Thanatológiai Szemle

elektronikus folyóirat


VII. évfolyam



Dear Reader,

Our journal has already entered its seventh year, reaching school-age. It is still the only journal in Hungary which publishes articles on the fields of thanatology, death, dying and grief, thus filling a niche, and perhaps forming our attitudes toward death. In our present issue we are pleased to publish works of some young authors as well. Their activities further prove the importance of our main topics and pursuits.

In our column poetry we present the poems of an equally young but recognised poet, Anna T. Szabó, who has been awarded the József Attila Prize. Her poems reveal in a shocking way the sufferings, defencelessness and anxiety of the dying patient, while giving a vivid picture of the desolate world that is the hospital.

It is against this same world that the equally young though well known, and prolific Belgian philosopher and bioethician, Bert Broeckaert, speaks out in his treatise On the legalisation of euthanasia in Belgium. Broeckaert emphasizes, that even countries which allow euthanasia should offer dying patients an alternative, by elaborating palliative support models and by improving the information-service regarding these models. The author suggests that with these models in probably less people would choose euthanasia, since all most patients need is some relief from their suffering rather than a mortal injection.

Vera Békés, a psychologist - as a part of her PhD program - has researched the different aspects of fear of death for several years. In her present study she focuses on the connections between the fear of death, gender, age and religiosity, respectively. She concludes that the fear of death is strongest among middle-aged women, while religiosity doesn’t play an important role in developing attitudes toward death.

The volunteer counsellor of the Hungarian Death Foundation, Magdolna Singer, has proved to be a faithful contributor to our journal. While writing on the difficulties, beauty, and methodical ways of communication with the terminally ill, she recollects her experiences she had as a counsellor for terminally ill patients. She emphasizes that the hospice service is not always a doleful duty and indeed sometimes even humour has its place at the bedside. The essay builds on a chapter from Magdola Singer’s handbook - bearing the same title - which is going to be published for volunteer helpers.

Hundreds of volunteer helpers have been already trained by Dr. János Pilling, president of the Eclipse Society, to support the bereaved, and by his colleagues in the last few years. By outlining the exercises brought together for the courses organized for support-teams, the renowned thanatologist offers a significant guide for specialists, intended to organize similar courses, or to lead a volunteer bereavement-team.

Assistance in grieving is the topic of Tivadar Bakó’s essay as well. The author - from the viewpoint of a practising psychologist - calls our attention to the fact, that building the future is not a process to be encouraged while loss is still unprocessed, and the individual is not ready for change. His thoughts are based on case studies of two young girls who bypass their grieving-work. Author indicates the possible ways of therapy as well. The study is illustrated by the author’s own drawings. These sketches symbolize a vortex, pulling its victim downwards - if however the drowning person does not kick and fight against the force of the water, he or she will be brought soon back to the surface by the vortex itself.

Tibor Szenti in his essay Death attempts to bring closer the theological and the natural historical aspects of death. One of his most important thoughts goes as follows: The philosophical interpretation of Einstein’s energy-matter parity equation proves, that physically, a human being is simply unperishable. Only his personality and consciousness are to be lost, on the other hand however, on a material level, he is recycled into nature, becoming in this way immortal. Quite apart from the existence of any transcendental fixed point, this experience can give hope to readers facing death and the mental trauma of bereavement.

Dr. Katalin Hegedűs







The legalization of euthanasia in Belgium

From: Health Care and Human Rights. (Ed. JUDIT FRIDLI) Budapest, Társaság a Szabadságjogokért, 2002. 44-54.


The attitude toward death regarding gender and religiosity

This article analyses the connection between gender and religiosity with attitudes toward death. The questionnaire presupposes 5 different attitudes toward death and was given to 100 individuals. Conclusions are that fear of death is stronger among women than among men, while the strongest fear of death has been experienced among middle-aged persons. Religiosity did not influence intensity of fear of death but significantly influenced attitudes toward death.


Being together, feeling together. Volunteer support for the terminally ill in hospices

The author has helped terminally ill patients for years. This study is a summary of her bedside communicational experiences. The main questions answered here are as follow: What are the motivations of volunteers choosing this job? What is their supposed role? Might humour and touch play any role in the presence of the terminally ill? Will the volunteer develop his/her personality through these experiences?


Structural techniques in the self-help teams of the bereaved

The self-help teams are effective tools for helping the bereaved. These structural techniques give a frame to the activity of the team. The author presents the main rules of application of these techniques, and demonstrates the exercises to be used effectively at the introductory and opening sessions, in aiding the process of bereavement, in creating the special rites of the team, in the planning of homework and in closing teamwork, respectively.


The introductory phase of crisis and grief

Through two case-studies the author illustrates the introductory phase of crisis therapy of a crisis-situation, when a certain life-experience is to be closed and processed. This state of mind is quite similar to grief. Grief is a necessary precondition for founding a new life and building a future.



Death is not only a biophysical and biochemical event, but a process leading to annihilation well known by thanatologists. The present essay - a chapter from the Unusual Encyclopaedia of the same author containing 63 essays [in press] - attempts to bring closer the theological and the natural historical aspects of death. Developments in science in the 20th century made this attempt possible as was proved by the English philosopher, Paul Davis, too.

The author of the present essay disputes Hemingway’s famous words: Man can be killed but not overcome, since our fragility has been proved by several cataclysms of history and nature. The question is whether man can be destroyed by his death or not. The author depicts the struggle of man for total annihilation and at the same time for eternal life. While we are attempting to save our body and personality by using mummification, so called apallikers and hibernation, we also make attempts to annihilate our personality by the help of several techniques of burial, including incineration or anthropophagia. The philosophical interpretation of Einstein’s energy-matter parity equation proves that physically, a human being is simply unperishable. Only his personality and consciousness are to be lost while on a material level, he is recycled into nature thus achieving immortality. Quite apart from the existence of any transcendental fixed point, this experience brings hope to readers experiencing difficulties in facing death and mental trauma of bereavement.

(Translated by L. A. Magyar)