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Death and Grief in “Tuesdays with Morrie” and “Dakota 38” Essay

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Updated: Apr 15th, 2021

Introduction

Although regularly undermined, the social life of human beings is very important not only during a lifetime but also during the process of death. Social interaction and social support systems are very important in the lives of human beings. Scientific medication in healthcare centers may sometimes prove irrelevant if sick persons are not getting enough social support during the dying process. Nobody wishes to die, nobody wants to hear about death, and nobody wishes to be reminded about his or her soon demise or that of a blood relative or friend. Perhaps the reason behind the provision of palliative care for people suffering from deadly ailments is to strengthen their faith and resilience against traumatizing situations. The end-of-life process is a painful moment that requires humorous surroundings and enough social support. During death, social support from family and friends may prove exceptionally significant in easing grief due to impending death. Therefore, this essay offers a sociological perspective of Morrie’s interview and the Dakota documentary with a view-enhancing the understating of the process of death and grief.

Morrie’s Interview

Morrie Schwartz suffered Eaton-Lambert Syndrome (ELS), an ailment that leaves Morrie weak in soul and losses morals of life. Morrie appears in television interviews and talks almost confidently about his illness and the meaning of life. Morrie speaks about his inability to continue being a dancer and his most painful sorrow in the manner in which his health condition forces him to surrender dancing, being his favorite hobby. Although at this moment his confidence and attitude towards the ailment were still positive. In succeeding interviews, a couple of months later Morrie seemed weaker than earlier and revealed challenges of his sickness. At this stage of sickness, Morrie could barely speak as his health had deteriorated very much. Morrie developed an individual culture in which he believed in love, acceptance, and human righteousness. Through the social support system of his family and friends, especially his wife Charlotte, and his friend, Mitch, provided rejuvenated Morrie to live longer than anticipated.

Morrie seems very confident and somewhat optimistic about his life despite the underway ailment that is seriously affecting his health condition. This case reflects the five stages of death grieving. Despite the ailment being the cause of surrendering dancing as his much-loved hobby, there is a lot of hopefulness in Morrie’s first television interview. Based on the five stages of grieving according to psychologists, Morrie was undergoing the first stage of grieving and at that juncture, the heart rather than his logical reasoning was in control of his belief. Morrie was in the denial, anger, and bargain stages because his heart and feelings were ruling his personal attitudes towards his ailing condition. A spark of hope was accompanying his emotions and made him live in fantasies. Anger and questions about the possibility of recovering were apparent in his behaviors. The denial, anger, and bargain stages were evident as Morrie finds possible means to keep him busy and jovial through the television programs to forget the ailment stress.

Subsequently, the television interviews and conversations with Morrie reveal that after a couple of months, Morrie seems to remove the burden of living in denial, anger, bargain stages, and he admittedly reveals that his health was in trouble. From the first three stages of denial, anger, and bargain, Morrie enters the fourth and fifth stage of grieving, where aspects of depression and acceptance become apparent. Close relations involving his family, especially the wife, his friends, Brandeis and Mitch, must have played a crucial role in providing Morrie with the deserved social support. Most important is to understand how his personal ego could barely assist him to live positively with the ailment. Social support systems prove to be indispensable when Morrie enters the stages of depression and acceptance, where personal ego fades away and individuals become hopeless. Acceptance is making peace with a condition. Social support makes affected people understand that loss of a relationship or a dying process, is a lifetime process and humans must adjust.

Dakota Documentary

It is worse to be alone and feel alienated from the community, but it is even worse to reason, just like a multitude of many others in society. Dakota 38 is a documentary, whose main theme is to demonstrate the way cultural norms influence the lives of individuals. The documentary movie explains the worst human execution in American history where 38 worriers from Dakota faced merciless death through a single hanging in Mankato. Owing to cultural beliefs, people involved in this execution died in poverty and refused to live to improve their lives, even though they had chances of improving their lives. This explains how populism or the culture of the majority affects our individual capacities to make autonomous decisions in life. The first aspect of living in denial in the stages of human grieving appear in this case, with the community members struggling to uphold their cultural norms, and failing to survive through their individual culture.

The scenario of the Dakota documentary reflects my personal experience where certain cultural norms and beliefs affect our social interaction with ailing people. Sociologists believe that the process of ailing due to a deadly disease is very painful to both victims and people around them. After the doctors informed them about his duration of living that they initially assumed would be approximately three months, a cultural fear to reveal the secret behind the death of the uncle appears. It is evident from my experience that caregivers to people in the dying process feel much concerned about the death of loved ones as they consider the process to be a painful experience. Socially, people tend to keep the fact that the quality of life is paramount and any dying person should receive dignified treatment during his or her end-of-life process. Just the way the people of Dakota respected and fought for their culture, the same happens when people respect the dying process of their beloved ones.

Dying is a lonely and sorrowful process that many dying people find it uneasy to accept, especially when the ailment is distressing. Keeping in mind that life contains an aspect of familial friendship and affection, pain bestows caregivers, and people surrounding the dying person the courage to provide effective social support. During the process of dying, the uncle managed to survive for three months beyond the earlier assumed period. Based on the theory of five stages of death and grieving, it is inevitable that depression and acceptance are the last stages of a dying or ailing person after denial, anger, and bargaining stages. During the dying process, and especially in the depression process where victims become helpless and adjust to the condition, social support seems to be a critical source of faith and hope. The strengthened social support must have come right at the depressive moment when the uncle was accepting and adapting to the inescapable face of diversity.

The uncle managed to regain his happiness when he saw his children around him. It happened that after receiving social support from parents and relatives, the uncle lived for six months, which is quite a long when compared to the anticipated three months. Strong social support boosted the hope of the dying uncle and made him survive the depression stage with a sense of acceptance and compassion towards the situation. This simply depicts that when dying people are at their crucial stage of death, such as depression, they need love and empathy to increase their hope towards life and view dying differently. Social support removes the sadness in dying persons and brings new perceptions about their condition. The social support systems are the reason why the uncle managed to increase the anticipated dying period from three months, which the doctors had previously anticipated, to six months.

Conclusion

It is still abnormal to tell dying persons openly that they would soon depart from this world of excitement and valuable social relationships. It is unethical to tell or remind people about their impending deaths. Caregivers and relatives of the ailing persons feel that the dying process is a sorrowful and painful experience that requires social support of friends and relatives. From the assessment of the two cases above, it is evitable that the dying process involves five crucial stages of grieving that include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Providing dying people with the required social support system during their dying process is very important as it eases depression and encourages the acceptance death, and thus elongates the period of living. The dying people need love and empathy during their dying process.

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IvyPanda. "Death and Grief in "Tuesdays with Morrie" and "Dakota 38"." April 15, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/death-and-grief-in-tuesdays-with-morrie-and-dakota-38/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Death and Grief in "Tuesdays with Morrie" and "Dakota 38"." April 15, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/death-and-grief-in-tuesdays-with-morrie-and-dakota-38/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Death and Grief in "Tuesdays with Morrie" and "Dakota 38"'. 15 April.

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