How Do You Describe a Life?
If you have ever looked carefully at a newspaper, you know that everyone who dies has a brief summary of his or her life published in an obituary. Obituaries serve several purposes, including telling the world the important aspects of one’s life and listing one’s surviving family members. If you have ever read an obituary, you
also realize that they tend to be fairly short, usually less than 200 words in most cases.
Imagine that, unlike most people, you have the opportunity to write your own obituary. Imagine further that you can create the obituary based on the life you hope to have. Take a moment to reflect on this, and then compose a 150- to 200-word
obituary that includes your age at the time of your death, the cause of death, your major life accomplishments, and your family survivors. When finished, read it over carefully. What stands out? What would you like to change? You may want to keep it for future reference to see how closely your life turns out in relation to your dreams.
death results from the achievement of ego integrity, as described in Chapter 15. For many older adults, the joy of living is diminishing (Kalish, 1987). More than any other group, they have experienced loss of family and friends and have come to terms with their own mortality. Older adults have more chronic diseases, which are not likely to go away. They may feel that their most important life tasks have been completed (Kastenbaum, 1999).
Understanding how adults deal with death and their consequent feelings of grief is best approached from the perspective of attachment theory (Field, Gao, & Paderna, 2005; Stroebe, Schut, & Stroebe,
2005) . In this view, a person’s reactions are a natural consequence of forming attachments and then losing them. We consider adult grief a bit later in the chapter.