Higher Education

Understanding Dying, Death, and Bereavement, 8th Edition

  • Michael R. Leming St. Olaf College
  • George E. Dickinson College of Charleston
  • ISBN-10: 1305094492  |  ISBN-13: 9781305094499
  • 624 Pages
  • Previous Editions: 2011, 2007, 2002
  • © 2016 | Published
  • College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $151.50
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Using a social-psychological approach, the new edition of this book remains solidly grounded in theory and research, while also providing useful information to help individuals examine their own feelings about-and cope with-death and grieving. The well-known authors and researchers integrate stimulating personal accounts throughout the text, and apply concepts to specific examples that deal with cross cultural perspectives and the practical matters of death and dying.

Features and Benefits

  • Many topics in the four categories of boxed inserts are new. Practical Matters boxes basically offer useful advice; Listening to the Voices boxes present excerpted material from people writing about their own experiences with dying and death; Words of Wisdom boxes contain insights from excerpted poems, literature, and other sources; and Death Across Cultures boxes examine cross-cultural examples of death practices and beliefs.
  • The authors seek to sensitize students to the subject of dying, death and bereavement; aid students in adjusting to the death of a significant other; help individuals examine their own feelings and reactions to death and grieving; and make readers aware of different cultural groups’ death and bereavement customs.
  • The authors’ more than 80 years of combined experience teaching and researching the topic result in practical advice, personal anecdotes, prose, and cross-cultural examples of death practices and beliefs presented to readers.
  • The text draws from the disciplines of cultural anthropology, psychology, philosophy, religion, history, health science, family studies, social work, gerontology, and sociology.
  • Chapter summaries, discussion questions, a glossary, and suggested readings encourage individual study and serve as review aids to outline the important points of each chapter.

Table of Contents

1. Studying Dying, Death, and Bereavement.
2. The American Experience of Death.
3. Growing Up with Death/Growing Old with Death.
4. Perspectives on Death and Life after Death.
5. The Dying Process.
6. Living with Dying.
7. Dying in the American Health Care System.
8. Biomedical Issues and Euthanasia.
9. Suicide and Other Sudden, Unnatural Traumatic Deaths.
10. Diversity in Death Rituals.
11. The Business of Dying.
12. The Legal Aspects of Dying.
13. Coping With Loss.
14. Grieving Throughout the Life Cycle.

What's New

  • New topics in the book’s boxed inserts (Practical Matters, Listening to the Voices, Words of Wisdom, and Death Across Cultures) include child life specialists, lessons for the end of life, resistance to pain medication across cultures, U.K. and U.S. prison hospice programs, animal hospices, veterinarians and end-of-life issues, capital punishment, and an explanation of the high cost of saying goodbye. Readers will also find a letter on why one should always go to a funeral and a story of Hmong funeral traditions.
  • New coverage related to suicide includes a guide to survival following a suicide of a friend or family member, a suicide risk assessment, suicide rates in the military, bullying and suicide, and a letter to a father written ten years after his suicide.
  • The eighth edition includes updates of statistical material throughout the text as well as new or updated information on such topics as homicide and accidental deaths, personal death trends in body disposition and memorialization, and pet loss.
  • A new glossary at the end of each chapter provides definitions of words identified in bold print within the chapter, adding to the study aids retained from the previous edition (summaries, discussion questions, and suggested readings, which are updated).
  • New tables have been added in several chapters at the request of reviewers. Numerous new pictures and cartoons, which are scattered throughout the book to complement the narrative, have also been added.

Learning Resource Bundles

Choose the textbook packaged with the resources that best meet your course and student needs. Contact your Learning Consultant for more information.

Bundle: Text + Questia, 1 term (6 months) Printed Access Card

ISBN-10: 1337074594 | ISBN-13: 9781337074599

List Price = $214.95  | CengageBrain Price = $214.95  | College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $161.50

This Bundle Includes:

  • Understanding Dying, Death, and Bereavement
    List Price = $201.95  | CengageBrain Price = $201.95  | College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $151.50
  • Questia, 1 term (6 months) Printed Access Card
    List Price = $47.95  | College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $35.75

Efficacy and Outcomes


“This book does an excellent job of integrating and presenting empirical research on death-related topics. I would say that this book takes a multidisciplinary approach to the study of death and dying, presenting a comprehensive review of key topics and issues in the field. The authors manage to cover the personal, social, cultural, legal, philosophical, spiritual, and ethical issues related to death and dying against the backdrop of empirical research and theory in the field. In addition to presenting basic facts and information, the authors offer practical advice that enables readers to understand and to cope with the problems and issues that arise in a world where death, dying, and bereavement are a reality.”

— Lori Henderson, Southeastern Community College, Burlington

“I have used this book several times and have not found one that is as comprehensive or offers the cross cultural insights. I selected it because not only was it substantive, but it also introduced students to cross-cultural variations. Further, it went beyond the psychological issues of dying and bereavement, [and] provided a context for the ways in which people die and mourn and the consequences of dying, death, and loss to others.”

— Patricia Kolar, University of Pittsburgh


All supplements have been updated in coordination with the main title. Select the main title's "About" tab, then select "What's New" for updates specific to title's edition.

For more information about these supplements, or to obtain them, contact your Learning Consultant.

Instructor Supplements

Online Instructor's Manual  (ISBN-10: 1305388577 | ISBN-13: 9781305388574)

This detailed manual provides sample syllabi, course guidelines, in-class exercises, and chapter objectives to assist instructors in teaching the course.

Online Test Bank  (ISBN-10: 1305388674 | ISBN-13: 9781305388673)

The Test Bank includes multiple-choice, true/false, short-answer, and essay questions-most with answers and page references for each chapter of the text.

Meet the Author

Author Bio

Michael R. Leming

Michael R. Leming is professor emeritus of sociology and anthropology at St. Olaf College in Minnesota and co-director of the college’s Spring Semester in Thailand program. He holds degrees from Westmont College (B.A.), Marquette University (M.A.), and the University of Utah (Ph.D.). He has completed additional graduate study at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Leming was the founder and former director of the St. Olaf College Social Research Center, a former member of the board of directors of the Minnesota Coalition of Terminal Care and the Northfield AIDS Response, and has served as a hospice educator, volunteer, and grief counselor. He is the author of numerous articles on social thanatology and family issues and has taught courses on death and dying for over 35 years.

George E. Dickinson

George E. Dickinson is professor of sociology at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. He holds degrees from Baylor University (B.A. in biology and M.A. in sociology) and Louisiana State University (Ph.D. in sociology). He has completed postdoctoral studies in gerontology at Pennsylvania State University, in thanatology at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine, and in medical sociology at the University of Connecticut. He was Visiting Research Fellow in palliative medicine at the University of Sheffield’s School of Medicine in England in 1999, the International Observatory on End of Life Care in the Institute for Health Research at Lancaster University in England in 2006, and the University of Bristol School of Veterinary Science’s Department of Animal Behavior and Welfare in England in 2013. He has published over 90 articles in numerous professional journals.