Thanatology (Death, Dying, and Bereavement)    Admission is Currently Suspended



Educational programs in Thanatology at the University of Rhode Island are multifaceted. The study of Thanatology is integrated throughout the undergraduate and graduate programs in nursing, and is often chosen by students from other disciplines as well.

Interdepartmental Minor in Thanatology

Students in nursing and other disciplines who are interested in a basic understanding of death, dying, and grief may take a series of courses that qualify them for an interdepartmental minor in Thanatology.

Interdepartmental Minor

  • Undergraduate students may declare a “minor” in Thanatology. Requirements may be satisfied by completing 18 or more credits of interdepartmental studies related to Thanatology.
  • At least 12 of the 18 credits required for the minor shall be at the 200 level or above. A minimum grade point average of 2.0 must be earned in the 18 or more credits required for the minor.
  • At least half of the credits required for a minor must be earned at the University of Rhode Island.
  • No courses may be used to apply to both major and minor fields of study. Courses in general education may be used for the minor. Courses in the minor may not be taken under the pass-fail grade option.
  • Applications for a minor must be filed in the students assistant/associate dean’s office no later than the beginning of the student’s final semester.
  • Approval of a minor does not guarantee space in any course required for the minor.

Course Requirements

Students are required to take three courses in Thanatology (9 credits):

  • One course in communication, counseling, gerontology, or psychology (3 credits)
  • One course in ethics, philosophy, or religion (3 credits)
  • The remaining course (3 credits) may be selected from the list of course descriptions, decided in conjunction with the faculty advisor.

The courses under each category are listed under course descriptions.

Declaring the Minor

To declare a minor in Thanatology, a student must develop a course plan, complete the Thanatology minor form, and receive approval from the student’s assistant/associate dean. A student’s approved minor(s) will be listed on the student’s academic record after graduation.

For more information and minor approval, please contact Jessica Boisclair or Michaela Delaney at

Course Descriptions

THN/NUR 260 (360) Impact of Death on Behavior (3)
Seminar to explore the human experience of dying and the issue of quality of life. Group discussion focuses on the effect that individual and social values and medical and social structures have on one’s grief response and bereavement process. (Lec. 3/Online) (A2) (C3)

THN/NUR 270 (426) Loss Across the Life Span (3)
Exploration of losses that occur across the lifespan, caused both by situational crisis and through development. Emphasis on individual grief responses and the impact these may have on one’s future social and psychological growth. (Lec. 3) (A2) (B2)

THN/NUR 364G Understanding Suicide (3)
Investigates the complex phenomenon of suicide from ideation through grief experiences. Lecture and group discussion explore historical and contemporary theories and attitudes about suicide across multiple disciplines. Focus on civic responsibility. (Lec. 3) Pre: One prior Thanatology course or permission of instructor. (A2) (C1) (GC)

THN/NUR 365G Losses of Addiction (3)
Interdisciplinary study of addiction, effects, and cultural reception and responses. Focus on biopsychosocial and grieving experiences of diverse populations suffering from addiction and their loved ones, helping professionals, and communities. (Lec. 3) Pre: One prior Thanatology course or permission of instructor. (B4) (C3) (GC)

THN/HDF 421 Death, Dying, and Bereavement (3)
Exploration of human death, dying and bereavement. Focus on biomedical, psychological, social and multicultural dimensions. Implications for social policy. (Lec. 3) Pre: junior standing or above.

THN 422 AIDS in America (3)
Intensive interdisciplinary examination of the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in America from its emergence in 1981 to today. Interrogates the lived experiences, grieving processes, and cultural and political implications of AIDS. (Seminar 3) Pre: One prior Thanatology course or permission of instructor. (B2) (C1)

THN/NUR 425 Spirituality of Loss and Death (3)
Examination of major belief systems and spirituality during loss, death and grief. Emphasis on spiritual issues and ethnic, cultural, gender, and age differences, as well as the role of professional helpers. (Seminar 3) Pre: one prior thanatology course or permission of instructor.

THN/NUR 429 Topics in Thanatology (1-3)
Selected areas of study related to loss, grief, dying, and bereavement. May be repeated for credit with a change in topic. (Lec. 1-3) Pre: One prior thanatology course or permission of the instructor. Not for graduate credit.

THN/HDF 471 Responding to Grief (3)
Examines conceptual, psychosocial, somatic and pragmatic issues faced when grieving and how to cope or assist others accommodating imminent or realized loss due to death.  (Lec. 3) Pre: HDF 421, or prior thanatology course, or permission of instructor.

PHP 460 Palliative Care (3) 
Principles of palliative care including control of pain and other symptoms, and psychological, social, and spiritual issues. (Lec.3) Pre: second- or third-year Doctor of Pharmacy professional student in good standing or permission of the instructor.  Not for graduate credit.

HPR 124 (119) Honors Course in Interdisciplinary Studies: Loss in the Lives of Children and Adolescents (3)
Exploration of the experience that contemporary children and adolescents have with loss. From a world perspective, focus will be on developmental stage, cognitive capacity, and emotional effects of grief and victimization.

Communication or Counseling

COM 100 Communication Fundamentals (3)
Integrates basic theory and experience in a variety of communication contexts including public speaking, small groups, and interpersonal communication. Examines human differences in order to develop more effective communication skills. Not open to students with credit in 110.  (Lec. 3) (B2) (C1)

COM 221 Interpersonal Communication (3)
Examines basic theory and skills, including impart of perception, self-concept, listening, nonverbal messages, and language on interpersonal communication, including conflict, relationship development, friendship, family and romantic relationships. (Lec. 3/Online) Pre: COM 100 or 100H or 110.

COM 251 Small Group Communication (3)
The study of communicative functions in the small group setting. Includes group dynamics, leadership, problem solving, and decision making. Emphasis on theory and application. (Lec. 3/Online) Pre: COM 100 or 100H or 110.

COM 324 Nonverbal Communication (3)
Examines nonverbal communication codes, including their structures, usages, and interrelationships. Stresses student understanding, analysis, and application of nonverbal communication through lecture, discussion, and experiential activities. (Lec. 3) Pre: COM 202 or 221, and junior standing in a degree-granting college or permission of instructor.

COM 325 Communication in Interviewing (3)
Theory and practice of interviewing as planned communication in different settings for various purposes, including research, professions, and employment. Human diversity, ethics, interpersonal dynamics, and writing are emphasized. (Lec. 3) Pre: COM 202 and junior standing in a degree-granting college or permission of instructor.

COM 361 Intercultural Communication (3)
Study of cultural similarities and differences as they affect communication within and across cultural boundaries. (Lec. 3/Online) Pre: Junior standing in a degree-granting college or permission of instructor.

COM 422 Communication and Conflict Intervention (3)
An examination of the role of communication theories in conflict intervention in interpersonal, group, and organizational settings. Emphasis on applying theories through simulations, role plays, case studies, and discussions. (Lec. 3) Pre: COM 221 or COM 251 and junior standing in a degree-granting college or permission of instructor.

HDF 314 Introduction to Gerontology (4)
Introduction to the study of aging processes: Biological, psychological, and social theories. Health, social, and other age-related problems. Lecture, discussion, and participation in a field setting. (Lec. 3, Practicum 1) Pre: HDF major and HDF 201 or permission of instructor.

HDF 430 Family Interaction (3)
 Interdisciplinary approach to the dynamics of intrafamily relationships, interactions of family units and family members within the sociocultural environment. Implications for social policy. (Lec. 3) Pre: HDF 202 and 230.

HDF 450 Introduction to Counseling (3)
Introduces students in human sciences to interviewing and counseling skills in both professional and paraprofessional settings. Integrates theory, practice, and application by didactic and experiential learning. (Lec. 3) Pre: Senior standing in HDF, graduate standing, or permission of instructor.

HDF 535 Families Under Stress: Coping and Adaptation (3)
Theoretical models of family interaction, development, and stress as applied to understanding of family behavior in managing stress or events. Concepts of stress, vulnerability, adaptability, coping, regenerative power, social supports, and related research. (Seminar) Pre: HDF 430 or equivalent course work in family development or family sociology and permission of instructor.

PSY 113 General Psychology (3)
Introductory survey course of the major facts and principles of human behavior. Prerequisite for students interested in professional work in psychology or academic fields in which an extended knowledge of psychology is basic. (Lec. 2, Rec. 1) (A2)

PSY 232 Developmental Psychology (3)
Comprehensive understanding of human development and growth from birth to senescence. (Lec. 3) Pre: PSY 113. (A2)

PSY 399 Introduction to Multicultural Psychology (3)
Introductory course focusing on multiculturalism as a major paradigm.  Emphasizes the meaning of multiculturalism and associated principles, concepts, and sociocultural factors as related to assessment, intervention, and research. (Lec. 3/Online) Pre: PSY 113 or 103.

Ethics, Philosophy, or Religion

PHL 103 Introduction to Philosophy (3)
Pursues such basic questions as: What is a person? What is knowledge? Are we free? What is moral right and wrong? Does God exist? What is the meaning of death? (Lec. 3/Online) Not open to students with 9 or more credits in philosophy. (A3) (B1)

PHL 212 Ethics (3)
Evaluation of major ethical theories. Application of moral reasoning to topics such as virtues and vices, human dignity, conscience, responsibility, moral dilemmas, and reasons to be moral. (Lec. 3) (A3) (C3)

PHL 314 Ethical Problems in Society and Medicine (3)
Ethical analysis of topics such as war, capital punishment, sexual morality, suicide, animal rights, honesty and deception, world hunger, discrimination, abortion. (Lec. 3/Online) Pre: PHL 101 or 101H or 103 or 103H or one 200-level PHL course or permission of instructor.

PHL 328 The Philosophy of Religion (3)
A systematic and critical consideration of such topics as the existence and nature of God, the problem of evil, the relation of faith to reason, religious language, miracles, and immortality. (Lec. 3) Pre: PHL 101 or 103 or one 200-level PHL course or permission of instructor.

PHL 346 Existential Problems in Human Life (3)
Discussion of ultimate questions of human existence such as meaning in life, personal commitment, human relations, suffering, despair, hope, freedom, authenticity, self-deception, death, God, and immortality. (Lec. 3) Pre: PHL 101 or 103 or one 200-level PHL course or permission of instructor.

PHL 401 Special Problems (3)
Acceptable course for minor when the topic is related to death. (Independent study) Pre: 3 credits in philosophy and permission of instructor.

RLS 111 Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (3)
Comparative study of the teachings, the histories, and the practices of the three religions of Abraham; emphasis on their teachings. (Lec. 3)  (A3) (C2)

RLS 125 Biblical Thought (3)
Selected portions of the Old and New Testaments with emphasis on their positive contribution to the philosophy of the Jewish and Christian religions. (Lec. 3) (A3)

RLS 131 Introduction to Oriental Philosophies and Religions (3)
Introductory study of the main philosophical and religious ideas in Asia, with emphasis on Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. (Lec. 3) (A3)

RLS 226 (126) The Development of Christian Thought (3)
Non-sectarian study of the teachings and historical development of various Christian groups, including Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, the major Protestant denominations, and liberal Christianity. (Lec. 3) (A3) (B4)