that person is no longer there and overcoming feelings of melancholy and nostalgia.


  • You may be interested: "Are there several types of depression?"

4. Acceptance

Total comprehension that death will come and there is nothing to do to avoid it. The individual no longer laments , rather it is prepared to die. "I know I will die, there is nothing I can do." Whoever had a loss accepts that the person is no longer there, will not return but is already at peace.

Facing the death process

Each person lives their grieving process differently, they can change from one step to another without a specific order; live the same step several times; and live their grief in different durations. There is no standardized rule of how it should be and it is for the same reason you should never force someone to manage it in a certain way , since that could have negative consequences instead of beneficial ones.

Thanatology is not based on religious beliefs, customs or rituals , but with the relationship we each have with death and our conception about it. This is why one of the most important points within it is the autonomy, with it is sought that people can make their own decisions in relation to the process of dying.

Although it is not such a recent discipline, it has been gaining greater recognition for the benefits it has given to people who have suffered a loss or are terminally ill to have a much more bearable process and over which they feel they have control. Now, one of the challenges in society is to continue breaking the taboo around this issue and that from childhood there is an education of what is the process of dying; what it entails; and provide psychological strategies so that there is a good management of the duels.


Thanatology is Study of Death - Abuhibban (November 2022).


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