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San Rafael, CA 94901

P: 415.482.3579


Psychology of Death and Dying

The Psychology of Death and Dying is a one unit psychology course which focuses on the dying process as well as our own individual reactions to human mortality. We examine the research from the discipline of psychology and review cross-cultural attitudes to death and dying.










Location: Guzman 113, San Rafael Campus / School: Arts & Sciences Division: Natural, Behavioral, & Health Sciences  

Department Name:  Psychology

Discipline:  PSY

Course Number:  PSY 3004

Call Number:  0644

Course Title:  Psychology of Death and Dying

Units:  1

Semester Offered:  Spring    Year: 2008

Course Meeting Days and Times:  F, 1/25/08, 6-9 and S, 2/2/08, 9-6

Prerequisites:  None




Instructor Name:

Dr. LeeAnn Bartolini

Phone Number:

415-257- 1357

E-mail address:


Office Location:

Bertrand 27

Office Hours

T/Th 11-12

W 1-2 and by appointment

It is best to contact me via email – my response time is usually .


REQUIRED READING:   (Available online or at your local bookstore)

1.  Levine, S. (1998 ).  A Year to Live:  How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last.  Three Rivers Press. (Or another book by special arrangement!!!)


OR, if you chose to do paper #2


2. A book of your choice (from the list below or approved by the instructor that is integrated into paper 

           #  2.


3.  Bring an item – photo or symbol that expresses your personal relationship to loss to the 2nd class meeting to place on our “altar.”




Further Recommended Reading:  (Available at Bookstores near you)


Albom, M. (1997). Tuesdays with Morrie.  Doubleday.

 Anderson, M. (2003). Sacred Dying: Creating Rituals for Embracing the End of Life. Marlowe

 Archer, J.  (1999).  The Nature of Grief:  The Evolution and Psychology of Reactions to Loss.  Routledge.

 Becker E.  (1974/1997). The Denial of Death.  Free Press

 Colgrove, M. Et al. (1993).  How to Survive the Loss of a Love.  Prelude Press.

 Callanan, M. & Kelley, P.  (1997).  Final Gifts:  Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying.  Bantam Books.

 Corr, C.A., Nabe, C.M. & Corr, D. (2005) Death and Dying: Life and Living. Wadsworth.

 Davis, Deborah.  (1996).  Empty Cradle, Broken Heart:  Surviving the Death of your Baby.  Fulcrum Publishers.

 De-Vita-Raeburn, Elizabeth. (2004) The Empty Room: Surviving the Loss of a Brother or Sister at Any Age. Scribner.

 DeHennezel, M.  (1995).  Intimate Death: How the Dying Teach Us How to Live.  Vintage Books.

 DeSpelder, L. A. & Strickland, A. (2004). The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying. McGraw-Hill.

 Edelman, H.  (1995).  Motherless Daughters:  The Legacy of Loss.  Delta.

 Fulton, R., Carlson, J. Krohn, K., Markusen, E. & Owen, G.  (1976).  Death, Grief, and Bereavement:  A Bibliography, 1845-1975.  Arno Press.

 Harris, M.  (1996).  The Loss that is Forever:  The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father.  Plume.

 Huntley, T.  (1991).  Helping Children Grieve When Someone They Love Dies.  Augsberg Fortress Publishers.

 Irish, D. and Lundquist, K. (1993). Ethnic Variations In Dying, Death And Grief: Diversity In Universality.


 Jarratt, C.  & Rosenberg, D.  (1994).  Helping Children Cope with Separation and Loss.  Harvard Common Press.

 Kapleau, P.  The Wheel Of Life and Death.  (Out of Print)

 Kapleau, P.  (1998). The Zen of Living and Dying.  A Practical and Spiritual Guide.  Shambala Books.

 Kluger-Bell, K.  (1998)  Unspeakable Losses:  Understanding the Experience of Pregnancy Loss, Miscarriage, and Abortion.  W.W. Norton and Company.

 Kramer, K.  (1988). The Sacred Art of Dying:  How World Religions Understand Death.  Paulist Press.

 Kramp, E. , Kramp, D. & McKhann, E.  (1998 ). Living with the End in Mind: A Practical Checklist for Living Life to the Fullest by Embracing Your Mortality.  Three Rivers Press.

 Kubler-Ross, E.  (1997). Death: The Final Stage of Growth.  Simon and Schuster.

 Kubler-Ross, E.  (1997). On Death and Dying.  Collier Books.

 Lafrand, L.  (1997). After Death Communications:  Final Farewells.  Llewellyn Publications.

 Levine, S. & Levine, O.  (1989). Who Dies?  An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying.  Anchor.

 Lewis, C.S.  A Grief Observed. (1983). Bantam Books.

 Lord, J. & Wheeler, E.  No Time for Goodbyes:  Coping with Sorrow, Anger, and Injustice After a Tragic Death.  Pathfinder Publications.

 Lukas, C.  (1997).  Silent Grief:  Living in the Wake of Suicide.  Aronson.

 Mehren, E. (1997).  After the Darkest Hour the Sun Will Shine Again:  A Parent’s Guide to Coping with the Loss of a Child.  Fireside.

 Meyers, E.  (1997).  When Parents Die: A Guide for Adults.  Penguin.

 Moody, W.  (1988).  Reflections on Life After Life.  Bantam Books.

 Nuland, S. (1995).  How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter.  Vintage Books

 Rinpoche, S.  (1992).  The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.  Harper San Francisco.

 Roach, M. (2004) Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. W.W. Norton.

 Rosof, B.  (1995).  The Worst Loss:  How Families Heal from the Death of a Child.  Henry Holt Publishers.

 Sife, W.  (1998).  The Loss of a Pet.  Howell Book House.

 Shinoda-Bolen, Jean.  (1996).  Close to the Bone: Life-Threatening Illness and the Search for Meaning.  Scribner.

 Smolin, A.  (1993).  Healing After the Suicide of a Loved One.  Fireside.

 Staudacher, C.  (1987)  Beyond Grief:  A Guide for Recovering from the Death of a Loved One.  New Harbinger.

 Wray, T.J. (2003).  Surviving the Death of a Sibling: Living Through Grief When an Adult Brother or Sister Dies.  Three Rivers Press.



Association for Death Education    

Centers for Disease control           

Compassionate Friends                

Death Net                                    


Hospice Foundation of America     

Suicide Awareness                      

Soros Project on Death in America

Wills and Estate Planning             

Advance Directives                       

U.S. Living Will Registry               

Note:  Web links exist for almost every major illness. I have not included those here, but they can be very helpful as you try to comprehend the dying process given a specific disease.



Students will demonstrate:

1)      comprehension of the major theories in psychology about the variety of dying and grieving process

2)      the ability to reflect on prior losses and to integrate psychological theory into these loss experiences

3)      the ability to reflect on their own mortality and how this may influence life choices


In addition, further goals of the course, but ones difficult to measure are:

1)      to promote awareness and sensitivity to the needs of others encountering death-related phenomena

2)      to promote understanding of global issues related to death and dying

3)      to encourage further intellectual and emotional inquiry related to death and dying



 The times listed below are not firm and serve only to provide direction to our discussion.





  • Welcome and introductions. Administrative details.
  • Description of the course and the study of death and dying
  • What happens when we die? The physical side of death and dying
  • The changing face of death: Risks of dying in the modern age
  • Experiences and attitudes toward death




·        Welcome Again and re- introductions. More administrative details.

·        Creation of an altar space representing our losses (remember to bring a photo or symbol) 

·        Thoughts since class one. Brief thoughts on the Levine book.

·        Viewing Finale of  “Our town” by Thorton Wilder

·        Discussion of  "Our Town" by Thorton Wilder



·        Lecture and discussion of the Denial of Death by Ernest Becker

·        In class exercises


10:30   Break



·        Psychological Models of the Dying Process – across the lifespan

·        Psychological Models of Grief Reactions

·        In class Exercises


11:45 Lunch



·        Some Poetry on Death and Dying Discussion

·        Cross-Cultural Attitudes Toward Death     

·        In Class Exercises



·        Life Cycle Perspectives: When grieving  occurs at different ages and understanding how the experience of loss is different for a child, an adult, and an elder   

·        In class Exercises


2:45 Break



·        Personal and Social Choices Related to Death and Dying - Advance Directives, Wills, Organ Donation

·        Funeral Practices and Memorial Rituals

·        In class Exercises



·        Conscious Living. Conscious Dying. Is it Possible? Discussion

Read:  Levine, S.  A Year to Live:  How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last

In class Exercises



·        Evaluations

·        Closing Ritual



1)      Attendance is required.  Please Note: Students may not miss more than two hours of the course and be eligible to receive an A grade. Missing more than two hours results in a failing grade.

2)      Final Paper: 10 pages, DUE DATE:  February 28th, students can mail the paper but it must be postmarked with the 2/28 date. Mail to LeeAnn Bartolini, Psychology Department, Dominican University of California. 50 Acacia Avenue, San Rafael, CA 94901. Or you can drop your paper off in the psychology department by 4pm on 2/28.  We have a wall of plastic boxes for student paper drop off to the right of the front door (inside). Place you paper in my box marked BARTOLINI. You are responsible for keeping a copy of your paper until you receive a grade in this course!


Select one of the following assignments: (Note: fully attending the class, but not turning in a paper results in a D grade).


1.  Paper One:  A Year to Live (doing the required book in one month rather than a year)

Using the principles and ideas outlined in the book A Year To Live, write a paper that incorporates your reaction to Levine's ideas – focusing on the month that you were involved in this class.


2.  Paper Two:  My Experiences with Death

In this paper please review your experiences with death, focusing on the application of the information discussed in class and the required reading (Levine and 1 other book of your choice). How did this information assist you? An excellent paper will cite specific references to theory or ideas presented in class or read. In other words, show me that you attended class and read a book by INTEGRATING this material.


I believe that formal teaching is a rare opportunity. My goal for this course is to introduce you to what is undoubtedly an enormous area of potential study. The process of teaching is reducing years of potential research and reading into one brief experience where you leave having learned something new, something substantial, with a thirst to know more. These are my classroom policies and procedures.

Success in this course can be achieved by taking responsibility for your own learning. This means being a serious student (attend class, read, reflect, research, ask questions and see the results). In hours this means approximately six hours a week on this course. Take advantage of my office hours or make an appointment to see me if anything is unclear.

Grading: An A is an outstanding, superior, and nearly flawless paper or test

A B is a very good, of fine quality, and exceeds minimum expectations

A C is average and represents satisfactory work

A D is below course expectations and represents a significant problem in one's work

An F is, well, failing and represents and overall poor performance in class assignments and usually indicates a lack of attendance, poor scheduling, or little effort.

I attempt to assign grades fairly and without bias. I do not enjoy being pressured into giving A grades. I freely give A's when deserved.

Papers: All Papers must be typed, double-spaced, with a 12 point easily readable font type, have one inch margins, a title page with all necessary information, and a staple. A and B papers have few, if any, spelling or grammar errors. I expect complete referencing when the assignment requires it (e.g. research papers, direct quotes from a source) and a reference page. I prefer that papers not be in plastic folders.

Late Papers: I expect that papers will be turned in on time. I will accept late papers, although late papers will be downgraded and will be reduced and additional letter grade for each week that they are late. Late papers will not be accepted for this course after April 1st - no exceptions!

Incompletes: I only use the incomplete system for personal tragedies. I will not accept procrastination as an excuse.

Academic Honesty: 

Dominican University of California is an academic community. All of our community members are expected to abide by ethical standards both in their conduct and in their exercise of responsibilities toward other members of the community. Students, faculty members, administrators, and staff are expected to adopt standards of behavior that place a high value on respecting the ideas of others. All intellectual accomplishments—examinations, papers, lectures, experiments, and other projects—should adhere to the highest standards of academic integrity and ethics.


The faculty, administration, and staff recognize their obligation to provide continuing guidance as to what constitutes academic honesty and to promote procedures and circumstances that will reinforce the principle of academic honor. Fundamental to the principle of independent learning is the requirement of honesty and integrity in the performance of academic assignments, both in the classroom and outside. Students should avoid academic dishonesty in all of its forms, including plagiarism (which includes cutting and pasting from the internet), cheating, and other forms of academic misconduct.  You must cite references for all ideas borrowed from others.  The University reserves the right to determine in any given instance what action constitutes a violation of academic honesty and integrity.


Diversity:  I attempt to follow Dominican University’s Diversity Declaration and support the examination of different points of view and different cultures in my classroom. Respect for each human being is key to my life philosophy as is the excitement that comes from listening to differing points of view. In keeping with Dominican’s commitment to foster a positive and respectful learning atmosphere for all of its students, this course attempts to honor diversity in a wide variety of ways:

by recognizing and welcoming the diversity within the class itself (age, ethnicity, culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, family and environmental experiences)

by remembering that the diversity within the class is itself a major source of our learning  - as we listen and learn about the life experiences of others through the sharing (and reading) of our collective stories by offering diverse ways of accomplishing the learning goals of the course (multiple format exams and written assignments) and the opportunity for students to change the assignments to increase individual learning goals (in consultation with the instructor); by teaching and learning in this course about one of the most difficult areas of human experience and the diverse ways that individual humans and cultures respond to loss. (A special thanks to Phil Novak for the format)

Students with special needs: You know who you are. I do not. If I need to assist you in a special way let me know early in the semester. I will do my best to make my classroom conducive to your learning.

Classroom Guidelines: Arrive on time. Try not to leave early. No eating during class time.

Monitor your own "air time". If you tend to be silent - speak. If you tend to share a lot - understand that no one appreciates a student who uses a psychology class for personal "therapy". Turn all cell phones to the silent function and leave class to answer.

Respect the academic environment: listen to others, learn from others, ask good questions, and be prepared...GET INVOLVED in the class and in your own learning. This is essential for the class to be a success for all of us.

Returning Papers and Tests: My personal rule of thumb is one week for tests and two weeks for papers. I attempt to honor this policy – sometimes I fall short. I will let you know if this happens. Please try not to ask…

Returning Papers and Exams: Please provide me with a large SASE so that I may return your final paper. I only keep papers for one additional semester and then they are tossed.





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