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Death, Society and Human Experience

Updated on December 12, 2014
Flora Crew profile image

Flo is a "professional student" with degrees in psychology and an associates in computer programming and operations.

I have a dog eared copy of Death, Society and Human Experience. I bought the book for a class I took at Oakton Community College but it is so weather beaten you would never guess it was an online class I took with it! To set the back ground for my reading, I had just been diagnosed with colon cancer. The first thing I did when I got out of the hospital after the emergency operation was to get a new state id at the driver's license bureau so I could donate my body to science. I was worried about how to pay for the funeral and decided to get rid of my body to avoid the cost of being buried! (In Illinois the state will mark one's identification card that one is an organ donor if elected by the person getting the id.)

I realized that I needed to take a more systemic approach to closing up my affairs and that is one of the reasons I took the class with the same subject matter as the book. The book was a perfect solution to my interest in the subject. Its objectivity helped me maintain a certain distance from the possibility of my demise but it was a topic I was interested in from a very personal point of view. So, I was very motivated to read the book.

Kastenbaum covers a number of interesting topics in the book. He gives a history of how people have approached death. He talks about the "death machine" in our country, even discussing the way chickens are mass slaughtered as indicative of this death machine. He talks about suicide and how to talk to a person who is suicidal. Kastenbaum points out that if a person is suicidal that a friend's or counselor's asking her about it is not going to make her more suicidal. He talks about what and what not to say to a dying person. He jumps back and forth between a very personal account and an accurate statement of sociological facts. The information I gleaned from the book helped me in later classes on counseling and sociology as well as the psychology of aging.

One of the tidbits I found interesting was that Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the only theorist I had heard of prior to taking the class, was no longer held in such high esteem by people working in the field as she had been when I studied psychology in the 1960s and 1970s in Alabama and Georgia. Her four stages of dying were no longer written in stone. Kasatenbaum also thought that "grief-work" needed to be done by only a subset of the people undergoing grief rather than everyone.

Kastenbaum's approach was mirrored by our instructor. She had us write a "reflection" on most chapters. In the reflections we were allowed to juxtapose our feelings with facts from an article or from the text. I enjoyed the writings as well, and they helped me to find my "voice." Luckily, I am still alive to tell you about what a valuable experience reading the book was for me, and with my new "voice."

Another thing discussed is the living will, a directive about what one wants to happen when on can no longer make decisions for oneself. As an exercise we had to do a living will in my class.

On Our Way: The Final Passage through Life and Death (Life Passages)
On Our Way: The Final Passage through Life and Death (Life Passages)

This another of Kastenbaum's interesting books about dying.


When I was doing the research for this section I found that Kastenbaum passed away in July of 2013. I was sorry to hear that. I suspect these books will become collectors items.

Psychology of Death, Third Edition
Psychology of Death, Third Edition

Death from a psychological perspective rather than a sociological perspective.



Since seeing the review of this book, I have been exposed a lot to the youth oriented society that we are caught up in.

Dorian Graying: Is Youth the Only Thing Worth Having? (Society and Aging Series)
Dorian Graying: Is Youth the Only Thing Worth Having? (Society and Aging Series)

Book that questions whether society has less respect for the aged than previously.


More about Kastenbaum

Kastenbaum was the age of eighty when died in July of 2013. He is not in either video but his works are represented in both.

The song was written by Robert Kastenbaum, who was a music writer as well as a sociologist.

The video demonstrates the eeriness of the topic of death. It also has a kind of an outline of Kastenbaum's Death, Society and Human Experience. Professor Adrienne Cohen at Southern Georgia University used this text as a part of her class in Death and Dying. I took the class under a different instructor at Oakton Community College.

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My dog eared copy of Death, Society and Human Experience.
My dog eared copy of Death, Society and Human Experience.

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    • Flora Crew profile image

      Flora Crew 3 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      @tazzytamar: Thanks Anna, I enjoyed the book quite a bit!

    • tazzytamar profile image

      Anna 3 years ago from chichester

      What a fab review - this book sounds like an incredibly interesting read and I'm definitely going to give it a go

    • Flora Crew profile image

      Flora Crew 4 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      @Merrci: Thank you, Merrci.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Well done review! Thanks for sharing it!