Creating Meaning Through Storytelling at the End of Life

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2017-05-08

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Gold, Deborah T

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Abstract

This thesis will examine how patients, families, and doctors in the United States create narratives around dying. While this study does not focus extensively on narrative theory, it will explore how different people look back and tell the stories of their lives and the ways in which that storytelling affects dying. Furthermore, the thesis will focus on physicians, rather than the many other essential members of a health care team. This thesis will examine both individuals who craft their own stories as well as the stories that are told about them after their deaths. Examples of this, including fictional examples, help to illustrate these topics. The process of active storytelling can empower patients to create how they want to be remembered and shapes how families use stories in their process of grieving. I argue here that death is a process that expands beyond the biological realm into the narrative. Narratives may help to interpret and revise a patient’s life story, transforming them from passive participants in the end of lives to active creators. This thesis asserts that patients, family members, and physicians use language and narratives at the end of life as a means of attempting to understand and maybe even control death.

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Citation

Morton, Claire (2017). Creating Meaning Through Storytelling at the End of Life. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/14295.


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