Why studying Death and Dying?

Philosophers and theologians around the globe have recognized a certain value to death in life. Death and life are bound together. Death brings new ideas and new ways through generational changes of values and ideals. Death also reminds us of our vulnerability, finitude and our resemblance as humans sharing the same fate.

However, in our contemporary western society, the outlook on death has changed, with increased control over the end-of-life journey. More than ever, people are dying in medicalized context, with increased roles and responsibilities on healthcare professionals and less opportunities for families and close ones to be present and involved.

In parallel to greater emphasis on continuing treatment and medical interventions to prolong life, we assist to a disinvestment - or a certain avoidance – of death and dying. For example, conversations surrounding end-of-life, death and dying can be difficult and sometimes avoided between patients, close ones, and doctors. Even in health reports, policies, and strategic documents, mention of death and dying is often scarce.

Rediscovering the contemporary meaning of death and dying may help provide more adapted care at the end-of-life. Exploring how death, dying and bereavement is experienced and navigated by all actors involved may help open dialogue about this phenomenon that concerns us all.

These topics have long fascinated me, and I am now contributing as a postdoctoral researcher at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands. I am grateful to be funded by the Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Société et Culture (FRQSC) for this project.

My background & current research

I previously completed a bachelor’s degree (B.Sc) in psychology from University of Montreal (UdeM) and did my PhD in psychology at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), where I trained as a clinical psychologist (Psy.D) and as a researcher (Ph.D). During my graduate studies, I have encountered inspiring researchers and clinicians in psychology who transmitted me their passion for existentialism, phenomenology, hermeneutics approaches to study topics such as end-of-life, suffering, death and dying and grief. I have trained as a clinical psychologist with Dr. Christian Thiboutot (UQAM) who introduced me to Bachelard’s philosophy of the imagination and poetics of places or the myth of Prometheus. Dr. Valérie Bourgeois-Guérin (UQAM) is another significant source of inspiration. Through my collaborations with her, I discovered my passion for existential topics revolving around death and dying. In the context of my work with Dr. Bourgeois-Guérin, I first-authored an article about suffering in the context of grief and showed that part of the suffering was linked to the interpretation of lived-time, isolation, and the social context.

Both through my clinical and research implications, I have been in contact with the suffering of patients or research participants. Most of the time, it seemed that this suffering emerged from an interaction of personal, relational, social dimensions. These experiences sparked my curiosity and led me to conceptualize suffering as the result of a complex dynamic between a person and the environment rather than only an intra-individual experience. Reflecting on my interests about end-of-life choices as well as my research findings and my clinical experience as a psychologist, I was asking myself many more questions about the ethical and contextual challenges an individual may face at the end-of-life, and how the close ones and healthcare professionals navigate this process.

To answer some of these questions, I decided to move to the Netherlands and complete a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Els van Wijngaarden. Together, we aim to better understand the experience and meaning of suffering in the context of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide (EAS), using a multiperspective and longitudinal approach. This means that we will combine the views of patients with a request for EAS, their close ones and healthcare professionals on this topic, and follow them through their medical journey in this context.

Science communication & research values

I am also an enthusiastic science communicator in both English and French. I love to share my experiences and insights as an early career woman scientist, through science communication and outreach activities. I organized science workshops for youth, healthcare professionals, researchers, and general public, produced videos (+1000 views), wrote articles for lay magazines. Furthermore, I organized and led a monthly journal club for five years allowing students and professors to exchange information on recently published articles about autism and to sharpen their critical thinking. Also, I planned an annual fundraiser for research in autism. The donations were given in the form of awards to students who were the best at vulgarizing research for the general public.

Throughout my academic journey, I also engaged in diverse teaching, supervision and mentoring activities. I am currently co-supervising a Ph.D student at Radboud UMC and I supervised a master student at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. I also trained many undergraduate and graduate students as research interns and research assistants on a day-to-day basis with defining a project, conducting relevant analyses, and writing reports/designing posters. I also supervised and coordinated a multidisciplinary team including psychoeducators, psychologists, neuropsychologists, speech therapists and psychiatrists.

Finally, I developed and taught an undergraduate, 45-hour course on quantitative research methods in psychology. I received excellent comments from my students, highlighting the relevance of this course to develop their critical thinking. Consequently, I was offered to deliver this course during three consecutive sessions.

In sum, these experiences show my enthusiasm for teamwork, vulgarizing complex information for general public and research dissemination, all contributing to create a sphere of influence within my future research program, the international research community and society at large.

Education & appointments

2021 - Present

Postdoctoral researcher, Anesthesiology, Pain and Palliative Medicine, RadboudUMC

  • Supervisor: Dr. Els van Wijngaarden
  • Contributing to inspiring projects including PATHOS project, art-based projects and COVID & grief projects
2014 - 2022

Psy.D/Ph.D., Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal

  • Supervisor: Dr. Isabelle Soulières
  • Finalist for the best PhD Thesis in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty 2022
2017 – 2017

Visiting research intern, Institute of Education, University College London

  • Supervisor: Dr. Liz Pellicano
2011 - 2014

Bachelor of Science, Psychology, Université de Montréal

  • Honours’ supervisor: Dr. Bianca d’Antono