Herman Feifel, The Meaning of Death

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Herman Feifel is the pioneering figure and the father of the modern death movement. His efforts broke the entrenched taboo that had previously discouraged scientific study of death and dying and have earned him international acclaim. His work has influenced how we think about death, treat the dying and bereaved, and how we view our own lives. His keen mind, his penetrating insight and leadership, and his endeavours as scientist, clinician, author, editor and mentor have broadened the base of psychological investigation, inspired two generations of researchers and clinicians, and elevated society's consciousness concerning its common humanity.

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... Lastly, best-selling books on death, paired with existential risks like nuclear threats and the Vietnam War ushered in an era of increased mortal awareness in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The "Death Awareness Movement" can be traced back to Herman Feifel's work of the mid-1950s (Lamers, 2012), and Jessica Mitford published her popular exposé of the funeral industry The American Way of Death in 1963. Outrage towards the death industry was met with academic research concerned with patients' experience of death in a growing medical institution (Glaser andStrauss [1965] 2005;Hinton, 1963;LeShan, 1964). ...
Kübler-Ross's five-stage model of death and dying-denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance-is one of the most popular theoretical models to come out of the 20th century. How did an obscure theory of the dying process come to dominate our understanding of emotional processes altogether? Building on previous work in the sociology of knowledge, I analyze the diffusion and institutionalization of Kübler-Ross's five-stage model in scientific and journalistic fields. Specifically, I analyze all 3216 citations of Kübler-Ross in the New York Times and the Web of Science database using qualitative and quantitative text analysis. I demonstrate how early scientific interest and commercial promotion led to adoption in popular culture, and document how the five-stage model expanded to cover everything from rent prices to COVID-19. I also argue that renewed interest in Kübler-Ross's work may signal contemporary attempts to mine the tradition for meaningful understandings of death and dying.
... Ever since Feifel (1955Feifel ( , 1956Feifel ( , 1959Feifel ( , 1977 conducted the first studies concerning the meaning of death (for a review, see Lamers, 2012), a wealth of research has been undertaken to further our understanding of death. This knowledge base can help people to prepare and cope with their own death (Castano et al., 2011;Dadfar & Lester, 2017). ...
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This study analyzed the influence of the image of death (positive or negative) and gender on death anxiety and assessed several subscales of the Death Attitude Profile-Revised in a sample of 280 compulsory secondary education students. Individuals with a positive image of death were found to exhibit less death anxiety than individuals with a negative image of death, and death anxiety was higher in boys than girls. Students with a positive image of death had greater Approach Acceptance, less Fear of Death, less Death Avoidance, more Escape Acceptance, and more Neutral Acceptance than students with a negative image of death.
... Por fim, as crianças de nove anos pareciam ter perfeita consciência da universalidade e da permanência da morte, afirmando que a senhora da história narrada "foi para um lugar melhor". (Lamers Jr., 2012) A maioria dos adolescentes vivencia sentimentos ambivalentes face ao conceito de morte. Porém, alguns adolescentes atribuem-lhe conotações algo extraordiná-rias e misteriosas e por outro lado, preferem condensar o seu pensar no presente do que exacerbar o futuro (Offer, Ostrov, Howard e Atkinson, 1988). ...
The following is a two-part article on the ‘death-denial’ thesis, namely the assumption that modern Western societies seek to deny and conceal the reality of death. The first part of the article gives a chronological overview of Anglophone and French literature on the thesis, focussing on its development and pervasiveness in the disciplines of history and sociology. In the second part of the article, published in a subsequent issue of this journal, we summarise the critiques to the said thesis. We also assess its present state in the social sciences and point to new paths for the future of death studies.
The purpose of this study was to provide a basic data for the establishment of attitude on death, perception on hospice and attitude of DNR by nursing students. The survey was performed with 214 nursing students in Busan. The data was collected by questionnaires and were analyzed using SPSS/win 21.0 program. The period of data collection was from June 1, 2013 to June 15, 2013. The mean scores of attitude on death, perception on hospice and attitude of DNR were 2.63, 3.30 and 3.83 point. The attitude of DNR of the nursing students was significantly different according to the grade and satisfaction of major. The attitude of DNR showed the significant positive relationship with attitude on death and perception on hospice. Attitude on death and perception on hospice accounted for 16.8% of variance in attitude of DNR. Finding of this study is necessary to develop nursing understanding for the attitude of DNR by considering attitude on death and perception on hospice.
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One of the most substantial legacies of Herman Feifel was his pioneering research on attitudes toward death and dying in a variety of populations. The authors review the large and multifaceted literature on death anxiety, fear, threat and acceptance, focusing on the attitudes toward death and dying of relevant professional and patient groups, and the relationship of death concern to aging, physical and mental health, religiosity, and terror management strategies. We conclude with several recommendations for improving the conceptual and practical yield of future work in this area.
This study investigated the relationship between religious persuasion and fear of death in physically healthy persons and terminally ill patients. No differences in the intensity of fear of death were found between believers and unbelievers. Personal nearness to death also did not reveal any meaningful differences between believers and unbelievers. What did emerge was a pattern generally characteristic of all the populations studied, highpointing an ambivalent acceptance-avoidance approach toward fear of death.
Presents a collection of papers by clinicians, scientists, and educators on such topics as effective treatment of the dying person and his/her family, educating the child for death, the relationship of attitudes toward death and human strivings for self-esteem and power, the impact on the law of the idea of death, and the role of grief in mental health. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Investigated the relationship between fear of personal death and major demographic variables (including personal nearness to death and recent experience with death) among 92 terminally ill patients, 94 chronically ill patients, 90 mentally ill patients, and 95 healthy community members. Measures included interview techniques, a word association test, and bipolar adjective rating scales. Age and religious self-rating were the only 2 predictor variables found to be consistently associated with personal fear. The configurational profile emerging from analysis of the 3 levels used suggested the coexistence of an acceptance-avoidance approach toward the notion of personal death. (31 ref.)
Fear of death is considered a major source of apprehension for many emotionally disturbed individuals. Hypotheses that mentally ill persons would evidence greater fear of death than a control group of normal subjects, and the more intense the degree of emotional disturbance the greater would be the presence of fear of death, were investigated. Fear of death was assessed by means of a multilevel criterion. Results indicated that mentally ill patients did not have any significantly greater fear of death than emotionally healthy. Neither did degree of emotional illness appear to be related significantly to apprehension concerning death. Both groups, however, manifested an overall similarity in perception of death, i.e., repudiation of fear of death at a conscious level, linked to ambivalence at an imagery level, and to dread at below the level of awareness.
There is increasing recognition of the need for multilevel measures when dealing with the fear of death (FOD) construct. The present study addressed itself to determining degree of FOD where categorization was based on a consistent positioning of the individual on both direct and indirect measures of FOD. Additionally, FOD was examined in connection with other death dimensions and behaviors. 212 adult males with a high degree of FOD (as measured by the Collett-Lester Fear of Death of Self subscale) when compared with 208 adult males low in FOD significantly viewed death in more negative terms, reported an increase in their personal FOD as they became older, and were less religious in both conduct and creed. Further, when a fantasy level measure (metaphors) was combined with a conscious level assessment of FOD, prediction of degree of FOD was enhanced significantly. The study emphasizes the importance of using multilevel facets of FOD and the need for a variety of outcome measures in appraising the construct. (30 ref)
Investigated the possible affinity between an individual's perspectives concerning death and participation in life-threatening and risk-taking behaviors. Three life-threatening behavior (LTB) groups––123 alcoholics, 115 drug addicts, and 92 prisoners––were compared with 2 groups––143 deputy sheriffs (representing socially sanctioned risk-taking) and 143 normal controls. (All Ss were male.) Multidimensional aspects of death outlook and multilevel features of fear of death were explored. Findings indicate that indulgence in life-threatening behaviors apparently had little relation to specifically held death attitudes or perspectives. Significant differences between the 3 LTB groups and the 2 control groups showed that more LTB Ss than controls had (a) contemplated suicide and (b) attempted it. (21 ref)
Videotape. International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement Videotape Archives Who's afraid of death
  • H Feifel
  • H Feifel
  • A Branscomb
FEIFEL, H. (1998). Videotape. International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement Videotape Archives. Accessed May-July, 2011. FEIFEL, H., & BRANSCOMB, A. (1973). Who's afraid of death? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 81, 38–45.
Discussion The meaning of death (pp. 314–340)
  • G Murphy
MURPHY, G. (1959). Discussion. In H. FEIFEL (Ed.), The meaning of death (pp. 314–340). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
and Death Studies, had published over 1000 professional papers on dying, death, bereavement and related fields Robert Fulton and his co-authors searched the academic literature from 1845 to 1975 in order to obtain an accurate list of scholarly publications dealing with 'death' during that period
  • R L Fultonfulton
Literature for professionals and the general public on themes related to death, dying and bereavement soon multiplied. By 1990, two academic journals, Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, and Death Studies, had published over 1000 professional papers on dying, death, bereavement and related fields (R.L. Fulton, personal communication, May 11, 2011). Robert Fulton and his co-authors searched the academic literature from 1845 to 1975 in order to obtain an accurate list of scholarly publications dealing with 'death' during that period. They developed Figure 1 to show the number of such publications per year (Fulton et al., 1976).
The pornography of death [International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement] website, accessed 14 On death and dying Eulogy for Herman Feifel
  • G Gorer
  • E Ku Bler-Ross
New York, NY: Arno Press. GORER, G. (1955). The pornography of death. Encounter, October. IWG. (2011). [International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement] website, accessed 14 June, 2011. KU BLER-ROSS, E. (1969). On death and dying. New York, NY: Macmillan. LAMERS, W.M. (2004). Eulogy for Herman Feifel. Death Studies, 28, 285–286.
The understanding physician Death education for the health professional Dying, death and bereavement: Theoretical perspectives and other ways of knowing The path ahead: Readings in death and dying Attitudes of mentally ill patients toward death
  • References Aring
  • C Benoliel
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  • B B Germino
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  • Bartlett Jones
  • L Despelder
  • A Strickland
Ten years after Feifel published The Meaning of Death, Elizabeth Kü bler-Ross published her popular book, On Death and Dying (1969), in which she offered a REFERENCES ARING, C. (1971). The understanding physician. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press. BENOLIEL, J.Q. (1982). Death education for the health professional. New York, NY: Hemisphere. CORLESS, I., GERMINO, B.B., & PITTMAN, M. (1994). Dying, death and bereavement: Theoretical perspectives and other ways of knowing. Boston, MA: Jones and Bartlett. DESPELDER, L., & STRICKLAND, A. (1995). The path ahead: Readings in death and dying. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing. FEIFEL, H. (1955). Attitudes of mentally ill patients toward death. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 122, 375–380.
Three letters from Boris Pasternak
  • B Pasternak
PASTERNAK, B. (1967). Three letters from Boris Pasternak. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace and World. 78 W.M. Lamers Jr Downloaded by [Adams State University] at 07:49 19 December 2014
Death, Grief and Bereavement 11: A Bibliography
  • R L Fulton
  • M R Reed
  • J H Thielen
FULTON, R.L., REED, M.R., & THIELEN, J.H. (1981). Death, Grief and Bereavement 11: A Bibliography, 1975–1980.