On Death and Dying

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One of the most important psychological studies of the late twentieth century, On Death and Dying grew out of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's famous interdisciplinary seminar on death, life, and transition. In this remarkable book, Dr. Kubler-Ross first explored the now-famous five stages of death: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Through sample interviews and conversations, she gives the reader a better understanding of how imminent death affects the patient, the professionals who serve that patient, and the patient's family, bringing hope to all who are involved.

Customer Reviews:

  • Used to be hot stuff.
    When I first started teaching an undergraduate course in Death & Dying in 1972, I could correctly assume that every student had already read Kubler-Ross. Now, they've never heard of her, which is a pity. Despite the total lack of evidence to support her five-stage paradigm, she did us all a favor by pulling the shroud off of the topic. She was the first popular writer to deal with feelings of the dying patient. Her book, which cost $1.95 back then, was hot stuff. She actually talked to terminally ill people and didn't beat around the bush. Now we've got any number of pop psychologists applying her five -stage theory to all sorts of things she never even thought of: grief, marriage problems, alcohol treatment, you name it. I tell my students that the staging theory has been around for 32 years now. If it is going to have any experimental support, perhaps it might have emerged by now. The fact is that people are much more complex than any five stages can account for, and people can hold more than one emotion at a time. I've heard Kubler-Ross herself say this many times. But, we can remember five ideas, so there you have it. If she'd proposed a 16-stage hierarchy, she would have never gotten big. At any rate, there are no real scientists in thanatology that now credit her much at all any more, but for historical purposes this is still a valuable book....more info
  • Classic 1969 book about grief stages that defined mainstream views about a person's grief
    In this classic book about grief, Kubler-Ross explains the stages of grief that became widely used in the grief and loss field. The media's use of Kubler-Ross's stages- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance--created mainstream acceptance of Kubler-Ross's findings. An interesting book to give you a revered author's view of the grief and loss process based on her research. Some newer books have dismantled some of the views expressed in this book. I would suggest reading this book and others like the Grief Recovery handbook to broaden your understanding about grief. -- Author of the multi-award winning resource guide: Mom Minus Dad: The Essential Resource Guide for Busy Adults with a Newly Widowed Parent...more info
  • Essential reading for everyone
    This classic should be read by everyone in order to be better prepared for that which we all will face. Death is a subject that for too long has been in the closet but it should not be. This is a topic that needs to be dealt with realistically and this book will help in that process. It should be a springboard for all families and friends to help one another in the final, most difficult journey....more info
    "On Death and Dying" is an excellent resource book for someone who has or is about to lose someone close to them. As a counsellor I have counselled many individuals through grief and while each family/individual is unique, the patterns are generally the same. The book deals with the five stages that accompany grief: 1)Denial and isolation, that is shutting yourself off from family and friends, social or work related activities and refusing to accept the reality of what has happened. 2)Anger, "the why did this have to happen to me" stage and the need to blame. 3)Bargaining, for example, if I could just have this person back, I would not do this, or I would do that. 5)Depression, the feeling there is no reason to go on and a sense of being constantly overwhelmed, often feeling loss of control over their life. 5)Acceptance, of the way things really are and choosing to live the best possible life you can, anyway.

    While these stages can be applied to death under any circumstance, I found the book primarily revolved around the terminally ill as opposed to someone who has died suddenly without prior warning. However, it is important to remember that even though death may not be anticipated at a particular moment in time, most of us go through the same stages of grief regardless of whether or not the death is anticipated or unanticipated. The book will NOT lessen the grief, but the words found here may help readers to understand the grieving process and that grieving is a natural life process, even though it feels very un-natural, confusing and totally devastating at the time....more info

  • Great book for understanding the dying's needs
    I purchased this book as it was refernced in a number of business books I had read. I was trying to understand peoples reaction to significant organizational change. The book was really insightful. I got more than I expected, as the book helped me to understadn the actions of my diying mother-in-law...more info
  • The Classic Work on Grief
    Elisabeth KĘ╣bler-Ross's book, 'On Death and Dying', is one of the classic works in the field, still used to educate and inform medical, counseling, and pastoral professionals since its original publication in the 1960s. KĘ╣bler-Ross did extensive research in the field by actually talking to those in the process of dying, something that had hitherto been considered taboo and an unthinkable, uncaring thing to do. KĘ╣bler-Ross asked for volunteers, and never pressured people to do or say anything they didn't want to. One of her unexpected discoveries was that the medical professionals were more reluctant to participate than were the patients, who quite often felt gratitude and relief at being able to be heard.

    KĘ╣bler-Ross also spoke to families, and followed people through their ailments, sometimes to recovery, but most often to their death. She let the people guide her in her research: 'We do not always state explicitly [to the patient] that the patient is actually terminally ill. We attempt to elicit the patients' needs first, try to become aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and look for overt or hidden communications to determine how much a patient wants to face reality at a given moment.'

    This caring approach was often an aggravation for KĘ╣bler-Ross and her staff, because they would know what the patient had been told but was not yet ready to face. KĘ╣bler-Ross recounts stories of attempts to deal with death in different ways; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance -- in fact, the various stages of grief were first recognised in KĘ╣bler-Ross's research.

    There are those who dislike the `stages' theory of grief, but it is important to know (as the quote above indicates) that these are not set-in-stone processes, but rather dialectical and perichoretic in nature, ebbing and flowing like the tide, so that where a person was `stage-wise' would vary from meeting to meeting.

    KĘ╣bler-Ross explained her interest in this research by saying that `if a whole nation, a whole society suffers from such a fear and denial of death, it has to use defenses which can only be destructive.' Her work is primarily geared to health-care providers, and provides verbatim transcripts of conversations with a wide range of people in different classes, races, family situations, education levels, and ages. The reader can then get a sense of how to better communicate with someone in a terminal situation.

    'Early in my work with dying patients I observed the desperate need of the hospital staff to deny the existence of terminally ill patients on their ward. In another hospital I once spent hours looking for a patient capable to be interviewed, only to be told that there was no one fatally ill and able to talk. On my walk through the ward I saw an old man reading a paper with the headline "Old Soldiers Never Die". He looked seriously ill and I asked him if it did not scare him to `read about that'. He looked at me with anger and disgust, telling me that I must be one of those physicians who can only care for a patient as long as he is well but when it comes to dying, then we all shy away from them. This was my man! I told him about my seminar on death and dying and my wish to interview someone in front the students in order to teach them not to shy away from these patients. He happily agreed to come, and gave us one of the most unforgettable interviews I have ever attended.'

    She concludes with a chapter explaining the reactions of doctors, nurses, counsellors and chaplains, professionals who deal with the dying every day, on how the kinds of listening and care she outlines can change their work and lives as well. It is remarkable to see some of the transformations which take place among these people.

    I have used the advice and insight given by this book in my own ministry, and heartily recommend it to everyone, regardless of medical or ministerial intent, for it can give guidance on how to deal with the deaths of friends or family members and, ultimately, our own death.

    Death will never be a happy subject, but it needn't be a dark mystery devoid of meaning and guidance....more info

  • Classic Reading
    I have always wondered about offering this book to people. While a theoretical piece of writing, the terminology has become a part of the modern-day understanding of grief and mourning. This book was a catalyst in getting people to talk about their experiences, understandings, and concerns about death. I always recommend this people because it aids people in understanding the issues about surviving the death of a loved one; similarly, it helps people find solace in experiencing their own death. A must read for someone who is grieving....more info
  • Feeling good About Death
    This book may serve as training wheels for those who have done little thinking or reading about death or dying but beyond that it is of limited value.
    Ms Ross has been a tireless proponent that a humanistic answer to death is unquestionably necessary and effective. She panders to our need to believe that death is easier and less painful then it actually often is. So this is a well written and convincing book to those who want to feel good and want to feel in control of death. But death can be a profoundly transformative force in peoples lives when we do not seek simple answers and answers that act as prozac. Dealing with death in a genuine and full way is difficult, time consuming. But since people prefer quick easy, feel good answers this book fits the bill just fine. What surprises me is why this book doesnt come with a packet of "Hot Cocoa For the Mortal Soul"
    ...more info
  • On Death and Dying
    Kubler-Ross's work is as valuable today as it was 30 years ago. She described the five stages of dying, while never maintaining that one had to go through the stages in perfect order or that one couldn't have other emotions along with, e.g, anger. No one would argue that death is loss--loss of one's self, or loss of someone dear to us. Many of us have other kinds of loss, i.e., a missing child--a child we have no hope of ever seeing. Is that not death of another kind? The tenets of Kubler-Ross continue to be popular because they have been empirically tested....more info
  • A work that is compassionately direct yet psychologically and spiritually humane.
    For most of us, the area of thanatology is something quite new, despite the fact that death is such an intimate "companion" that can come at any moment of our lives, whether by degrees or instantaneously, irrelevant of our ethnic, social and economic backgrounds. It is a plain truth that can not be avoided, and no technological advancements can make it go away. I would personally like to consider death as the ultimate best friend who would never desert you, despite what your feelings may be. And as a child has the innocent ablity to humanize a doll or a toy soldier, the adult must equally do so with death, not shy away from it and be totally uncommunicative to what it means: the total cessation of physical life, for if one denys its existence and its inevitability, the person could not only suffer from added unnecessary physical heartache, but he or she could also augment the physical stress with mental, spiritual and religious grief as well. Submission to and acceptance of the truth, no matter how difficult it would be to hear, could be the highest catharsis that medicine could not come close to healing. In Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's classic study of the dying process, she interviews patients of various age brackets who teach the living what dying means to them. But even though the experience is individualistic to that specific person, the process of dying has a universality to it which connects us all. Hence, how do you take the sting from the wound? In On Death and Dying, you remove the sting by communication and by simply being there to let the patient say what he or she has to say, to let them vent, and at their own pace, go through the classic defined stages of the dying process: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The patients become our teachers. We learn of their fears, their possible financial burdens, in one woman's case, the fear of the worms, et cetera. But we also learn about what the families go through, their own anger and disbelief and guilt. It is about pacing and the opening up of repressed fear for all the people involved. Sometimes there is cohesion in the shock and anger, other times not. The United States is one of the most death-denying countries out there, a fact most evident with plastic surgery on the rise and chiseled bodies to reverse the aging process, for going foward means only one thing: death. Ross's overall message is that death does not have to be and is not the horror that we all think it is, the grim reaper with the skeletal hand and the sharpened scythe. Death has issues for everybody, doctors, faith-filled people, even Ross heself. It is a step that we are all going to take sooner or later. But it is comforting to know that we are all in it together.

    ...more info
  • A superb, multi-voiced dramatic audiobook production.
    Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' On Death And Dying provides an abridged version of this psychology classic, read by Carol Bilger and providing an examination of the attitudes on dying and death in modern society. Multi-voice readings of interviews conducted with patients dramatizes her classic and brings it renewed vitality....more info
  • Do I have to give this even one star?
    I agree with the other writer who gave this book a one-star rating. It is definitely not for the sick. Although I'm not terminally ill, this book turned my stomach reading it. I had to read this as part of my coursework toward my Ph.D. Basically, Kubler-Ross states that if a person is dying, he/she needs to come to terms with his/her finality. Also, the patient should not be encouraged to think of happier times. Why ever not? Patients labeled as terminal should be able to deal with it any way they choose, even if their choice is one of denial. Kubler-Ross also discusses a certain Christian Scientist woman in one of her case studies. Although I'm not a Christian Scientist, it is clear that Kubler-Ross has no idea what this is about. Being a true Christian Scientist means that one knows (and not simply believes) that he/she can be healed. It does not mean a person denies dis-ease and leaves the rest entirely up to God. There must be a change in outlook as well. With so many health care workers focused on dis-ease, it is very difficult for anyone to maintain a healthy mentality in the hospital environment. Labeling a person as terminal or dying only helps to reinforce this condition. This is especially negative when he/she does not wish this as opposed to someone who is ready to pass on....more info
  • Death and Reading
    It's a very practical book. No woner it has stood the test of time. More of you living beings should pay attention to this wise compendium of advice before you meet up with me....more info
  • Everyone Should Read This Book
    I knew my Mother was going to die from her cancer, and I needed help understanding what was going to happen. This book is a classic for good reason. It talks about stages of grief, giving examples by talking with actual dying patients, of each of the stages. It helped me to deal gracefully with what I saw my Mom going through, and to be able to be understanding and supportive instead of feeling lost and afraid. I recommend this book highly....more info
  • Classic Reading
    I have always wondered about offering this book to people. While a theoretical piece of writing, the terminology has become a part of the modern-day understanding of grief and mourning. This book was a catalyst in getting people to talk about their experiences, understandings, and concerns about death. I always recommend this people because it aids people in understanding the issues about surviving the death of a loved one; similarly, it helps people find solace in experiencing their own death. A must read for someone who is grieving....more info
  • good book, late delivery
    ordered the book on 30 november and received it on 6 january! better late than never, they say. i wanted to read this book for quite some time and started doing so immediately after receipt. although it was written a long time ago, the insight and recommendations it provides continues to be valid today. i have not finished 'on death and dying' yet, so i will have to send another review when i'm through with it. ...more info
  • The meaning of life is that it stops

    Seminal classic.

    There is no cure for birth or death save to enjoy the interval.
    -- George Santayana

    The question is can we really get the most out of this life without fully coming to terms with death especially our own death?

    This groung breaking book brought home couple of points ..

    Rather than wait till you are old are or diagnosed with something terminal it may make sense for all us to think of our own death now and then rather than living in denial about it and be shocked by it when it is imminent. Life is natural, so is death. In fact in some eastern religions (Tibetan Buddhism comes to mind) one is asked to meditate up on death to drive home the significance of impermanence of all things.

    Another important point this book makes which I think the society, as a whole needs to pay attention is to let people die with as much dignity as possible. The current drama unfolding in the case of Terri Schiavo proves the point. Though no one can know for sure what she would want, the so called "culture of life" issue people keep bringing up to keep her alive is denying her a dignified death. Can you imagine anything more inhumane if she really wants to be let go in peace? I don't propose to know the solution, but we all need to put that living will in place.

    An interesting empirical point this book makes is people who have religious beliefs as to what happens to them after death find have an easier time when the end comes. (I for one don't believe there is any after life after death and hence may need to better prepare myself to face death).

    Would like to finish with these verses from Rubaiyat

    There was the Door to which I found no Key:
    There was the Veil through which I could not see:
    Some little talk awhile of ME and THEE
    There was--and then no more of THEE and ME
    ...more info
  • On Death and Dying
    Having lost two family members within a short time of each other, this book was very helpful to me when dealing with so many emotions at once. I already knew of Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief, however there was much to be learned here as the dying were the teachers....more info
  • Great book for understanding the dying's needs
    I purchased this book as it was refernced in a number of business books I had read. I was trying to understand peoples reaction to significant organizational change. The book was really insightful. I got more than I expected, as the book helped me to understadn the actions of my diying mother-in-law...more info
  • An Important Book
    I highly recommend this book. My father died of terminal cancer. Two days after the funeral, I saw my dad at the foot of my bed. When I saw him a second time I thought I had lost my mind. Not only did the book help me to heal but it assured me that it was not my imagination those nights I saw him. There is something else beyond this life waiting for us. Skeptics will always find ways to dispute this fact but I've learned to brush those people off. When their time comes, they will see for themselves....more info
  • A framework for progress
    I read this book 10 years ago when I was coping with my father's suicide. The author does an excellent job of framing the stages -- something I used daily to help myself understand and track my own progress through my grief. Though I read many books during that time, this is the only one I remember....more info
  • On death and dying
    I haven't had a chance to read the book in its entirity, but have enjoyed what I have read. ...more info
  • Much to Know
    Having taken a graduate course in death and dying, I have always been curious about reading the Kubler-Ross in its full context. Most people with a minimal amount of psychology in their background are familar with the five stages of Dying, but there is so much more to the book.

    The five stages of dying only comprise about 1/3 of the book. The rest of the book is composed of interviews with dying patients and an exploration of the cultural phobia of death. It is a real eye opening experience to see the lengths which people will go to avoid discussing death. Even members of the medical profession exercise some measure of avoidance. Their treatment of patients often involves sparse and impersonal contact with the dying patients and often times refusal to be honest. Kubler-Ross's research caused change through her study, making it known how the dying want to be treated.

    "On Death and Dying" was the first work to study the process of dying. It still remains one of the landmark studies. It is certainly appropriate preparation for a reader who are nearing death as well as the family of the dying/dead....more info
  • Very Insightful
    This book is very helpful to understand the overall grieving process. From counselor to doctor to family and ultimately, to a terminally ill patient, this book can be very helpful. Recommended highly!...more info
  • Essential Reading
    A brilliant book by E. Rubler-Ross who has dedicated her life to researching the needs of terminally ill patients & their families. This is essential reading for everyone, whether you have had to face death (either your own or a loved one) or not. It is common for Westerners to deny death by not discussing it, or even thinking about it. This book illustrates the many problems that can arise from this attitude & the heartache it can cause the terminally ill & their families. Thanks to E. Kubler-Ross for an amazing lifetime achievement....more info
  • Helpful during difficult time
    This book was recommended to me when my mother seemed to be dying of cancer. It explored the taboo topic of death, accepting the pending death and offerred a whole new perspective on how to accept and understand the process. It is controversial in the medical community and a must read for anyone with a loved one who is terminally ill or who is terminally ill themselves....more info


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