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RCL Career Resources Human Services: Funeral Services

RCL Funeral Services + Choice Titles

Mallon has written an excellent, easily understood text on grief and loss that integrates theory, practice interventions, and research literature on adult bereavement. Her discussion of dreams and their use in grief resolution is particularly engaging and informative. Additionally, the inclusion of assessment and measurement scales, resource listing, and glossary of terms makes this work an important one for students and practitioners alike. The examination of the interrelationships between spirituality, religion, rituals, and culture in adult bereavement also enhances the reader's appreciation of death as an integral part of the human experience. This reviewer is very pleased with the author's handling of at times complex material in a clear yet comprehensive manner. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.

--S.H. Smith, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey


A recognized author in the historical, religious, and sociological study of death, editor Davies turns his focus to cremation, drawing on the Archive of the British Cremation Society, housed at his institution, the UK's Durham University. The more than 100 contributors represent academics, law, religious study, many international perspectives, and the professional practice of cremation. This encyclopedia does not delineate parameters for selection and inclusion of entries. Country/region and various religious overviews dominate the entries, with emphasis also on industry practice; historical and contemporary individuals who have influenced thought or practice related to cremation; and relevant issues surrounding death. Treatment is admirably interdisciplinary, integrating sociological, psychological, historical, legal, theological, scientific, engineering, and artistic perspectives, along with political and economic dimensions of the practice.Entries, other than those related to geography or faith, run from "advertising," "ashes," and "cremators" to "Freemasonry," "literary cremation," "Nazi cremation," "war," and "vampires" (a stake in the heart is judged not reliable enough, but cremation of remains is considered to assure nonreturn of these beings). This work also presents yearly cremation statistics from 47 countries throughout the world from 1876 to the present. The "Chronology of Cremation" begins in 8,000 BCE with cremation in China and runs to 2003, when US military officials ruled out use of cremation to dispose of victims of chemical and biological agents during the second Gulf War. Due to the narrow subject focus and the relatively high cost, this work is suitable only for appropriately specialized libraries. Summing Up: Recommended. Libraries supporting programs in death studies and related fields, at the upper-division undergraduate level and above; two-year technical program students.

--J. A. Adams-Volpe, University at Buffalo, SUNY


Outstanding Academic Title

Battin (philosophy, Univ. of Utah) offers a beautifully written and wise collection of her writings that promises to become a benchmark in the end-of-life debates. Included are fiction, creative nonfiction, and systematic pieces that cover topics ranging from euthanasia to suicide bombing to serpent-handling to global justice and the duty to die. Battin includes historical and cross-cultural pieces. She poses a dilemma between Seneca's view that death is a part of life that is under one's control and can be undertaken virtuously, and Aquinas's view that death is something that happens to one, which is outside of one's control and something to be suffered. She sides with Seneca, relying heavily on two arguments: the argument from autonomy and the argument from the relief of pain and suffering. She examines carefully but rejects the principal arguments against her position: the argument from the intrinsic wrongness of killing, the argument concerning the integrity of the medical profession, and the slippery slope argument. Battin admits that neither she nor Western culture has yet found complete closure on these issues, and that the purpose of the debate is to obtain closure for oneself but principally for the culture at large. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels.

--R. Werner, Hamilton College


Becvar explores bereavement as a search for meaning. The death of her 22-year-old son in a bicyclcing accident shattered her life, devastated her family, and led her to write this book about how one lives in death's shadow. Becvar's narratives illustrate how psychotherapy helps a family resolve issues related to death and bereavement and transforms their lives. Weaving a tapestry from her experience and expertise, the author discusses grief counseling in conjunction with the death of children, siblings, and parents. The book is somewhat ethnocentric, offering a Euro-American understanding of death, dying, and bereavement; types of death; euthanasia; and grief in the context of therapy. Death in other cultures is briefly mentioned. Captivating discussions offer insight into creative coping strategies and rituals. A useful section explores healing rituals. Absent is a clarification of the clients' sociodemographics within the narratives and issues of the impact of multiple bereavement, complicated grief, and elderly people dying alone without autonomy in a nursing home. This volume is highly recommended for readers at lower/upper-division undergraduate levels and above and for general readers. That said, scholars and therapists will find Meaning Reconstruction & the Experience of Loss, ed. by Robert Neimeyer (CH, Oct'01), a more instructive guide to grief therapy based on empirical data.

--S. M. Valente, University of Southern California


What is the Jewish response to death? The laws of mourning require the mourner to behave as though he or she were dead. Normal daily activity (positive religious requirements, work, study, food preparation, beyond-the-minimal personal hygiene and grooming, conjugal relations, etc.) is not permitted during the period of shivah, the seven days following burial. Mourners are touched by the anti-life, and their activities reflect a sense of incompleteness. Mourners return to religious requirements and social amenities by degrees. Paradoxically, in the mourning observances, the mourner and the mourned are united; that is, by observing the absence of life, the mourner is sensitized to the value and quality of life. Lamm (Yeshiva Univ.) communicates this philosophy and related thoughts in seven informed chapters, parsed in multiple rubrics, and in four appendixes. He includes discussion on abortion, autopsy, afterlife, discretionary mourning, and more, interweaving gleanings from biblical, rabbinic, and folk tradition with medical ethics, scientific direction, and sociological information to explain the Jewish way in bereavement and recovery. A wonderfully crafted tome of law and custom about the "last exit" that any Jew, regardless of denominational leaning, can learn from and live by. General readers; all academic levels.

--Z. Garber, Los Angeles Valley College


This edited volume could provide a mandatory update for all clinicians involved in grief counseling at any stage of the process. Doka has amassed interesting empirical work from a group of well-respected authors to provide a contemporary look at traditional approaches to death, dying, and bereavement. This book is not meant to be new and revolutionary. Collectively its chapters often challenge long-held beliefs, providing support for them when appropriate, and then entwining new societal concepts now necessary for effectiveness in caring for those who are experiencing grief. Of note is the book's sensitivity to the cultural differences of people experiencing the different stages of grief, and the emergence of varied adaptive strategies that clinicians can employ in assisting the grieving. This book explores, with new insights, topics such as anticipatory grief and mourning, disenfranchised grievers, implications for practice, and self-care for the professional. The debate sparked by the suggestion that Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria be applied to mourners is tastefully hosted. This thought-provoking book can serve as a handbook for clinicians and those preparing to be clinicians in all disciplines involved with caring for those who grieve. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates in the health sciences through professionals/practitioners.

--M. M. Slusser, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania


At once an exploration of the changing meaning of religious rituals, a witty piece of reporting on the machinations of the death industry, and a very serious piece of scholarship on the origins and popularization of a cultural practice, this book will attract many more readers than might be guessed by the title alone. Prothero traces cremation advocates and their relationships to various reform movements (from the sanitation drives of the Progressive Era to the "small is beautiful" mantra of the 1970s), and follows the progress of the practice from being considered an oddity or an abomination in the late 19th century to its status as the choice of body disposal of about one-quarter of Americans now. Over time, cremation mutated "from a public health necessity into a personal choice--from an urgent sanitary reform into a consumer option." Cremation allows "baby boomers to do death in their own way," while providing handsome profits ("make money the old-fashioned way--urn it!" one trade publication urges) for the same funeral industry satirized memorably in Jessica Mitford's American Way of Death (1963). A terrific read, highly recommended.

--P. Harvey, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs


This close and detailed (if also good-humored) survey of death in the 20th-century US work joins a growing body of scholarship (including Stephen Prothero's wonderful Purified by Fire, CH, Jun'01) that takes death (and its attendant mourning rituals) seriously as a subject of cultural studies. Laderman (religion, Emory Univ.) has two agendas. First, he studies rather than merely eviscerates (as Jessica Mitford famously did in her 1963 book The American Way of Death) the evolution of funeral homes from the Civil War to the present, persuasively concluding that "funeral directors managed to insinuate themselves into the fabric of everyday American life ... because most Americans wanted the services they offered." Secondly, Laderman surveys how death has been treated in US culture, ranging widely from the world wars through public mournings and the funerals of JFK and Elvis, to Jessica Mitford's own elaborate if individualized death ceremony, and finally through the funeral home's somewhat begrudging response to deaths from AIDS (and with a short postscript on 9/11, no doubt demanded by the publisher). Overall, an engaging, first-class work of scholarship that should rest Jessica Mitford in peace. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries.

--P. Harvey, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs