New Psychological Perspectives on Death and Dying—between Normality and the COVID-19 Emergency

A special issue of Behavioral Sciences (ISSN 2076-328X). This special issue belongs to the section "Social Psychology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2022) | Viewed by 32154

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
1. Director Master, Death Studies & The End of Life, Department of Philosophy, Sociology, Education and Applied Psychology (FISPPA), University of Padova, Padova, Italy
2. Research Fellow, Emili Sagol Creative Arts Therapies Research Center, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
Interests: death; dying; palliative care; ethnographic and longitudinal research; effectiveness of psychological interventions with standardized instruments; dignity in end-life; self-determination in end-life choices; support for dying people; support for caregivers; anxiety of death and its management; representations of death; Terror Management Theory; spirituality and religiosity; epistemology of ontological representations of life
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In these days of trauma caused by COVID-19, the whole world is confronted with a renewed importance to be attributed to behaviors that protect health. The West is also confronted with the inability to represent death and dying, until now strongly removed from everyday real life. This unpreparedness has perhaps made the COVID-19 event even more traumatic in all more technologically advanced countries. For this reason, it is important from now on to systematically enhance research on the ways in which people die, more or less independently of the COVID-19 event, giving importance to all the expressions with which death manifests itself in the existential horizon of people and societies, investigating the best strategies to deal with it.

This Special Issue is divided into several sections, some are closely related to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, others refer to the whole horizon of research, studies and reflections on the forms and modalities of dying, as well as the interventions that can help to manage death and the suffering it implies.

Section One - COVID-19: The trauma caused by the virus in people's lives, in the community, and in society: appropriate psychological reflections and interventions;

Second Section - Palliative Psychology: the model of palliative care, which is based on the support that psychology can offer the patient, family members, and the palliative care team, both within the hospice and in home care;

Third Section - Grief: an examination of all expressions of loss and grief and appropriate interventions to support mourners, resilience and risk factors, new expressions, and social factors influencing the experience of loss;

Fourth section - Death Education: social and psychological strategies for dealing with death anxiety.

Prof. Dr. Ines Testoni
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • psychological effects of COVID-19
  • palliative psychology
  • loss, grief, and mourning
  • death studies
  • spirituality
  • religiosity
  • Terror Management Theory
  • representation of death
  • death education
  • grief/mourning counselling or psychotherapy
  • social trauma
  • social health discrimination processes
  • social representations of death

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Editorial

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4 pages, 200 KiB  
Editorial
New Psychological Perspectives on Death and Dying—Between Normality and the COVID-19 Emergency
by Ines Testoni
Behav. Sci. 2022, 12(11), 414; https://doi.org/10.3390/bs12110414 - 27 Oct 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1561
Abstract
In recent decades, there has been a constantly increasing preoccupation with physical perfection and the scientific urge to improve life expectancy [...] Full article

Research

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22 pages, 3032 KiB  
Article
‘You’re Not Alone for China’: The First Song in Times of COVID-19 to Keep the Faith in a World Crying in Silence
by Lydia Giménez-Llort
Behav. Sci. 2022, 12(4), 88; https://doi.org/10.3390/bs12040088 - 24 Mar 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 4258
Abstract
Collective mourning is an expression of societal maturity, cohesion, and respect. The world is in grief, but in early January 2020, before nobody could even imagine that SARS-CoV-2 would turn into the COVID-19 pandemic, a music video version of a pop ballad about [...] Read more.
Collective mourning is an expression of societal maturity, cohesion, and respect. The world is in grief, but in early January 2020, before nobody could even imagine that SARS-CoV-2 would turn into the COVID-19 pandemic, a music video version of a pop ballad about love and isolation was spread across a Chinese social network. The song ‘You Are Not Alone’ was adapted as a cover by young foreigners living in China to express their support to bereaved families and frontline workers and encourage the people of China, their second home. At that time, the rest of the world looked to distant China but could hardly expect to face the same adversity months later. The authors reported that the music video was a spontaneous artistic expression copying such traumatic events and the mourning process. The present work analyses how the music was blended with lyrics and images describing the outbreak in Wuhan to reach their goal. The original song and this shortened version for China were compared regarding musical and lyric structures and main characteristics. Additionally, an analysis of the two videos was done regarding cinemetric variables and non-verbal communication that emphasized the power of songs to express deep sorrow and sympathy but also to give hope. Psychological first aid, the five stages of the mourning process by Kübler-Ross, the dual-process model by Stroebe and Schut, and Taylor’s tend-to-befriend provided a better understanding of the translation from interpersonal to societal mourning. Finally, other memorable songs that society spontaneously chose to be performed alone or together to cope with sudden and dramatic situations, mitigate physical distancing, and alleviate human suffering are discussed. Music, lyrics, and artistic performance are playing a key role in building social and emotional ties during this pandemic, hampering individual and social pain and sorrow despite cultural barriers. Full article
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18 pages, 1893 KiB  
Article
Meaning-Making Coping Methods among Bereaved Parents: A Pilot Survey Study in Sweden
by Fereshteh Ahmadi and Saeid Zandi
Behav. Sci. 2021, 11(10), 131; https://doi.org/10.3390/bs11100131 - 24 Sep 2021
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 3472
Abstract
The death of a child may result in traumatizing forms of grief, and meaning-making coping with loss seems to be important in prevention of intense psychosocial problems among bereaved parents. The aim of this quantitative pilot study was to discover the divergent meaning-making [...] Read more.
The death of a child may result in traumatizing forms of grief, and meaning-making coping with loss seems to be important in prevention of intense psychosocial problems among bereaved parents. The aim of this quantitative pilot study was to discover the divergent meaning-making coping methods used by bereaved parents in Sweden. In doing so, 162 respondents were selected using a convenience sampling method, and they responded to the modified version of RCOPE. The study revealed that the strategies talking to others about their feelings, pondering the meaning of life alone, and being in nature for greater emotional affiliation, i.e., what we call secular existential coping methods, have been the most used meaning-making coping methods among Swedish mourning parents. While explaining the results, we considered the respondents’ cultural background and speculated about the potential influence of cultural teachings and elements in the selection of ways of coping with bereavement. Further, we compared the results obtained with those of the two other Swedish studies conducted among people coping with cancer and COVID-19 to further discuss the impact of culture on coping with illness, loss, grief, and crisis. The study supports the idea that culture plays an essential role in the choice of coping methods. Full article
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20 pages, 1159 KiB  
Article
From Fear to Hopelessness: The Buffering Effect of Patient-Centered Communication in a Sample of Oncological Patients during COVID-19
by Alessandro Alberto Rossi, Maria Marconi, Federica Taccini, Claudio Verusio and Stefania Mannarini
Behav. Sci. 2021, 11(6), 87; https://doi.org/10.3390/bs11060087 - 14 Jun 2021
Cited by 30 | Viewed by 3968
Abstract
Background: COVID-19 represents a threat both for the physical and psychological health of oncological patients experiencing heightened distress levels to which the fear of the virus is also added. Moreover, fear of COVID-19 could lead oncological patients to experience feelings of hopelessness related [...] Read more.
Background: COVID-19 represents a threat both for the physical and psychological health of oncological patients experiencing heightened distress levels to which the fear of the virus is also added. Moreover, fear of COVID-19 could lead oncological patients to experience feelings of hopelessness related to their medical care. Patient-centered communication may act as a buffer against the aforementioned variables. This study aimed to test the role of doctor–patient communication in the relationship between fear of COVID-19 and hopelessness. Methods: During the COVID-19 pandemic, a sample of 90 oncological outpatients was recruited (40 males (44.4%) and 50 females (55.6%), mean age = 66.08 (SD = 12.12)). A structured interview was developed and used during the pandemic to measure the patients’ perceived (A) fear of COVID-19, and (B) feelings of hopelessness, and (C) physicians’ use of empathetic and (D) clear language during the consultation. A multiple mediation model was tested, and the effects between males and females were also compared. Results: Empathetic and clear doctor–patient communication buffered the adverse effect of the fear of COVID-19 on hopelessness through a full-mediation model. The effects did not differ between males and females in the overall model but its indirect effects. Discussions: Patient-centered communication using empathy and clear language can buffer the adverse effect of the fear of COVID-19 and protect oncological patients from hopelessness during the pandemic. These findings might help to improve clinical oncological practice. Full article
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13 pages, 246 KiB  
Article
The Endless Grief in Waiting: A Qualitative Study of the Relationship between Ambiguous Loss and Anticipatory Mourning amongst the Relatives of Missing Persons in Italy
by Ines Testoni, Chiara Franco, Lorenza Palazzo, Erika Iacona, Adriano Zamperini and Michael Alexander Wieser
Behav. Sci. 2020, 10(7), 110; https://doi.org/10.3390/bs10070110 - 6 Jul 2020
Cited by 27 | Viewed by 7462
Abstract
This article presents the results of a qualitative study aiming to consider the relationship between ambiguous loss and anticipatory mourning amongst relatives of missing people in Italy. Eight people participated in the research, narrating their experiences of losing a beloved person (one found [...] Read more.
This article presents the results of a qualitative study aiming to consider the relationship between ambiguous loss and anticipatory mourning amongst relatives of missing people in Italy. Eight people participated in the research, narrating their experiences of losing a beloved person (one found alive, three found dead, and four still missing). Findings suggest the presence of a particular form of ambiguous loss, characterised by traits typical of both prolonged and traumatic grief. These findings describe how families are faced with an emotional vortex related to a never-ending wait, and how the mourning is solved only when the missing person is found dead or alive. The discovery of a corpse is traumatic but it allows mourners to fully recognise their grief. When a person is found, it changes the relationship in a positive way. When neither of these events happen, mourners have two different kinds of reactions: they experience either a prolonged grief or a drive to solve their suffering by helping other people (post-traumatic growth). In this study, it is highlighted how a community can be useful or detrimental in this process, and the importance of psychological and social support to prevent significant clinical outcomes is stressed. Full article

Review

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14 pages, 526 KiB  
Review
A Scoping Review of Interventions for Family Bereavement Care during the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Carlos Laranjeira, Débora Moura, Maria Aparecida Salci, Lígia Carreira, Eduardo Covre, André Jaques, Roberto Nakamura Cuman, Sonia Marcon and Ana Querido
Behav. Sci. 2022, 12(5), 155; https://doi.org/10.3390/bs12050155 - 19 May 2022
Cited by 15 | Viewed by 3238
Abstract
The death of a loved one is a major stressor, and bereaved people are at a higher risk of negative health effects. This risk is higher during the COVID-19 pandemic, which raises the need for understanding existing bereavement support interventions. This scoping review [...] Read more.
The death of a loved one is a major stressor, and bereaved people are at a higher risk of negative health effects. This risk is higher during the COVID-19 pandemic, which raises the need for understanding existing bereavement support interventions. This scoping review aimed to map and summarize findings from the existing literature regarding bereavement support interventions (i.e., psychosocial and psychotherapeutic interventions) for family carers of people who died of COVID-19. The Arksey and O’Malley methodological framework was used. Five databases—Medline, PubMed, CINAHL, Scopus, and Web of Science—were searched for articles available from the inception of COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020) to January 2022, following the PRISMA guidelines. Among the 990 studies identified, only seven met this study’s inclusion criteria. The analysis comprised three key topics: types of support programmes and bereavement interventions; tools used to measure the outcomes; and evidence of the impacts of the interventions. All studies analysed included interdisciplinary interventions, commonly developed in clinical settings. Support for recently bereaved individuals can entail cognitive behavioural therapy strategies and other tools to educate, guide, support, and promote healthy integration of loss. To mitigate the effects of non-normative family bereavement, we recommend a systematic approach and coordination between organizational settings, including access to informal and professional support, in order to find hope while navigating the aftermath of COVID-19. Full article
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9 pages, 542 KiB  
Review
Psychopathological Impact and Resilient Scenarios in Inpatient with Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders Related to Covid Physical Distancing Policies: A Systematic Review
by Pasquale Caponnetto, Alessandra Benenati and Marilena G. Maglia
Behav. Sci. 2021, 11(4), 49; https://doi.org/10.3390/bs11040049 - 13 Apr 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 5463
Abstract
The COVID-19 epidemic posed great challenges to the healthcare community. To contain the epidemiological emergency, confinement measures were instituted, affecting the entire population. The lack of social contact, as well as the disruption of daily life, caused the exacerbation of anxiety and depressive [...] Read more.
The COVID-19 epidemic posed great challenges to the healthcare community. To contain the epidemiological emergency, confinement measures were instituted, affecting the entire population. The lack of social contact, as well as the disruption of daily life, caused the exacerbation of anxiety and depressive symptoms. The present review of the literature aims to investigate what the effects of the pandemic have been on patients with schizophrenia, hypothesizing, an exacerbation of psychotic symptomatology (positive, negative, disorganized symptoms). Between November 2020 and January 2021, 5353 articles were collected and analyzed from the databases of the ResearchGate, Pubmed, and Psycnet websites, subjected to PRISMA methodology. Of these, 11 were evaluated for eligibility, but only three were included in the study because they met all inclusion criteria. The research did not confirm the expected results, showing that any kind of worsening of schizophrenic symptomatology involved the study samples. However, interesting outcomes were highlighted, such as a significant increase in general well-being during the early period of the pandemic, especially by women, or an increase in CPR (C-reactive Protein) levels in the blood, signaling an inflammatory state. Although the systematic review refuted the initial hypothesis, this must be a starting point: the topic is recent and these findings leave ample room for further investigation, particularly in long-term longitudinal research. It is possible that the true response to this disruption of daily life that occurred only during the past year may manifest itself later in time. On the other hand, interesting outcomes have been brought to light that may provide further interesting research insights. Full article
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