Review article: the sociology of dying, death and bereavement

Catherine Exley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Cobb, M., 'The Dying Soul: Spiritual Care at the End of Life' (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2001 £16.99 (pbk) vii + 145pp)

Currer, C., 'Responding to Grief: Dying, Bereavement and Social Care' (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, 2001 £14.50 (pbk) v + 181pp)

Field, D., Clark, D., Corner, J. and Davis, C. (eds), 'Researching Palliative Care' (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2001 £22.50 (pbk) vii + 198pp)

Hockey, J., Katz, J. and Small, N. (eds), 'Grief, Mourning and Death Ritual' (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2001 £19.99 (pbk) vii + 286pp)

McNamara, B., 'Fragile Lives: Death, Dying and Care' (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2001 £17.99 (pbk) v + 165pp)

Seymour, J., 'Critical Moments – Death and Dying in Intensive Care' (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2001 £17.99 (pbk) xiii + 185pp)

The sociological study of dying, death and bereavement is a relatively recent field of research interest. In 1958, Faunce and Fulton wrote a paper entitled ‘the sociology of death: a neglected area of research’, their argument being that the lack of sociological research in this area was probably attributable to a wider reluctance within society to contemplate dying and death. However, despite Walter’s (1993) claim that (with the exception of medical sociology) British sociologists had been notably quiet in this topic, it would seem from the research literature that the number of sociologists researching in the area of dying, death and bereavement has increased significantly, particularly in the last 10 to 15 years.

The aim of this review is to outline the work that sociologists have conducted with regard to dying, death and bereavement. Within this discussion, I locate and review the six books listed above, ending by reflecting on what sociological research related to dying, death and bereavement might explore in the future. Reviewing the work of sociologists in this field is no small task given the diversity of research that has been, and continues to be, conducted. Indeed, it is testament to the wealth of material published by social scientists that I have such a broad range of books to review. The six books cover topics that include the experiences of dying and death in the high-tech world of Intensive Therapy Units (ITUs), a reflection on the difficulties of providing ‘spiritual’ care, and an edited collection introducing the research methods used within palliative care research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-122
Number of pages13
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2004


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