Document Type

Thesis

Publication details

Jackson, KP 2012, 'Giving up the ghost. Healers' perceptions of the perimortal process : a phenomenological study', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright KP Jackson 2012

Abstract

Dying and death is a universal human experience and is possibly the most influential and relevant experience of each person’s life. The aim of this study was to explore the perceptions of healers, as they assist people who are dying. The objectives were to provide a deeper insight into the process of both dying and death, so that health professionals and carers may provide more appropriate assistance and support for the dying, and individuals within our culture will have the opportunity to experience their own dying process more consciously and with less fear. The research question was: What are the healers’ subtle perceptions of perimortality, reflected in the transitional stages of "nearing death," "death" and "after death?"

By exploring the perceptions of healers during their ministrations to the dying, as well as their experience of death, this study provided an alternative picture of death and dying. Consequently, the literature chosen for review reflected both the mainstream and the alternative views of death and dying, in relation to the physical, psychological and sociological aspects of dying and death. The review of literature also included the spiritual and transpersonal aspects of perimortality, the theories allied to consciousness and subtle energies, and the research related to healing.

van Manen’s phenomenology was applied to the data collection and analysis methods. After gaining ethical clearance to undertake the study, 16 participants were recruited by purposive sampling and snowball technique. Face to face semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 13 participants and the phone interviews were undertaken with three participants, who were living interstate or overseas. After immersion in the transcribed data of the participants’ in-depth experiential accounts, a phenomenological analysis revealed the phenomenon as Gathering-up, Giving-up and Enduring Consciousness.

The insights gained from the research have implications for health professionals and carers providing appropriate assistance and support for the dying; and for individuals with whom the phenomenon resonates. The limitations in using hermeneutic phenomenology to explicate the phenomenon were acknowledged and discussed and suggestions for further research were outlined.