Bereavement and moral and spiritual development : an exploration of the experiences of children and young people
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This thesis, which is in two parts, attempts to interpret in moral and spiritual terms those responses to bereavement that are often described as psychological. In part one human development is considered comparing religious, philosophical, scientific and psychological theories and a model of the 'core self is proposed (body, mind and emotions) which responds to social and cultural influences in ways that can be considered moral and spiritual. Theories of duty, consequence and virtue are considered as well as Kohlberg's theory of justice reasoning and Gilligan's views about caring. Within spirituality notions of dualism and continuity-discontinuity are noted and a tripartite view of spirituality as human, devotional and practical is proposed. The notion of stages in both moral and spiritual development is dismissed in favour of a model of inter-relatedness and interconnectedness, and a bereavement model of adaptation is also suggested to describe the process of grieving which is likened to development. Part two describes the research methods used to obtain data from 169 respondents: 28 children (5-11 years), 99 young people (11-18 years) and 42 adults, including key interviews with four 16/17 year old girls whose parent and/or sibling had died. Respondents discuss traditional religious beliefs and practices; the concept of a loving and/or just God; having a sense of the presence of the deceased; spiritualism and near-death experiences; 'living for the moment'; increased awareness of and empathy with other grieving people; constraints on hurting or harming people; valuing of life itself; funeral attendance, and the response of school staff to bereaved pupils. This study highlights the need for initial teacher training and ongoing INSET on bereavement issues and suggests that research is needed concerning pupil and staff opinions and experiences, and evaluation of school policies. The establishment of an educational centre for resources and information on loss, death and bereavement is also proposed.
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