From a sociological standpoint, death is relatively difficult to research. While some individuals may describe near-death experiences, the actual act of death cannot be fully known to the living. The purpose of this study is to gain insight into the nature of death and dying in the United States today. This research examines the perspective of modern hospice workers. These individuals work near death on a regular basis and therefore have a privileged understanding of what death is like in US society today. Data consist of ten in-depth interviews with hospice/ palliative-care workers in the Midwestern United States. Respondents were asked questions aimed at gathering data in several distinct areas. The first of these was to outline the modern death context, or social context which encompasses the behaviors and attitudes about death found in society at a given time. The next area of inquiry was on the emotion work required to work near death as well as the emotional labor required to work with individuals and their loved ones in providing end-of-life care. The final area of the findings focused on how the understandings of the respondents changed as they became familiar with the notion of death. Their responses suggest that though the modern death context may not offer extensive experience with death, and that individuals may overcome this unfamiliarity by experiencing death with some frequency. Furthermore, this achieved familiarity seems to help the individual accept death and therefore accept their own mortality.


Emily Boyd

First Committee Member

Leah Rogne

Second Committee Member

Kimberly Zammitt

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology and Corrections


Social and Behavioral Sciences

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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