Some words have jumped out at us over the course of our work with aging, death and dying and end-of-life care. This glossary explores the psychology of aging, and death and dying as reflected in language.
Active Dying - the process of physically dying; permanent cessation of bodily functions
Advance Directive - a written document that indicates what types of medical treatments a person wants and whom the doctor should talk to when a person is unable to speak for himself/herself. This document is the combination of a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
Age-related Grief - Grief as that occurs in relation to one's age. The grief over lost youth.
Agnostic Funeral - funeral for a person who neither believes nor disbelieves in a deity, agnostics claim neither faith or disbelief
Burial Swaddling - cloth used to wrap infants that have died in preparation of burial
Burial Tree - tree planted in memory of the deceased, may or may not be placed at the gravesite
Cadaver - a dead human body used for the purposes of medical research, study, anatomical dissection and transplantation.
Casketry - selection of burial coffins and caskets found in a funeral home's merchandise display room
Celebrant - a person who officiates a personalized and meaningful memorial or funeral ceremony
Cemetery Arts - monuments or art installations present at cemeteries for the purpose of memorialization
Chevrah Kadisha - In the Jewish faith, a group of men or women from the synagogue who are assigned to care for the dead
Columbarium - an standing structure with spaces (niches) where cremated remains are secured
Committal service - a brief graveside service held before the casket or urn is placed into the ground or columbarium
Contemporaneity - existing or occurring in the same period of time
Corpse - a dead human body
Corpse Dog - (also incorrectly referred to as Cadaver Dog) dogs used for locating the dead in disasters
Coroner - an official in a community responsible for researching unexplicable, violent and or sudden deaths
Cortege - a procession of vehicles driving from the funeral service to the place of disposition (usually the cemetery)
Cremation - the Greek originated method of reducing the dead body small bone fragments by fire (flame based) or present day, by treated water (alkaline hydrolysis) (see hydro cremation)
Crone movement - A movement that takes its name from the archetype of the older woman, as a symbol of wisdom and strength (also known as crone energy)
Crypt - an above ground burial site inside a mausoleum
Death Doula - one (can be either a male or female) who aids the dying through the final dying process and often prepares the body for viewing once death has occurred.
Death Midwife - female version of death doula (see death doula)
Death with Dignity - in Oregon, a 1994 Measure established the U.S. state of Oregon's Death with Dignity Act (ORS 127.800-995), which legalizes physician-assisted dying with certain restrictions. Passage of this initiative made Oregon the first U.S. state and one of the first jurisdictions in the world to permit some terminally ill patients to determine the time of their own death. (Visit the Death with Dignity national center for more info)
Decompiculture - refers to how decomposing organisms could be grown or cultured for a variety of uses, for instance to decompose waste; in human burial, refers to cultivating fungi for the purpose of facilitating corpse decomposition.
Direct cremation - immediate cremation without a funeral or memorial service
Direct burial - immediate burial without a funeral service
Ethical Will - a document written by the dying to pass along ethical values, life lessons and wishes for the surviving loved ones; a practice that originated with the Lakota Sioux and the Hebrews (read more on ethical wills )
Gerontophobia - the fear of growing old, or a hatred or fear of the elderly.
Green Burial - natural earth burial without the use of chemicals, graveliners or crypts, usually in biodegradable containers (read more on green burial)
Ghost Bicycle - a bike painted entirely white (including tires), that is affixed where a fatal bike accident occurred (usually in an urban setting or on a roadside), in memoriam of one who has died; the practice of which originated from the United Kingdom (see photo of ghost bike )
Guardian - A court-appointed person who is assigned to make decisions for an incapacitated person. This person may also be called a conservator. This person is often in charge of medical decisions and or financial decisions.
HIPPA - Health Information Portability and Accountability Act; A law that protects medical information and gives individuals the right to decide who will and will not have access to his/her own personal health information (see more info on the HIPPA act )
Holistic End-of-Life Care - focused on continuity of care from aging well, dying, death, funeralization and after care
Holographic Will - a will that is written entirely by hand of the person the will belongs to
Home-Funeral - a funeral that is held in the home of the decedant; it may be with or without the assistance of a funeral director, but can alleviate the need to move the deceased to a funeral home (read about home funerals and home death care instructions) (also known as family-led funeral)
Honorarium - the charitable fee typically paid to a clergy person or celebrant for officiating the funeral or memorial ceremony, or for the musicians or soloists for their performances in the ceremony
Humanist - Humanism is a broad category of ethical philosophies that affirm the dignity and worth of all people, based on the ability to determine right and wrong by appealing to universal human qualities, particularly rationality, without resorting to the supernatural or alleged divine authority from religious texts.
Hydro Cremation - the environmentally friendly version of cremation that reduces human remains to small bone fragments through the process of hydrolysis, using water, heat, agitation and an alkali solution (also known as bio-cremation and resomation) (read more about hydro cremation)
Hygienic Treatment - the intravascular cleansing of the circulatory system of the dead human body for the purposes of slowing putrefaction and for disease control during extended viewing or travels (also known as embalming)
Iatrogenic illness - induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon or by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures <an iatrogenic rash>
Identity-stripping - All persons flying on commercial airlines would be identity-stripped by a database that would include their names, phone numbers, addresses, dates of birth, their traveling companions and itineraries, how tickets were paid, rental car information and destinations, names and addresses of businesses the passenger has used, all information about their current and past car ownership and even newspaper subscriptions. Gullette's use is different. Gullette's idea is a more personal loss/sense of identity, whereas the above definition refers to an exposure of one's personal information.
Jinazah - a funeral or funeral prayer for Muslims (in Islam)
Kin - one's relatives, referring to blood relationship. (Next of kin has right of final disposition for one who has died.)
Life cycle - The biological cycles of life from conception to death.
Life Story Review - the review and collection of one's biographical history and important life events, often in a hospice setting, but sometimes collected during pre-need funeral arrangements (how to collect a life review)
Living Will - a written document that indicates what types of medical treatments are desired. This can be specific or general. It can also be called an Advance Directive.
Mausoleum - a small building in a cemetery that where a body is interred above ground
Memorial - a service or ceremony honoring the life of a person who has died, the body is not present for this service. Cremated remains (ashes) may or may not be present. (Not to be confused with funeral)
Niche - a space in a cemetery columbarium that holds cremated remains (ashes) permanently for visitation
Obituary - a notice placed in a newspaper that announces the death to the community, covers a briefly write up on the person's life and may or may not invites readers to attend a funeral or memorial
Ontological - the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being.
Out Funeral - a funeral that celebrates the lifestyle preference of the individual in addition to honoring the deceased
Pallbearers - the people who carry the casket from the funeral ceremony to the hearse and from the hearse to the gravesite
POLST - Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatments, which is a doctor's order form that documents the patient's wishes, not only about CPR but for other end-of-life choices. (Visit Official POLST website for Oregon)
Quasi -Property Theory - the legal theory pertaining to the dead human body whereby rights to the body are only associated with disposition purposes only; no other property rights to the body exist.
Rental Coffin - a coffin that is used purely for the funeral service and not utilized for final burial or cremation. It is designed to accomodate a fitted liner which the body is laid within, the liner is then placed inside the rental coffin and removed immediately after services, usually used in cases of cremation
Restorative Art - a term that refers to repair of the dead body to make it presentable for final viewing
Second Burial - when a body is exhumed after some time, then cremated and placed in a family columbarium (usually occurs in traditional Asian cultures)
Secular Funeral - a funeral service focused on celebrating the individual's life and accomplishments; not religious or spiritual in nature