Thanatology is the scientific study of death and the practices associated with it, including the study of the needs of the terminally ill and their families.
Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder
Complicated grief or persistent complex bereavement (PCB) is a common cause of chronic emotion dysregulation in many people. Complicated grief affects about 2–3% of adults worldwide (Kersting, Brähler, Glaesmer, & Wagner, 2011), and is characterized by excessive doubt, guilt, and withdrawal (Prigerson et al., 2009; Shear et al., 2011). Although duration of bereavement following tragic loss varies between individuals, and prolonged grief is therefore understandable, those who go on to develop a mental disorder can be distinguished from normative bereavement by symptoms resembling a major depressive episode (MDE) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD; Jordan and Litz, 2014). Moreover, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) now encourages clinicians to consider a diagnosis of MDE or PTSD following bereavement if criteria are met, while placing PCB on the list of conditions requiring further study. Indeed, not only is PCB debilitating, but it is known to increase suicidal ideation (Latham & Prigerson, 2004; Shear et al., 2011). The rise in mental disorders linked to bereavement suggests that there is a change in the psychosocial climate, driving people beyond the cultural norms for the expression of distress in the context of loss. Does loss of a loved one confront individuals with their own personal death? Does it cause some to regard their existence in a different manner? Do bereaved individuals who examine their life deeply have a different course of bereavement than those who do not look within? These are some of the challenging questions addressed by our research.