SO332 Dying, Death, & Bereavement

for SP 2013

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SO 332 Dying, Death, & Bereavement


SP 2013 HO


Hilliker, Laurel


Assistant Professor of Sociology


PhD, Socioogy
M.A. Sociology
B.A. Socioogy

Office Location

MA 227

Office Hours

Tuesdays, 12-4pm

Daytime Phone



Semester Dates

January 14, 2013 – May 10, 2013

Class Days


Class Time

3:00 - 4:15 PM

Credit Hours



The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying,9th ed., by Lynne Ann DeSpelder and Albert LeeStrickland (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011). ISBN: 9780073532011. This is the primary text for the course. It is necessary that you get the correct edition of the text; older editions are NOT compatible with this:  Course website

You will need to click on Student Edition on the left.

Textbooks can be purchased through the Parkville Bookstore

Additional Resources:

APA style (free) tutorial:

Park’s Counseling Center:

McAfee Memorial Library - Online information, links, electronic databases and the Online catalog. Contact the library for further assistance via email or at 800-270-4347.
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Course Description:
SO 332 Dying, Death, and Bereavement: Examines the demographic, cultural, and social psychological aspects of dying, death, and the grieving process. Topics include cultural and individual attitudes toward death, the medicalization of death, associated institutions, end of life care, the social role of funerals, and various forms of death, such as old age, and dying young, euthanasia, suicide, and genocide. 3:0:3

Educational Philosophy:
First, the focal point of your instructor’s teaching philosophy is to encourage a proper student-teacher relationship by promoting critical thinking.  The main goal is to facilitate the task of intellectual development with students.  The ability to critically analyze issues in contemporary society is an important and valuable skill for success.  However, this priceless and vital way of viewing issues in the 21st century must be learned in a suitable environment where new knowledge can be created.  To accomplish this objective your instructor attempts to create a positive learning environment both in and outside of the classroom.  Promoting intellectual diversity in a respectful and meaningful way in the classroom is highly valued.  Lectures will more than likely incorporate current events, local, state and national concerns, and an interactive discussion attempting to tie them into the course concepts and lecture of the day.  This approach keeps students engaged in the classroom, connected with current events, and develops social capital, as well as allowing expression of one’s individuality

  Instructor Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will experience an environment for study that is student-centered through their own participation while interacting in classroom discussions related to chapters, current events, and other topics, both individually as well as in large and small groups.
  2. Students will demonstrate their ability to make connections by not only engaging in discussions but also by applying the concepts and lectures into their writing assignments
  3. Students will increase their understanding of all course materials by attending class and being engaged in the lectures, small and large group discussions and in class assignments.
Class Assessment:

Class Assessment:   Unless otherwise stated, assignments are due at the start of the class period [as indicated in the course schedule portion of this syllabus].

Assignment                         Points     ……





Brief Description

Exams [4]                              350

There will be 4 exams in the course.  Exams 1, 2, and 3 [each worth up to 50 points]will each cover 5 chapters of your text.  Exam 4 is your final exam, which is cumulative and worth up to 200 points.

Reflection Essays [2]            100

To be assigned in class.     

Final Project                          200

Your final project for this course involves choosing one of four assignments [listed below].  More details in class.

Lossography                          150

Details for this essay will be given out in class.  A lossography is an essay that details the death and loss events in your life along with your present understanding of how each experience has influenced your attitudes and beliefs.

TOTAL                                  800


Attendance Points   10 extra credit

There is potential to earn up to an additional 10 points by regular attendance, see Attendance Policy below.

Pop Quizzes   TBD


Unannounced pop quizzes throughout semester





Your grade in the course is based on the total number of points earned from the above assignments and exams.  There will be no adjustments made to your total points at the end of semester [i.e., no ‘rounding up’ or curving grades].  Therefore, it is your responsibility to keep track of your total points and to meet with the instructor if you are concerned about your points and perhaps in need of a new strategy to study for exams, etc.  Final course grades will be determined as follows:

Item / Assignment


Exams 1, 2, 3, [50 each] #4 [final exam, 200]


Reflection Essays [2] [50 points each]


Final Project [choose one from list below]






Total Points Possible


Additional Extra Credit  Points Possible

Up to 10 for attendance & additional points through pop quizzes TBD in class

Letter Grades













399 or below


[1] A lossography is an essay that details the death and loss events in your life along with your present understanding of how each experiences has influenced your attitudes and beliefs.

Late Submission of Course Materials:
For late assignments [if accepted] you will lose 5 points automatically off the grade for the specified assignment.  In addition, you will lose 5 points per day for each day that the assignment is past the due date.  There are no exceptions. If your assignment is late you need to contact your instructor as soon as possible with an explanation.  See page 1 of this syllabus for email address and office hours.  Use proper subject line in an email, [i.e., Jake Johnson, SO 141 MW]

Classroom Rules of Conduct:

·        ALL cell phones are to be turned to vibrate or to off when class begins. 

·        If you choose to put your cell phone on vibrate, please note that there is NO texting during class. First offense will receive a warning. At the instructor’s discretion, students may be subjected to losing points in the final course for each incident of non-compliance after the first warning.   

·        Any student who brings a laptop to class and is operating it during class needs to sit in the front row.  I trust that if you bring your laptop, you are using it to take notes or view the online power point for the class and that you are NOT on Facebook, email or other social networks.

Student Behavior:

As a student in this class, you will more than likely encounter new ideas, topics, images and discussions that may challenge your worldview.  These different views, values and beliefs may at times be unsettling and even personally offensive or uncomfortable.  You are reminded to be respectful to your instructor and to your classmates.  The instructor of this course reserves the right to warn a student of improper behavior.  If the student does not comply with the warning, they will be asked to leave the classroom.  If the student fails to leave the classroom, Public Safety Officers (police) will be called and the student will be escorted out.  The instructor will also report the disruptive behavior to the proper university governing unit according to university policy.  This action will result in disciplinary action and may lead to removal of the student from the course. 

Course Topic/Dates/Assignments:







Monday, 1/14

Course Schedule [Tentative]

SO 332 SP 2013


Syllabus Review, Introductions





Wednesday, 1/16

Attitudes Toward Death: A Climate of Change

Chapter 1


Monday, 1/21

No Classes, Martin L. King Day



Wednesday, 1/23

Learning about Death: The Influence of Sociocultural Forces

Chapter 2


Monday, 1/28

Perspectives on Death: Cross-Cultural and Historical:

Chapter 3


Wednesday, 1/30

Death Systems: Mortality and Society

 Lossogrphy Assignment

Chapter 4

Lossography DUE


Monday, 2/4

Health Care:  Patients, Staff and Institutions

Chapter 5


Wednesday, 2/6

Exam #1


Covers Chapters 1-5






Monday, 2/11

End-of-Life Issues and Decisions:

Chapter 6


Wednesday, 2/13

Facing Death: Living with Life-Threatening Illness

Chapter 7






Monday, 2/18

No Classes, President's Day



Wednesday, 2/20

Last Rites: Funerals and Body Disposition

Guest Speaker: Clergy:

Chapter 8



Monday, 2/25

Field Trip

Mortuary Visit


Wednesday, 2/27

Survivors:  Understanding the Experience of Loss:

Chapter 9

Reflection Essay#1 DUE


Monday, 3/4

 Death in the Lives of Children and Adolescents:

Chapter 10


Wednesday, 3/6

Exam #2


Covers Chapters 6-10


March 10-17

No Classes, Spring Recess



Monday, 3/18

Death in the Lives of Adults

Chapter 11


Wednesday, 3/20


Chapter 12


Monday, 3/25

Risks, Perils, and Traumatic Death

Chapter 13


Wednesday, 3/27

Beyond Death/ After Life

Chapter 14




Monday, 4/1


The Path Ahead: Personal and Social Choices:

Chapter 15



Wednesday, 4/3

Exam #3

Covers Chapters 11-15


Monday, 4/3




Wednesday, 4/10

Field Trip

Cemetery Visit


Monday, 4/15


Reflection Essay #2 DUE


Wednesday, 4/17

Field Trip



Monday, 4/22

Film, Wit



Wednesday, 4/24

No Class-work on Final Project

Meet with TA if needed


Monday, 4/30

Field Trip


Final Project DUE


Wednesday, 5/1

Review for Final Exam



Wednesday, 5/8

Final Exam:  3:15-5:15 p m

Cumulative Exam

HA=Homework Assignment TBA=To be announced  

The instructor reserves the right to change any portion of the syllabus to accommodate special events, guest lectures, etc.  Students should bring appropriate texts and readings to class every day.  Last Updated: 12/10/12

Academic Honesty:
Academic integrity is the foundation of the academic community. Because each student has the primary responsibility for being academically honest, students are advised to read and understand all sections of this policy relating to standards of conduct and academic life. Park University students and faculty members are encouraged to take advantage of the University resources available for learning about academic honesty ( or Park University 2011-2012 Undergraduate Catalog Page 95-96

Plagiarism involves the use of quotations without quotation marks, the use of quotations without indication of the source, the use of another's idea without acknowledging the source, the submission of a paper, laboratory report, project, or class assignment (any portion of such) prepared by another person, or incorrect paraphrasing. from Park University 2011-2012 Undergraduate Catalog Page 95

Attendance Policy:
Instructors are required to maintain attendance records and to report absences via the online attendance reporting system.

  1. The instructor may excuse absences for valid reasons, but missed work must be made up within the semester/term of enrollment.
  2. Work missed through unexcused absences must also be made up within the semester/term of enrollment, but unexcused absences may carry further penalties.
  3. In the event of two consecutive weeks of unexcused absences in a semester/term of enrollment, the student will be administratively withdrawn, resulting in a grade of "F".
  4. A "Contract for Incomplete" will not be issued to a student who has unexcused or excessive absences recorded for a course.
  5. Students receiving Military Tuition Assistance or Veterans Administration educational benefits must not exceed three unexcused absences in the semester/term of enrollment. Excessive absences will be reported to the appropriate agency and may result in a monetary penalty to the student.
  6. Report of a "F" grade (attendance or academic) resulting from excessive absence for those students who are receiving financial assistance from agencies not mentioned in item 5 above will be reported to the appropriate agency.

Park University 2011-2012 Undergraduate Catalog Page 98
Attendance Policy and Extra Credit Points:  
Please attend class regularly and be on time.  It is a huge distraction when students come late to class.  If you are late, please take a seat in the back of class and see the instructor before leaving the classroom so that you are not marked absent.  Again, as stated above, after 3 late arrivals you will need to meet with the instructor.  If you come to class and leave before it ends without discussing the reason with the instructor, you will be marked as absent.  Lastly, you will have an opportunity to earn  attendance points in this course from attending class on a very regular basis.  At the end of the course, the instructor will add the following:
• 10 points if you attend all but 2 classes
• 8 points for attending all but 3 classes
• 6 points for attending all but 4 classes
• No additional points for missing 5 or more classes

The full 10 points allows for two class periods missed during the semester due to an illness or other unexpected absence. This tally will include both excused and unexcused absences.  So, regardless of the reason, I will count all absences when calculating these points.  At the college level, you should take your responsibility to attend classes very seriously.  You will certainly have this expectation from an employer or if you attend graduate school, therefore, there is not an outline of a detailed attendance policy, rather, you will be awarded a small number of additional points to your final grade to recognize your commitment to your educational goals.

Disability Guidelines:
Park University is committed to meeting the needs of all students that meet the criteria for special assistance. These guidelines are designed to supply directions to students concerning the information necessary to accomplish this goal. It is Park University's policy to comply fully with federal and state law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, regarding students with disabilities. In the case of any inconsistency between these guidelines and federal and/or state law, the provisions of the law will apply. Additional information concerning Park University's policies and procedures related to disability can be found on the Park University web page: .

Additional Information:

Core Learning Outcomes: 

course is designed to:

  1. Provide an understanding of
       the nature of death and grief in contemporary society and the wide range
       of issues surrounding these topics, such as social factors that may
       complicate the natural processes, i.e., medicalization of normal life

  3. To present an array of
       meanings people associate with death and bereavement.

  5. To demonstrate the
       significance of grief and loss for all people and how this is reflected in
       our popular culture and values.

  7. To inculcate critical
       thinking by encouraging personal reflection on issues of life and death
       and their meaning to individuals along with their impact on the
       institution of the family.

  9. Describe grief and some of
       the ways this is exhibited in both the dying and the bereaved.

  11. Recognize how beliefs about death
       and loss are reflected in all aspects of our material and non-material culture.

Learning Goals:


To increase understanding of the complex phenomena
of death and bereavement, particularly as they relate to a significant loss; to
increase sensitivity to the dying and the bereaved; and to learn techniques for
providing companioning to dying and grieving individuals. 
Upon completion of this course
students will:


Demonstrate knowledge about how death and grief
are defined.

Exhibit knowledge of interdisciplinary
theoretical approaches useful in understanding the processes of death and loss.

Understand and appreciate the impact that
societal and personal issues have on individual and family coping styles during
times of loss and grief.

Be more comfortable with learning about and
talking about death and loss.

Have familiarity with key thanatological
concepts and models of grief and loss.

Gain cultural competence on the topics of grief
and bereavement.

Appreciate and celebrate life, relationships,
learning and diversity.

Office Hours:  Office hours are
listed on page 1 of this syllabus.  If you
cannot attend during these days/times, please email or approach the instructor
in class for an individual appointment. 
These specific hours are set aside so that your questions and concerns
can be addressed. 

Inclement weather/emergency closing:  If
a class is cancelled because of a snow/ice day, the course schedule will remain
the same as outlined in this syllabus. 
The only exception is when a snow day occurs on an exam day, in which
case the exam will be given on the very next scheduled day that we return to

Extra Credit: There are two opportunities to earn
extra credit in the course.  The first is
through regular attendance [see Attendance Policy].  Next, I will have unannounced pop quizzes
throughout the semester and will determine their value in class.

Email Policy:

Unless of an
emergency, the instructor will usually respond to emails within a 48 hour
period when regular classes are in session. 
The only exception to this is when there are breaks in semester or
recess from class, official Park holidays or during school closings. 

sending the instructor an email, please include your first and last name, the
course name and the class time in the subject line [for example:  Jane Doe, SO 332
  Please provide sufficient
information regarding your inquiry and your identity. 

Final Projects  (You will choose ONE of the following):

1.  Paper.  Write a 6-page double spaced
paper describing the loss of someone or something that meant a great deal in
your life, or in the life of someone you interview.  All papers must have a cover sheet (the cover
sheet is not a part of the five pages). 
References should include course books and scholarly journals, such as Omega or Mortality (found on JSTOR). 
This paper should include but not be limited to the following:

The way the student/participant initially
responded upon learning the news, e.g., shock reaction, how did they feel, what
was said or done, etc.

A description of the loss, details.

How the loss affected the bereaved person’s
ability to function.

The concerns of family/friends for the survivor

How the person coped with the loss

What major factors did the person learn as a
result of the loss

What impact do you think this loss will have on
future losses

What support was available to the chief mourner?

What could have been more helpful?

What or who had the biggest impact during the
initial loss period [i.e. family member, friend, internet group, professional,


 2.  Scavenger Hunt with
reflection essay (that includes references and ties in concepts from the
course).  Please type item, when

 a.  A sympathy card
from a store that actually includes a death-specific word (dead, death, dying)
and not just euphemisms [like passed or gone].

b.  A comic-strip
dealing with death or dying (can be a single panel comic).

c.  Four newspaper
death notices (obituaries) for people under the age of 50.

d. One magazine advertisement using dying, death or death
images to sell a product or service.

e. One newspaper article or news magazine article that uses
a death-related euphemism (such as ‘passed on’, ‘passed away’, ‘kicked the
bucket’, ‘departed this life’, etc.)

f. Names of three currently marketed toys that are death
related (excluding video games).

g. A child’s nursery rhyme involving death/dying (type out
the entire rhyme, not just the title).

h. An article that shows an out of the ordinary memorialized
or eulogized deceased person.

i. Two photographs from the news that show people in other
cultures grieving a loss.

j.  Photograph of an
unusual tombstone or grave marker, please include location.

 After collecting the above items, now you
are to write an essay (3 pages minimum-6 pages maximum) reflecting on your
experience for this assignment.


Writing your own obituary[1].

We will all die
someday.  Our society has a long
tradition of posting death notices in the local newspaper. Assuming we continue
to do so, what do you imagine your obituary might say about your life?  Include the following information:

a.  Projected age of death (try to live a full
life, please!)

b.  Time, date, place, and cause of death,
anything unusual?

c.  Residential address/area at time of death

d.  Previous residences from birth to death

e.  Educational experience

f.  Military experiences

g.  Occupational experiences, accomplishments,

h.  Community involvement

i.  Volunteer work

j.  Hobbies, interests

k.  Survivors (family, significant others)

l.  Preceded in death by whom?

m.  Visitations, when and where, special

n.  Memorial service, where and when, conducted
by whom?

o.  Body disposition

p.  Special requests for gifts

q.  Anything else of interest


Length:  2 pages or more

Write this
obituary as a narrative with paragraphs and sentences.  Create a journalistic testimony to the fact
that your life had been lived and that your life had significance.  Highlight important aspects of your
life.  Be creative.  Be optimistic about your future and your


a 6-page book report
on a
book related to death and/or grief, with instructor approval.  This report must include specific quotes from
the author. 
This report should tie
in the class discussions and/or concepts being learned.  Some book suggestions include:

 Attig, Thomas. 1996. How
We Grieve: Relearning the World
. New York:

University Press.

 Didion, J.,
2007.  A Year of Magical Thinking. Vintage Publishers.

 Worden, J. William. 1996. Children and Grief: When a Parent Dies. New
York: Guilford


If you choose another
book for this assignment, you must have instructor approval

From:  Cox, G.R., & Bendiksen, R.A.,
Eds., 2000.  Death, Dying, and Bioethics:  A
Teaching Resource Manual for Courses on the Sociology of Death
, Revised
Edition, American Sociological Association, Washington, DC.

Caveat:  This
class is not intended for those who have recently experienced a death of
someone close to them as students will be expected to perform grief and
bereavement related activities as well as self-assess feelings regarding one’s
own death and dying. 
course material has the potential to reawaken loss and grief.  Any student who is experiencing any undue
reactions to any of the course content is strongly urged to notify the
instructor and to visit the counseling center on campus, and may consider
dropping the course


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Last Updated:12/27/2012 9:49:39 PM