Dissertation Title:

Between Death and Dying: An Interrelational, Embodied Inquiry


Jana Hendricks

Date, Time & Place:

March 23, 2023 at 10:00 am


This study describes an interrelational, embodied perspective of death and dying that challenges existing understandings of mortality. For example, some depth psychological and existential phenomenological thinkers frame death as a dynamic reality at the center of existence. Under this perspective, death is related to dying, but the two are conceptualized as distinctly different. In contrast, practitioner end-of-life caregiving literatures frame death and dying as deeply related, blended processes that culminate with the end of life. Literatures from the field of somatics, however, scarcely attend to concerns of mortality, as the somatic aims of renewal and regeneration are largely considered incompatible with end-of-life processes. To discern and make meaning of these existential differences around the concepts of death and dying, this study explored the relationship between these phenomena from the perspectives of six end-of-life and after-death care and education specialists in North America. A novel phenomenological data collection—interrelational, embodied inquiry—crafted for the needs of this culturally taboo topic illustrated that narratives around death radically shift when the kinesthetically aware body is integrated in relational ways. The interrelational space between a somatically attuned caregiver and a dying/deceased person facilitates an interkinaesthetic exchange, or a bodily experience that is shared between the two people. Thus, in contrast to theories that hold death as a solitary journey, this research suggests that the experience of death is, to some extent, a relationally shared phenomenon that spontaneously emerges out of the interrelational field.

  • Program/Track/Year: Depth Psych Emphasis in Somatic Studies, S, 2014
  • Chair: Dr. Kesha Fikes
  • Reader: Dr. Alan Kilpatrick
  • External Reader: Dr. Mark Unno
  • Keywords: Death, Dying, Embodiment, Interrelational, Somatics, Depth Psychology