It's not easy being a thanatologist in the 1990s. At least it should not be easy being a thanatologist in the 1990s. When it is, something is awry and something quite complex has been oversimplified.
In an era of increasing specialization in everything from medicine to sales, today's professional appears to be required to develop increased expertise in a focused area of decreased breadth. To be sure, there are many people--usually in these circumstances termed "consumers"--and movements that have rallied against such minimized perspective--for example, the hospice movement and wholistic medicine--yet the trend continues. Being considered a generalist at something is frequently taken to mean a lack of training, signifying one who is a "jack of all trades and master of none." To identify a good medical general practitioner in one's community often can be quite a task, notwithstanding the specialization of family practice, that is, the specialization of the general.
Unfortunately, the field of thanatology has not escaped this tendency to specialize. For example, there are now professionals who work exclusively with bereaved parents, and even solely with those who have lost a child at a certain age and under certain circumstances. This is not to say that increased discrimination within thanatology is unnecessary. Indeed, the mandate for it has been made clear,1 and there is no dearth of arguments for the necessity to hone generalizations about dying, death, loss, grief, and mourning to accommodate the particular realities that reflect the following two incontrovertible facts: (1) Because of the idiosyncratic nature of experience, no two loss experience's--either predeath (i.e., dying and anticipatory grief) or postdeath (i.e., grief and mourning)--are exactly alike; and,____________________