Patricia Weenolsen, Ph.D.


There are many resources for those of us facing bereavement as well as for caregivers. There has been relatively little help for those of us facing our own death. Praise for the helpfulness of The Art of Dying (originally published by St. Martin's Press) abounds:

"It covers the subject thoroughly from how to inform relatives of impending death, to coping with pain and fear, to death rituals, to preparing for a possible afterlife or, depending on one's point of view, the end of it all."
Publishers Weekly

"A thoughtful, compassionate and inspiring handbook from which each and every one of us can derive some benefit. Weenolsen's approach is pragmatic, generous and gently witty...A commendable job."
Barbara Lloyd McMichael, Tacoma News Tribune

"Weenolsen probes the questions that many may be afraid to ask....offers reassurances and comfort."
Tom DePoto, Newark Star-Ledger

"A reassuring yet sensitive approach to difficult subjects."
Karen McNally Bensing, Library Journal

"Along with our caring presence, this book may be the finest gift we can give someone facing the last stage of life."
Rabbi Harold Kushner, Author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People

"Her book is at once hope-inspiring and clear-headed."
M. Brewster Smith, Ph.D., former president, American Psychological Association

"This book gives the same things a good support group does -- compassionate sympathy and practical advice for people sharing pain. It will be a godsend."
Rebecca Brown, author of The Gifts of the Body.

"A simple, straightforward guide for dying persons, at once practical and spiritual, with the pervasive themes of hope and love. The author's wisdom, warmth and wit make it particularly compelling. It is also for family and friends of dying persons, for professionals in the health-care fields, and for those who train them."
Hannelore Wass, Ph.D., founding editor, Death Studies

"The Art of Dying shows us how to do it well."
The Reader's Catalog

"No -nonsense compassionate guide."
Patricia Holt, San Francisco Chronicle


"In a massive study of the life histories of 48 women, Weenolsen (University of California, Santa Cruz) explores the ways we go about constructing meaning in life. Impressive in its depth and scope, the book's thesis is that experience of loss provides the nuclei for life themes around which personal experience of meaning is organized. "Loss" is defined broadly to include betrayal, jealousy, abuse, incompetence, absence, and, of course, death. The life histories are presented in fascinating detail with minimal immediate interpretation. Weenolsen uses sets of life stories as the basis for both development of key analytic constructs and the loss/transcendence theoretical paradigm. The resulting model has clinical and sociocultural implications, but the book will probably prove most important for its significant contribution to the budding literature on personality development in adulthood. Transcendence will be particularly relevant to professionals dealing with persons experiencing life difficulties in "normal" life transitions. It is also recommended to general readers and advanced students.

—T. Sloan, University of Tulsa, Choice Magazine

My Works

Welcome! Please feel free to communicate with me by email. Maybe we'll even get a blog going about what has worked for you. Thank you.
—Dr. Trish

The Art of Dying: Facing Your Own Death

The Art of Dying is a book for those of you facing your own death. Perhaps you have received a scary diagnosis or found yourself in harm's way or become existentially more thoughtful.

It is written as a guide to the many problems that may arise -- physical, legal, emotional, and spiritual. In it, Dr. Trish takes care to offer a number of solutions to each problem, not just one. You make your own choice.

In the course of her talks with many of those facing death, Dr. Trish has also spoken with bereaving sons and daughters who wondered how to give this book to their beloved parents or spouses. She suggests presenting the ideas of one chapter, perhaps, focusing on specific concerns that their loved one might have, such as:

  • Feelings of stigma as the body becomes more disfigured;
  • Doubts about life accomplishments;
  • Retaining identity;
  • Maintaining control of the process;
  • Or transcending the loss of everything they love.

    The following is an abbreviated list of the contents of The Art of Dying, chapter by chapter.

    1. Preparing for Death Can Transform Your Life
    2. Cutting Death Down to Size
    3. Are you Living or Dying? How PNI Affects Your Choice
    4. What Does Your Illness Mean to You?
    5. Should You Tell Others? How Can You Tell Younger Children?
    6. Legal, Medical, and Financial Preparations: Psychospiritual Guidance
    7. Coping Positively with Daily Life
    8. Betrayed by the Body: Disability, Disfigurement, and Stigma
    9. Twenty-Seven Rules for Dying the "Right Way"" One Rule for Dying Your Own Way
    10. Power over Pain
    11. How to Be in a Support Group: "The "Not-Expected-to-Live Club"
    12. Riding the Emotional Roller-Coaster
    13. Aid-in-Dying: Do You Want It?
    14. Where Will you Die? Who Will Care for You?
    15. Controlling the Uncontrollable
    16. Retaining Your Identity
    17. When You Don't Want to Forgive
    18. Transcending the Loss of All You Love
    19. It Doesn't Have to Be Yours (and It Never Was)
    20. What's Left Undone
    21. Creating Life Meaning from Despair
    22. Our Great Value as Dying People: Teaching Others by How We Die.
    23. Rituals and Myths for the End of Life
    24. Belief in an Afterlife is a Choice.
    25. Planning Your Eternal Future
    26. Enhancing Your Spiritual Development
    27. What Is It Like to Die?

    Order The Art of Dying from the following book stores:

Transcendence of Loss over the Life Span

"Janet's losses of those dear to her -- her parents when they divorced and placed her in a foster home, her 8-year-old son to leukemia, her 15-year-old a suicide, her husband who fell in love with her sister, a double loss -- these have brought her to the brink of suicide, and she still experiences occasional fugue states. Her career and a richly rewarding love affair help her cope. But as we sit in her living room with the rain pattering on the roof, she hears her dead children moving about the house."

What can be the meaning of a life filled with loss and ending in death? This is the central problem of human existence. It makes no sense that we should be born, grow to beauty and skill, love and be loved, bring talent to fruition, only to be cut down in myriad ways. There must be a reason, if we could only find it. Either we are not cut down, that is, we do not really die, or we die for a purpose that, once understood, relieves us of a tragic sense. But will we ever know that purpose?

This book examines the histories of 44 women aged 25-67 and sets forth a new understanding of how we transcend loss to create life meaning, the types of loss, the importance of life dreams, and the life themes that they give rise to.


"The life dream is....based on intrinsic love of the activity or goal." When people "veer off the path because of practical problems," the opposition of relatives or their own lack of faith, "such decisions of the head rather than the heart are the ones we most deeply regret."

—Carol Tavris, Vogue Magazine

Order Transcendence of Loss over the Life Span from:

Selected Works

Psychological Self-Help
The Art of Dying: Facing Your Own Death
A Comprehensive Guide to Your Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Concerns   "Speaks to modern readers with refreshing frankness and wit." -Publishers Weekly
Transcendence of Loss over the Life Span
An examination of how we transcend life losses and create meaningfulness. -"...relevant to professionals dealing normal life transitions...recommended to general readers..." -Choice Magazine

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