Ep. 142 It’s Complicated: Mother-Daughter Relationships at the End of Life with Kate Riley

Learn how mothers and daughters cope with their changing roles as the end of life nears.

PodcastRiley

KateRileyIn this episode I share an interview with Kate Riley, author and death midwife, about our own relationships with our mothers and how they changed as we provided care to them at the end of life.  Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there listening!

Learn more about Kate’s work here.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Thank you to my latest sponsor on Patreon.com/eolu: Marilyn Stoner. Thank you for support and thanks to all of my patrons – I appreciate your generosity very much!!

This episode is brought to you by my course Get Over it For Good: Healing the Hidden Wounds of Childhood. Learn to get over events from the past that keep you stuck and unable to grow. This is a self-study course that helps you identify your hidden wounds and discover the wisdom you can gain from them. Platinum supporters on Patreon.com/eolu will receive a 30% discount on the course! Learn more about the course here.

FEATURE PRESENTATION:

My guest Kate Riley and I discuss the joys and challenges of daughters who care for their mothers at the end of life. Kate was the caregiver for her mother during the last 9 months of her life and shares her insights about that process.

In this interview you will learn:

  • The ups and downs of the caregiver journey
  • The benefits of presence at the end of life
  • How meditation helps with preparation for death
  • Death has its own mysterious timing
  • The pain of letting go of our mothers and being let go of by them
  • How caregiving helps us heal our relationships
  • Advice for daughters caring for their mothers

Kate Riley is a certified death midwife, minister, international story consultant, author and educator. She began private practice in compassionate end-of-life care after completing hospice training in the late 1980s. She serves as a liaison for individuals facing end-of-life decisions, working with their families and medical teams in providing a more person-centered approach. She encourages and supports those who want to take a conscious, active role in their own dying process. She is the author of The Green Velvet Journals and Launching Vee’s Chariot: An End-of-Life Tale. Kate lives in the Wood River Valley of Idaho—a great place to find balance in all of life’s stages. Her advanced training includes death midwife/doula certification through Final Passages and current enrollment in the California State University Palliative Care Chaplaincy program.

Remember to tune in every Monday for a new episode! If you enjoy this content please consider leaving a review on iTunes. Until next week:

Face Your Fear         BE Ready         Love Your Life

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Ep. 125 How to Have a Peaceful Death

Learn some steps you can take NOW to ensure that you will be at peace when you reach the end of life.

PodcastPeacefulDeath

momThis week I’m sharing with you my reflections on what it takes to be at peace when you die. I just observed the 5th anniversary of my Mom’s death and I was inspired to create this podcast by thinking about the peace she experienced at the time of her death and how she was able to achieve that! 

Read the companion blog on this subject here.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Join A Year of Reading Dangerously and read fantastic books about death and dying all through 2018! Learn more and sign up here.

Thanks to my latest supporter on Patreon.com/eolu: Cheryl Durden! Your contribution to this podcast and to the End-of-Life University Interview Series is greatly appreciated!

FEATURE PRESENTATION:

After writing a blog this week called “Why Some People Don’t Die in Peace” I decided that I should go further and address HOW to actually be more at peace when the end of life arrives. So here are my thoughts! These are all things to start working on now in order to be at peace in the end:

PHYSICAL:

  • Plan ahead for your time of dying: What type of care do you want to receive? Where do you want to be when you die?
  • Appoint a reliable healthcare proxy to speak on your behalf
  • Create advance directives and talk about them with everyone (family, medical providers, clergy, friends, attorney)
  • Do “death-cleaning” by giving away all the things you don’t need any more
  • Think about where you will live and who will take care of you if you are unable to care for yourself. How have you provided for these possibilities
  • Make note of all of your preparations along with all of your financial and ownership information. Make sure this is accessible to family members who may need this information in the future.
  • Plan ahead for your funeral and burial

MENTAL:

  • Prepare yourself for death by reading and learning what happens at the end of life
  • Participate in a Death Cafe to have conversations about death
  • Watch films about the end of life (like “Extremis” on Netflix)
  • Attend workshops, classes, lectures in your community about death and dying

EMOTIONAL:

  • Get your emotional “house in order” by reviewing your unfinished business – who do you need to forgive? What unhealed wounds are you carrying?
  • Work on practicing forgiveness now
  • Let go of old resentments
  • Make amends for your own errors in the past

SPIRITUAL:

  • Find meaning in life, no matter how difficult the circumstances of your life
  • Learn to live every moment and find joy and love wherever you go
  • Figure out what really matters to you and make sure you are living that every day
  • Face your fear of death to help you overcome all fears in your life and live with more joy

Thanks for supporting EOLU! I appreciate your listening – if you enjoy this content please leave a review on iTunes. Tune in next week for another fascinating episode!

Until then …

Face Your Fear              BE Ready               Love Your Life

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Ep. 112 Grace and Grit: Conscious Love & Conscious Dying with Ken Wilber

Learn how Treya Wilber’s spiritual practice helped her transcend fear and die consciously as told in Ken Wilber’s book Grace and Grit.

PodcastWilber

wilber2EdIn this episode I share a powerful and heartfelt interview with Ken Wilber where we discuss the subject of “Conscious Dying” and how the life and death of his wife Treya so beautifully teach us to live and die consciously, as told in the book Grace and Grit.

Website: kenwilber.com

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

IMG_0371I’m still in Italy as this broadcast airs but will be returning to Colorado in a few days. Check out the photos from my last days of travel on Instagram and Facebook!

Hopefully I’ve made progress on my new book, too!

Patreonbecome2xAs always this podcast is made possible through your generous donations at Patreon.com/eolu. Thank you so much to those of you who have been chipping in every month to help defray the costs of producing and broadcasting this podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series! Go to Patreon.com/eolu to become a patron!

FEATURED PRESENTATION:

Whether or not death and dying are issues that concern you at this time in your life, you will find value in listening to Ken’s discussion of this important subject. Each of us must come to terms with our mortality in the physical realm and be prepared for an unknown future. Each of us also must face losing those we deeply love, and caring for them through illness and adversity.

We can learn from Ken and Treya’s experiences how to love totally and consciously during our lifetimes – and how to let go of that love and life itself when that time arrives for us.

This interview will cover:

  • The meaning of “conscious dying” from a spiritual perspective
  • Ken’s caregiver journey and how it became his spiritual path
  • How Ken and Treya “carried one another’s pain” during the course of her illness and dying process
  • The Buddhist practice of tonglen and why it was important to Treya
  • How the term “passionate equanimity” describes Treya’s approach to living and dying

Ken Wilber is a philosopher, sage, author and integral theorist who has been called “the Einstein of Consciousness.” He is:

  • The most translated writer on consciousness studies in the United States
  • Author of 22 books on spirituality and science –
    • A Theory of Everything
    • A Brief History of Everything
    • Sex, Ecology and Spirituality
    • The Integral Vision
  • Creator of Integral Theory – a model for organizing different perspectives of life and consciousness

His book Grace and Grit chronicles the life and death of his second wife Treya Killam Wilber.

Get Grace and Grit on Amazon.

I hope you enjoyed this interview and have been inspired to take up your own spiritual practice to help you live with “passionate equanimity.”

There will be a new episode every Monday so come back again and learn with me! If you like this content please leave a review on iTunes.

Until next week…

Face Your Fears.                     BE Ready.                        Love Your Life.

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Ep. 108 3 Keys to Living & Dying Consciously

Learn how to awaken to higher consciousness NOW so that you can experience conscious dying at the end of your life.

Podcast3Keys

Wyatt13_2In this episode I share the secret behind the 3-part tagline I use on the EOL University website and at the end of every podcast. (If you listen regularly you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!) I discuss the wisdom behind the phrases I repeat each week and how they represent keys to our ongoing spiritual evolution!

Check out my author/speaker website here.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

IMG_0230My long-awaited trip to Italy begins tomorrow, the day after the original airing of this podcast! You can follow my journey on Instagram and Facebook as I hike, bike, eat, drink, pray, and write my way through the country–all in search of the perfect stories for my new book on grief! I’ve pre-recorded enough podcast episodes to last until I return in one month–“see” you then!

Patreonbecome2xI would like to send a HUGE THANK YOU to my latest supporter on Patreon.com/eolu: Rich Hayes, who is a hospice chaplain. Check out his website at www.richhayes.com and his book God Made Simple. If you would like to join the list of patrons go to Patreon.com/eolu to learn more and chip in $1 or $2 per month to support this podcast and the EOLU Interview Series. You’ll receive a thank-you on this podcast and I’ll also promote your end-of-life related book, website, cause or business. PLUS you’ll receive the monthly Hospice Happy Hour Q&A recordings!

FEATURED PRESENTATION:

3 Keys to Living & Dying Consciously

(Be sure to tune in to upcoming podcast episode #112 when I will feature an interview with philosopher and sage Ken Wilber about conscious dying and the death of his wife Treya. If you are interested in conscious dying you won’t want to miss it!)

In order to die consciously you must first begin to LIVE consciously right now. Here are my 3 tips for awakening to higher consciousness–they have been hiding all along in the simple tagline I use at the end of every podcast! Now you’ll find out what I mean when I remind you of them every week!

Face Your Fear

You must go through your fear in order to rise above it; the more you hide and run away from your fear of death (which is the ultimate fear) you run away from joy, as well. So begin to accept that Death is inevitable–everything in the Universe dies–and life is full of difficulties. Once you embrace that fact you can begin to work specifically on your fear of death and turn it into acceptance.

Follow these 6 steps to rise above your fear of death:

  1. Think about death every day. Include contemplation of death as part of your daily practice; get used to the idea that life is fleeting and you don’t know when it will come to an end.
  2. Read about death. Find books (e.g. What Really Matters) and stories that portray death and dying in a meaningful way to help you see that it is not necessarily something to fear. The dying process can be a beautiful time of healing for patients and families.
  3. Write about death. Use your journal to record your thoughts and emotions about death. Observe how they change over time as you continue this practice of increasing death-awareness. (The book The Tao of Death with its companion journal can be a helpful tool for reading and writing about death.)
  4. Learn about death. The more information you have about the end of life, the more your fears will lessen. Knowledge is one of the most powerful antidotes to fear. Tune in to the interviews on End-of-Life University for an ongoing education about all aspects of the end of life.
  5. Talk about death. Get comfortable including death and dying in your everyday conversations. You’ll find yourself better able to comfort friends and co-workers when they have experienced a loss and you’ll be helping others to tell their stories too.
  6. Work with death. Consider volunteering for hospice to learn how to sit with death and witness the dying process. Hospitals and nursing homes are also good places to volunteer to get closer to death and overcome your fear.

BE Ready

There is no substitute for preparation, no matter what you might face in the future. Once your fear has decreased begin to plan ahead for the end of life and imagine how you would like that experience to unfold. Here are some steps to help you get ready:

  1. Know what really matters to you. Spend some time thinking about what in your life is most important and prioritize those items. You need to know what you value in order to make tough decisions in the future.
  2. Make choices for what you want at the end of life. Use a tool like the Conversation Project Starter Kit to help you decide what type of healthcare you would like to receive in your last days.
  3. Complete your paperwork. You need to appoint a healthcare proxy and fill out an advance directive form in order to give your wishes some legal clout. But you also need to talk to your loved ones and your doctors about your wishes so they will know how to care for you if you can’t speak for yourself.
  4. Tend to your relationships. Learn how to forgive NOW so that you won’t be rushing to complete this important task while on your deathbed. Remember to say “I love you” to those who matter to you whenever you have an opportunity.
  5. Learn to BE in the present moment. Let go of ruminating about the past and worrying about the future–love and joy exist right here, right now in this present moment.

Love Your Life

Once you have learned to manage fear and to BE ready for anything that comes your way, you can begin to learn to love your life just as it is, even if you are surrounded by tragedy and pain. Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Live according to what really matters to you. Let you values guide your choices each day and put your time and energy into the things that are most important.
  2. Practice gratitude each day. Keep a journal and begin by writing down one thing you are grateful for each night before you go to sleep. Even in the worst of times you will be able to think of one thing to be thankful for–you just have to shift your mindset to a more positive focus.
  3. Learn to find love in every situation. After you have developed a gratitude practice you will begin to notice that love is actually present everywhere, in everything that happens. Start focusing on the love and you will find it more and more frequently.
  4. Allow love to fill you. You can become a channel for love to the rest of the world by simply letting love into your life in every possible way. Fill yourself with love so you can share it with others.

Life is an ongoing learning process! No lesson comes easily or without a certain amount of pain, but it’s worth it. If you begin conscious now and begin to live a life of love, then you will remain conscious when it becomes your time to die. You will continue to radiate beauty and joy to those around you–I’ve seen it happen over and over again!

Here are two books to help your learning process and your practice of death awareness:

WRM@flatcover                   Tao

Check them out on Amazon: What Really Matters        The Tao of Death

Keep tuning in each Monday for a new episode and if you enjoy this podcast please consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thank you!!

Until the next time, remember ….

Face Your Fear                                BE Ready                         Love Your Life

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Ep. 107 Where Is God When Tragedy Strikes?

This is a special episode on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 and in recognition of the recent natural disasters, hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the wildfires that rage throughout the Western United States.

Podcast911

fireman911-100720_640In this brief episode I share an essay I wrote on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that is still relevant today. Join me in sending prayers of light and love to all who have been affected by the tragedy of  9/11,  by the recent natural disasters around the planet and by war and famine wherever they occur.

Blessings to all the first responders who risk their own lives to provide safety for others during times of tragedy.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy trip to Italy is just around the corner! Check out my travel plans on Pinterest or follow my journey on Instagram and Facebook! I’ll be doing research for a new book on grief – you can read my latest blogs (on grief  and other subjects) at eoluniversityblog.com!

Patreonbecome2xA huge THANK YOU to my latest supporters on Patreon.com/eolu: Marzette Ellis and Rwa Alex!! I’m very grateful for your contributions – you keep me inspired to continue this podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series. You can become a patron too by donating just $1 or $2 per month at Patreon.com/eolu!

FEATURED PRESENTATION:

The following is an essay I wrote in 2011 on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks:

Where Was God On 9/11?

by Karen Wyatt MD

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As we look back to that fateful September day a decade ago that changed our world forever, each of us is able to recall exactly where we were and what we were doing when the tragedy unfolded. Indelibly etched upon our souls is the memory of the Twin Towers crashing to the ground while we were experiencing within us the disintegration of the twin beliefs behind our quintessential American swagger, that this country is infallible and invincible.

In the days following that Tuesday morning, as I attended to my patients at an urgent care clinic in the resort town of Breckenridge, Colorado, nearly every visit focused in some way on the horrific scenes of 9/11. Many patients were visitors to our area, many were suffering with symptoms of anxiety and stress, and nearly all of them had some personal connection to the tragedy, whether through a friend, relative, co-worker or acquaintance.

During those visits the same questions seemed to arise over and over again, “Where was God on 9/11?” and “How could God let this happen to us?” A few people told stories they had heard of miraculous rescues that had taken place or of some fortunate individual who had dodged fate by missing the bus or calling in sick to work that day. Those few were able to see the hand of God in these miracles and felt their faith bolstered by them. But many of my patients were disheartened and lost in doubt as the God they had believed in and trusted had utterly failed them.

The destruction that took place on 9/11 was unprecedented in the history of our young nation, unlike the many developed civilizations of the world that have survived brutal and devastating wars, fires, plagues, invasions and attacks throughout their long existences. Our country, with youthful idealism, has been founded upon the principle of religious freedom and has, until 9/11, enjoyed the illusion of a special contract with God, declared in writing on even the currency we spend.

“In God we trusted,” is now the slogan that describes the attitude of the disillusioned. God let US down: the special ones who established a new country to ensure that God could be freely worshipped by all and who believed that God, in return, would favor us over every other society. But 9/11 proved to us that we’re not really special or favored at all. In fact we are subject to the same laws of nature and the universe and mankind that govern all of creation.

What we actually lost on 9/11 was our illusion of a god who would choose one group of  children over another, who would control the unfolding of history to ensure that we would always get what we want, or who would magically empower one society to hold dominion over others. We lost our childish and immature notion that God would swoop down and shield us from harm because we somehow deserve protection more than any other society on the planet.

However the tragic events of 9/11 and the difficult decade that has followed can serve as an initiation of sorts, an opportunity for our society to awaken into a more mature relationship with God, the Creator of All. In this post-traumatic state of heightened awareness we can now relate to the suffering of all of mankind with less swagger and more sensitivity, less entitlement and more empathy. While we can still celebrate our freedom we will do so now with the solemn knowledge that the expression of true liberty requires responsibility toward others and the planet; we can no longer think or feel or act as if we matter more than everything else.

And so, the question remains, where was God on 9/11? God was … in every ash and cinder, in every teardrop, in every piece of twisted metal, in every broken heart, in every outstretched hand, in every final breath, in every lit candle, in every moment of stunned silence, in every desperate prayer, in every word of doubt and disbelief, in every shout of anger, in every act of bravery, in every cry of fear. On that day, as on every other day, God the Creator permeated everything, held the fragile strands of our existence and wove them gently into the unseen, yet perfect, tapestry of the Universe.

Remember that in the midst of tragedy we cannot see the tapestry that we are part of – we cannot perceive the design or the beauty into which our lives have been woven. Stay strong and know that you are surrounded by light and love!

Until next week:

Face Your Fears.                        BE Ready.                      Love Your Life.

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Ep. 102 Supernatural Stories from the Dreams of a Hospice Physician

podcastdreams

In this episode I’ll share my own “supernatural” dreams that occurred while I was caring for hospice patients. It’s time to come forward and talk more openly about these experiences to help shed light on the dying process and the after-death realms.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

An Evening withDr. Ira Byock

Register now for “An Evening with Ira Byock MD” which will take place on Monday August 21st at 6 pm Pacific/9 pm Eastern. We will be celebrating the 20th Anniversary of his groundbreaking book Dying Well. Dr. Byock and I will discuss the changes in palliative and hospice care that have taken place over the past 20 years and what changes still must occur to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to “die well.”

Click here to learn more and register (it’s free and you’ll receive the replay if you can’t attend live.) You’ll also receive the Dying Well Readers Discussion Guide – a very helpful resource for leading a book group or workshop on Dying Well.

Patreonbecome2xThis podcast is supported by generous donations to my page at Patreon.com/eolu. A HUGE “Thank you” goes out to my latest donor: Jane Duncan Rogers of BeforeIGoSolutions.com – a non-profit located in Scotland. And thanks as well to all of the other supporters who are chipping in a few $ per month to help keep the podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series on the air! Learn more or become a patron at Patreon.com/eolu.

PERSONAL NEWS:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am currently planning an Autumn trip to Italy where I will be eating amazing food, viewing sacred sites, cycling, and researching a new book on grief. You can view my Pinterest board if you are interested in seeing all the locations on my “wish-list” for the trip. Feel free to make suggestions if you have a favorite spot in Italy that I shouldn’t miss! I’ll be sharing photos on Instagram and Facebook once the trip begins.

PRESENTATION:

This week I attended a meeting at the IANDS 2017 Conference in Denver (International Association for Near Death Studies.) I sat together in a small circle with individuals from all around the country who have had near-death experiences and also with end-of-life caregivers who have had unusual “supernatural” experiences while working with the dying.

I was impressed by the courage of the group members who were willing to share their stories and risk being labelled as “flakey” or even crazy. And that’s what inspired me to record this podcast episode. 

During my work with hospice patients on multiple occasions I experienced vivid dreams where I saw my patients in “soul form” (or a disembodied state) before they had actually died. These dreams brought me much comfort and also eased my fear of death. On some occasions I was able to share the dreams with family members who were comforted, as well, by the visions I had seen.

I have never shared these dreams publicly out of a fear of being ostracized by the medical profession. But the time for secrecy has long passed and we need transparency and truth in all matters surrounding death and dying. So I’m telling these stories in hopes that others might be inspired to talk openly about their experiences as well. If you have a story to tell but no one to share it with I hope you will email me at karen@karenwyattmd.com and describe your experience – let’s support one another!

Tune in next week for another new episode. Until then remember ….

Face Your Fear.                   BE Ready.                   Love Your Life.

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Ep. 99 Death as a Spiritual Practice

Learn how thinking about death every day can be the secret to peace of mind and joie de vivre.

PodcastSpiritualPractice

TaoIn this episode I share why and how I contemplate death as a daily spiritual practice. This practice has really been the “secret” behind my own spiritual growth.

You can read the blog post here and learn about the book and companion journal The Tao of Death here.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Next week I’ll be celebrating the 100th episode of this podcast! I’ll have a special guest on the show so stay tuned!

Upcoming events include:

Friday July 21st: Hospice Happy Hour Hangout for all of my supporters on Patreon.com/eolu

Sunday July 23rd: Virtual Death Cafe – 3 pm Pacific/6 pm Eastern (everyone welcome to join the conversation! Read more here.)

D2KDUSA(dot)com_red+blkTuesday August 8th is Dying to Know Day and I’ll be hosting a Virtual Death Cafe at 5 pm Pacific/8 pm Eastern. (More information at eoluniversity.com)

Iralaughing

An Evening With Ira Byock MD” to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking book Dying Well!

Monday August 21st

6 pm Pacific/9 pm Eastern

Registration information available soon. (Save the Date for now!)

 

FEATURE:

Here are the benefits I’ve received from my daily spiritual practice of death contemplation:

  • Gratitude for every moment of life
  • Restructured priorities
  • Taking responsibility for my life
  • Looking within myself for answers
  • Finding joy in being alive
  • Being prepared for anything!

TaoYou can use the book The Tao of Death as a guide for a daily practice of death contemplation. Simply read one verse each day, spend some time thinking about what it means for you, then write in your companion journal (available for free download here) about the question that accompanies the verse. When you finish the book you will be well on your way to a daily death contemplation practice that you can continue for years.

I hope you find that his practice enriches your life as much as it has mine! Send me a message and let me know how it’s going for you (email karen@karenwyattmd.com or Tweet me @spiritualmd.)

Tune in next week for #100! Until then:

Face Your Fears.                           BE Ready.                               Love Your Life.

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Ep. 93 Treating the Trauma of War: Psychiatry Meets Shamanism with Jeff Black MD

Find out how a psychiatrist is successfully helping veterans with unhealed trauma by using alternative practices.

 

PodcastTrauma

ALBlackcropped In this episode I am featuring an interview from the Death & Afterlife Summit with Dr. Jeff Black, a psychiatrist who uses unconventional methods to successfully treat trauma in veterans. A few clips of this interview were featured in the Suicide Series and I wanted to share the entire interview with you.

 

As a follow-up to the Suicide Series I want to further address the issue of suicide in veterans: at this time 22 veterans take their own lives every day. This statistic is a heartbreaking tragedy and it’s time we work hard to help heal the emotional and spiritual burden that veterans bring home from war. Dr. Black and others describe the aftermath of trauma as “soul loss” and he uses shamanic rituals to help his patients recover the pieces of their souls that have been taken away by war.

In Episode 92 I performed a Fire Ceremony for my father to heal his wounds and to release my grief. This was recommended to me by Dr. Black and during the ceremony I felt the power of ritual to transform our losses into grace. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Dr. Jeff Black.

Tune in every Monday for a new episode! Until the next time …

Face Your Fears.                       BE Ready.                      Love Your Life.

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Ep. 82: How to Provide Spiritual Care for the “Non-Spiritual” Patient

What can you do when a hospice patient refuses spiritual care? Here’s how to meet the need for a spiritual approach to dying for every patient.

PodcastSpiritual

Wyatt18smallIn this episode I’ll share the story of a hospice patient who refused spiritual care because he was a non-believer and how we discovered what really mattered to him at the end of life.

 

ANNOUNCEMENT:

The online course Step-by-Step Roadmap for End-of-Life Planning is still available. Learn more about it at www.eoluniversity.com/roadmap.

supportonpatreon-e1412764908776You can help support this podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series by making a small monthly donation at www.Patreon.com/eolu. To thank you for your donation I’ll promote your end-of-life related website, business, or organization on this podcast. Thank you to all of our current patrons – you make this podcast possible!

SPIRITUAL CARE FOR NON-SPIRITUAL PATIENTS:

This episode was inspired by my recent attendance at the Accompanying the Dying Residential Retreat hosted by Deanna Cochran of Quality of Life Care and led by Kirsten DeLeo and Dr. Ann Allegre of the Spiritual Care Program. This retreat provided a deep dive into the task of providing spiritual care to our patients at the end of life and offered an amazing opportunity to explore our own depths of spiritual practice and presence.

In my work in hospice I have long thought about those patients who refuse all spiritual care because they are “not religious” or just not interested. But everyone has a spiritual aspect, whether or not they are aware of it or develop that part of themselves. And every dying patient is entitled to receive the presence and compassion of a spiritual care provider. But how can this care be offered without offending or intruding upon the patient’s own beliefs?

Theologian Paul Tillich has defined spirituality as one’s “ultimate concern” meaning that whatever really matters to a person at the very end of life is the expression of that person’s spiritual nature. So for some individuals the ultimate concern might be a religion or a particular practice, but for others it could be anything … even baseball.

In this episode I tell the story of a hospice patient whose “ultimate concern” was baseball and how we eventually recognized that instead of trying to get him to talk about the meaning of life or his regrets, we just needed to let him talk about baseball. Listening to his stories about his favorite team was the path that ultimately helped him heal some of old regrets and unfinished business.

This story illustrates the need for the following conditions whenever we provide spiritual care to a patient who doesn’t identify as having spiritual needs:

  • Listen. The importance of allowing the patient to talk about the topics of his or her choice cannot be over emphasized. Deep listening with a compassionate heart is essential for honoring the perspective of the patient.
  • Discover the “ultimate concern.” When patients are allowed to guide the conversation they will naturally reveal what really matters to them.
  • Honor the patient’s wisdom and experience. Listen with reverence as the patient talks about his or her values and priorities. Recognize what is sacred to the patient even if it seems ordinary to you.
  • Connect patients to their own feelings of peace and joy. The “ultimate concern” is usually the source of positive feelings and experiences for patients. Help them recall those moments of being connected with something greater by listening to stories or guiding them to re-imagine a previous happy occasion.

In the podcast you will hear how Warren’s story came to a close as an example of finding a path to healing by going through the ultimate concern of baseball. Enjoy listening!

Remember to tune in every Monday for a new episode. Until then:

Face Your Fears.               BE Ready.                   Love Your Life.

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Ep. 77 Managing Family Conflict at the End of Life

What do you do when a family (your own or a patient’s) is crumbling due to unhealed resentments and irreconcilable differences? Find out now.

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In today’s episode I’ll share my best tips for helping families move through conflict toward resolution during stressful times like the death of a loved one. I’ve had lots of experience with this work during my years as a hospice doctor so be prepared for a longer-than-usual episode!

Announcements:

slide01My new course Step-by-Step Roadmap for End-of-Life Planning is almost ready for release (just a few days away as I record this!) The course is simple yet comprehensive and will help you examine your mindset, values, beliefs, and fears about death before you make decisions about your end-of-life healthcare. Go to eoluniversity.com/roadmap to learn more and sign up to be notified as soon as the course is released.

Sponsorship:

supportonpatreon-e1412764908776This podcast is sponsored through the EOLU donation page at Patreon.com/eolu. By contributing just $1 or $2 per month you can help support the podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series. If you  become a supporter I will happily promote your book, website, cause or organization on a future episode of the podcast! THANK YOU to all current patrons!!

Managing Family Conflict at the End of Life:

Families facing the death of a loved one are particularly prone to be divided by the resurgence of old conflicts and resentments. Over my years as a hospice doctor I have seen many families split apart by their differences at a time when they most need to be united.

Most of these families had longstanding grievances that had been buried and ignored over the years, only to rise to the surface under the stress of a loved one’s death. Sibling rivalries, parental favoritism, divorce, and competition for inheritances are the most common reasons for these resentments. In addition many families are also divided over religious and political differences, which is an especially prevalent problem right now.

One of the important functions of hospice staff members and other end-of-life workers is to assist splintered families with healing and resolution of their conflicts, whenever possible. But sometimes we are called to assist our own families when challenges arise. Here are some tips for being a peacemaker for a fractured family:

  • Remain neutral on the issues of conflict. As much as possible leave your own biases, preferences and beliefs at the door if you hope to help resolve a disagreement. This will be much easier if you are not emotionally entangled in the conflict. But even if you are, you need to learn to become a “Witness” to the situation (a higher state of consciousness that allows you remain detached.)
  • Listen to all sides of the argument. Spend time with each person involved in the conflict until you can grasp their perspective. If you are part of the disagreement then at least try to understand the point of view of the others involved in the situation. As soon as you begin to understand how and why the others feel the way they do then you have taken a huge step toward reconciliation.
  • Avoid trigger topics. Political and religious differences may complicate family conflicts at the end of life but are usually not reconcilable. So it is best to “agree to disagree” about these points of view and set them aside so that the focus can be on healing other issues.
  • Be present. By staying calm and unemotional you can prevent the conflict from escalating into an all-out war. Practice mindfulness to help strengthen your ability to be present so that your own emotions don’t flare up when you are trying to help others.
  • Find common ground. As you listen carefully to the stories of each opponent in the disagreement you may recognize certain common threads–areas where they actually share the same perspective without realizing it. Gather these threads so that you can remind those in conflict that are some things they have in common. Help them untie around the things that matter most (like doing what’s best for their loved one.)
  • Learn the wishes of the dying loved one (if possible.) If you can still communicate with the patient you may find out that she has a wish for her family to reconcile. You can use this wish to help draw the combatants together in their desire to please and comfort the one they love. Let the patient’s wishes become a “magnet” around which the rest of the family gradually comes together.
  • Have patience. Don’t try to force a reconciliation by rushing into a family conference or intervention. Allow for some separation initially and let the gaps between individuals gradually begin to close.

The bottom line is that families who don’t wait until the end of life to resolve their differences have a much easier time negotiating the challenges of death and dying. But that’s not the case for most families. Most are left to rehash old sibling issues, betrayals, disappointments, and wounds during the last days of their loved one’s life when they should be sitting at the bedside offering love and comfort.

Start working through your own resentments now–practice love and forgiveness earlier in life and your final days will be blessed. If you need extra help consider checking out the Step-by-Step Roadmap for End-of-Life Planning or the book What Really Matters. You’ll find guidance and support from me for your journey!

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Tune in every Monday for a new episode! Until next week remember:

Face Your Fears.                 BE Ready.                   Love Your Life.

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Ep. 73 How to Die Happy! A Tribute to My Mom: Margaret Wyatt

What does it take to have a smile on your face the day you die? 

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In this episode I pay a tribute to my Mom, Margaret Wyatt, who died 4 years ago in her own home, filled with joy and love. I’ll share the lessons I learned from her death about how each one of us can “Die Happy”!

supportonpatreon-e1412764908776This podcast is sponsored through the EOLU donation page at Patreon.com/eolu. By contributing just $1 or $2 per month you can help support the podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series. If you  become a supporter I will happily promote your book, website, cause or organization on a future episode of the podcast!

Today I have a huge thank-you for 2 new patrons on Patreon.com/eolu:

 

  • Michelle Holmes – who has asked that I promote a favorite cause of hers: The Still Place. The Still Place is a charitable organization providing rest, renewal and re-creation to families living with serious illness in hope of fostering resiliency, empowerment and self-determination. We provide free of charge vacations, uniquely planned and lovingly facilitated for families who find it difficult if not impossible to get away, plan and experience the healing restorative properties of a family vacation. Go to their website at www.thestillplace.org to learn more!
  • Holly Pruett – who is the founder of Death Talk Project. Death Talk Project organizes workshops, rituals, Death Cafes, monthly movie nights, and other events in Portland, Oregon. Join in for useful, honest conversation about how we die, how we mourn, and how we care for and remember our dead. Holly also created the community event Death OK: Let’s Talk About It and Death Talk Project grew out of that event. Learn more at www.deathtalkproject.com.

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A Tribute to Margaret Wyatt

My Mom died four years today, on the day I am writing and recording this episode, and I had the privilege of being at her bedside for the last 5 days of her life. She was happy and joyful and filled with love as she took her final breaths and she inspired me to want to teach other people how to die happy too.

Mom was in very frail health for the last 5 years before she died and had become housebound as a result. She only left her home a handful of times during those years, but she received help from a friend with grocery shopping, housework and laundry.

Believing that she was going to die soon, Mom set about to plan and prepare for her own death, though she didn’t realize then that she would live for 5 more years. She created a Living Will (using Five Wishes), planned her funeral and burial (and paid for them), and gathered together all of the financial, insurance, and estate documents that she thought my brother and I might need after her death.

She also talked about her own death, her end-of-life wishes, and how she imagined her own dying process. She made sure that both my brother and I knew what she wanted at the time of her death: to be in her own home, in her own bed, with me at her side providing care. And that is exactly what happened when she died. Her wishes were fulfilled because she had thought about them, planned for them and talked about them.

Mom was happy when she died because she was ready to go. She wasn’t afraid to die and felt that she had lived a full life. There was nothing left undone in her mind and she was looking forward to leaving her tired and painful body behind when the time came. Her death was happy, peaceful and beautiful because of the way she lived her life. Here are some of the lessons I learned from her about how to die happy:

  • Believe in something bigger than yourself. Mom always devoted her time to being of service to others. In her last years of life she spent every afternoon praying for people from the comfort of her reclining chair.
  • Have a daily spiritual practice.
  • Prepare for and talk about death. As already mentioned, Mom was ready in every possible way for her own death.
  • Let go of attachments. She freed herself from some of the burden of material possessions by giving things away to her visitors for 5 years.
  • Make amends with the past and with other people.
  • Be satisfied with life just as it is.
  • Make the most of whatever you have been given.

My Mom is dearly missed but I am comforted by knowing that she was happy when she died. Her beautiful death inspired all of the work I have done in the past 4 years with End-of-Life University, Death Expo and this podcast. I’m passionate about helping everyone find a way to die happy! I wish you could have met her ….

Until next week remember:

Face Your Fears.              BE Ready.                Love Your Life.

 

 

Today Dr. Karen Wyatt thanks her supporters on Patreon.com/eolu whose generous donations help keep this podcast on the air!

She talks about the Death Expo 2016 which starts this week on November 10th. You can sign up at DeathExpo.com and read about all 12 of the speaker for this FREE online event.

Next Dr. Wyatt shares some thoughts about the upcoming presidential election here in the U.S. While she doesn’t take sides or share any particular political beliefs she describes the fact that the U.S. electorate seems maximally polarized and divided over this election, with each side predicting “doomsday” if the other side wins. She goes on to say:

  • the day after the election will begin a period of grief for each candidate and their “teams”: the losing candidate will grieve over all the money, time, energy and life force spent in this costly battle; the victor will hardly celebrate the win because the “prize” is to take on responsibility for re-uniting the whole and to embrace those from the opposing side who now must be governed with reason and compassion.
  • the irony of this election process is that no matter how different others appear to be from us, we are actually far more alike that we are different. We are all mortals–human incarnations of Spirit–just trying to survive here on planet Earth. But each of us will ultimately die and that is our most powerful common bond. We each share mortality and an innate fear of death.
  • Death is the most uniting force we have if we look at it from a higher perspective.
  • Sogyal Rinpoche said, “Life is nothing but a continuing dance of birth and death, a dance of change.” Ultimately change is what we seem to be seeking through our political process: we want others to change, the government to change, the system to change–all so that we don’t have to change ourselves. But the only meaningful change is the change we create within ourselves.
  • Here is a recommendation for a daily practice:
    • contemplate your inner landscape and seek out the parts of you that fear change; the parts that harbor anger, hatred, negativity
    • seek to understand your own pain and your wounds that cause you to react with anger and fear; journal about them and spend time contemplating them
    • be aware of your behavior in relationships: what triggers your negative emotions? what causes you to lash out or shut down?
    • embrace the wounded parts of yourself so that they can heal
    • find the still point of equanimity within you and cultivate that; learn to operate from that place so that you can bring peace and healing to volatile situations
  • No matter how different you feel you are from your neighbors, family, and Facebook friends remember that Death ultimately unites us all as one. Contemplate your own death and allow the small deaths, the thousand changes that come to you every day, to move you forward. That’s how you will help the nation and our society heal again.

TaoCheck out the book The Tao of Death which has verses to help you contemplate death every day in your practice!

Sign up for Death Expo 2016 now so you won’t miss a single interview! Tune in every Monday and until next week remember:

Face Your Fears.               BE Ready.               Love Your Life.