The Writing of Wills for Death Experience Activities as the Practice of the Meaning for Life of College Students: an Existential Phenomenological Analysis
The purpose of this study is to explore (a) feelings when facing death, (b) meanings practice for life, and (c) the experiential structure of the meaning practice induced by death. This study adopts the existential phenomenological approach to analyze wills and reflection-after-participation transcripts written by twenty-six college students who participated in an experiential activity of facing-death.
The content of will transcripts indicates the practice of three dimensions with dual characteristics when the participants faced death: outcome (meaning transformation or not), worlds (being-in-this-life-world and the post-death world), and subjects (self and others). (1) Participants who presented the fulfillment of meaning conversion tried to establish harmony in relations not only with the two subjects but also in the two worlds. For themselves in being-in-this-life-world, participants arranged to care for themselves by fulfilling dreams and practicing self-improvement. Meanwhile, for others, practices adopted to care for persons who have had in this life world are as follows: being grateful for parents and paying a debt of gratitude; giving and enjoying mutual caring between siblings, friends, and lovers; and expressing apologies or regrets to those who have experienced harm and then tried to restore relationships. As for the post-death world, practices taken to deal with both the two subjects and the two worlds include making plans of their own funeral, afterlife spiritual practice, and arrangement of care for others across the worlds of life and death. (2) Individuals who failed to present thoughts related to meaning transformation showed regrets both for their lives and for relationships with others in being-in-this-life-world. Nevertheless, they still remained a glimmer of hope in the afterlife, such as finding their own goals of life in the afterlife. The results of reflection transcripts revealed two approaches to death: acceptance and avoidance. All individuals accepting death presented meaning transformation; however, only part of death-avoidance individuals described the transformation.
In sum, the facing-death activity facilitates individuals to start a journal of the transformation of meaning for life: Participants profoundly experienced the awe of existence and the emerged suffering. Their selves are immersed in and moving among multiple modes of suffering. Individuals then start to unfold the meanings and started practices of life toward both the two subjects and the two worlds. Individuals assume responsibilities for their own life and others’ suffering in harmony with their expectations.
This study proposed a theoretical model based on research findings—the model of the meaning practice induced by facing death and suffering: A dual unfolding for oneself and others. It is recommended that the applications of this study and follow-up research are needed to enrich and refine the model.
|關鍵詞||存在現象學、死亡體驗、人倫和諧、生命意義實踐、遺囑撰寫、existential phenomenology、facing-death experience、harmony in relationship 、life-meaning practice、will writing|