Entries in death (5)


Difficult Parenting Conversations: Death and Dying

The Scene: My three-year old daughter and I are at Grandma H’s viewing where I racked up parenting fail #315, because I did not want to talk about death with my kid.

The Kid: Who is that? (She asks after spotting the casket at the front of the room in which a coiffed and suited Grandma H resides.)

Mama: That’s Grandma H.

The Kid: Is she old?

Mama: Yes.

Nailed it, right? Ok, not so much. I would like to say that my daughter and I had a deep conversation about death and dying after Grandma H’s viewing…that I was able to talk to my daughter in an age-appropriate and snappy way. It was fall after all, a seemingly good time to talk about dying, given the decay around. I could hear myself now, “Grandma was like a leaf…” 

But, I let the moment pass. The month before Grandma’s funeral, I fast-forwarded through the part in the Lion King when Mufasa dies. How do you explain that to a three-year-old? My apparent inability to discuss death with my kid is not that unusual. In Western culture (and in my white, Protestant, middle-class background), most of us do not have explicit conversations about death and dying1. I did not talk to my daughter because I am afraid of saying the wrong thing and of having to explain that I am mortal, too. I wish I had been as quick as a friend who, after she asked him about dying, took his daughter to a graveyard to explain that he would die someday and turn into the dirt she loved to play in.

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“Stay Close to Me” – Attachment, Terror Management, and Symbolic Immortality in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I recently watched the last film in the Harry Potter series on DVD (after seeing it twice in theaters last year; yes I’m a huge fan), and I was reminded of a powerful moment near the end of the story that highlights the connection between close relationships and the metaphysical world (e.g., life/death, spirituality).

(Fair warning before reading further: there are plot spoilers below).

Towards the end of Deathly Hallows, Harry realized that he must die in order to conquer Voldemort once and for all (it was necessary for Harry to die because his body contained a piece of Voldemort’s soul, which must be destroyed). At that moment, Harry experienced an awareness of his own looming death, or what social psychologists refer to as “mortality salience.”

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Dr. Gurit Birnbaum on Love, Sex, and Death

Our friend and colleague Dr. Gurit Birnbaum recently contributed to a discussion on the New York Times website on the topic of sexy Halloween costumes and fear of death. Check it out here.

We've covered Dr. Birnbaum's research in the following articles: 


Death, Derogation, and Double Standards: What’s a Sexy Woman to Do?

You do not need to look hard for evidence that North Americans are uncomfortable with female sexuality. Women, for example, are derogated for engaging in less common sexual behaviors, like threesomes. Male sexuality, alternatively, is often viewed positively or—at worst—ambivalently. This ‘sexual double standard’, when society evaluates women negatively than men for comparable sexual behaviors, is an extensively researched phenomenon.

Perplexingly, some of the research on the double standard has indicated that men are the most likely to endorse it. Why would a man derogate a sexual woman, when it would seem to be more in his interest to encourage female promiscuity? Research conducted by Dr. Mark Landau and colleagues provides an interesting explanation for this phenomenon. According to these researchers, men degrade sexual women because these women make them feel lusty, and thereby remind men of their ‘natural creaturely origins’. If this argument seems far-fetched, bear with me. Let me explain...

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It’s the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Committed to You

Last week, as the supposed Rapture was looming, how were things going in your relationship? Did the impending end of the world and your earthly demise change how you were thinking about your partner? You might be surprised to learn that this is something that scholars have studied quite a bit, working from the general perspective of "terror management theory."

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