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Student Research Projects

The Light Within

Student Amanda Wolk
Faculty Mentor(s) Dr. Sally Shedd
Department Theatre

Abstract

The concept of death and the process of dying are both obscure topics in American culture. Only a century ago, deaths and funeral viewings occurred in the home; now death is an increasingly ethereal and frightening phenomenon, which usually occurs in institutions. With an American population so removed from death, few people understand and embrace the idea that grieving the death of a loved one is an individualized process. Were Americans educated on grieving tasks, they could use that knowledge to their advantage to assess their own progress and develop healthy coping strategies.

I began conducting research by reading materials about the process of grief, including textbooks and primary source accounts by ministers and psychologists. I augmented these readings with dramatic literature selections. which explored loss in the form of death as well as loss in general. My research initially resulted in a paper in which I utilized current theories of grieving to analyze selected plays dealings with loss.

Comparing my research findings to my own experiences, I have concluded that, were I educated on the processes of grieving, I would have been able to cope better with grief I have experienced. From this personal insight, I believe that by educating more Americans about death the way we educate them about the cycles of life, they could better understand their own feelings and reactions and serve as a support system for others who are grieving. In an attempt to facilitate this educational process, I wrote and presented a play in which the stages of grief were depicted through my personal experiences.

 

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