End of Life, EOLPodcast, Hospice, Spirituality

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.

karen-signature

 

EOLPodcast, Hospice, Spirituality

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.

conflictpodcast

 

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!

slide01       wrmflatcover

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

Face Your Fears.                 BE Ready.                   Love Your Life.

karen-signature

End of Life, EOLPodcast, Spirituality

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? 

podcastmom

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.

mom

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.

 

 

EOLPodcast, Spirituality

Ep. 63 What Politics and Death Can Teach Us

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.

End of Life, EOLPodcast, Grief, Hospice, Spirituality

Ep. 56 End-of-Life Book Showcase!

In this episode Dr. Karen Wyatt highlights several excellent books about the end of life that have been sent to her by their authors. If you have considered starting an end-of-life book club (as mentioned in Episode 33) you’ll find many great books to choose from in this list. Here are the book titles and authors, along with links for learning more or purchasing the books:

  • “My Voice, My Choice: A Practical Guide to Writing a Meaningful Healthcare Directive”; by Anne Elizabeth Denny; www.anneelizabethdenny.com
  • “LastingMatters Organizer: Where Loved Ones Find What Matters Most”; by Barbara Bates Sedoric: www.lastingmatters.com
  • “Caring for Dying Loved Ones: A Helpful Guide for Families and Friends”; by Joanna Lillian Brown; www.caringfordyinglovedones.com
  • “Caregivers: Angels Without Wings”; by Peg Crandall; Link to Amazon.com
  • “Changing the Way We Die: Compassionate End-of-Life Care and the Hospice Movement”; by Fran Smith and Sheila Himmel; Link to Amazon.com
  • “Encountering the Edge: What People Told Me Before They Died”; by Karen B. Kaplan; Link to Amazon.com
  • “Spirit Matters: How to Remain Fully Alive with a Life-Limiting Illness”; by Judy Flickinger; www.judyflickinger.com
  • “Spiritual Perspectives on Death & Dying”; by Bernice H. Hill, PhD; Link to Amazon.com
  • “Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully: A Journey with Cancer and Beyond”; by Nancy Manahan and Becky Bohan; Link to Amazon.com
  • “Daddy this is it. Being-with My Dying Dad”; by Julie Saeger Nierenberg; Link to Amazon.com
  • “Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey Through Grief”; by Elaine Mansfield; www.elainemansfield.com
  • “Laughing in a Waterfall: A Mother’s Memoir”; by Marianne Dietzel; Link to Amazon.com
  • “Turn Right, Good Moon: Conversations With a Dying Mother”; by L. E. Moore; www.turnrightgoodmoon.com
  • “She Would Draw Flowers: Poems from a Young Artist Awakening to Life, Love and Death”; by Kirsten Savitri Bergh; Link to Amazon.com
  • “And Now, Still: Grave & Goofy Poems and a Bit of Prose”; by Reggie Marra; www.reggiemarra.com
  • “Facing Darkness, Finding Light: Life After Suicide”; by Steffany Barton, RN; Link to Amazon.com
  • “What to Do When You’re Dead: A Former Atheist Interviews the Source of Infinite Being”; by Sondra Sneed; Link to Amazon.com

I hope you’ll check out these amazing and inspirational books and include some of them in your book club or add them to your library!

 

EOLPodcast, Grief, Spirituality, Tragedy

Ep. 43 What To Do When Tragedy Strikes

 

In this episode Dr. Karen Wyatt shares her thoughts on how to cope with tragedy when you are a peripheral observer and don’t know how to help. She talks about her own feelings of helplessness after the 9/11 tragedy and shares some thoughts about specific things you can do to help you cope and find meaning after a horrific event has occurred. Her suggestions include:

  1. Give – donate blood, money, clothing, supplies, food, your time and energy–whatever might be needed most during a disaster. Contact your local Red Cross or other charitable relief organization to find what is needed and how you might be of help.
  2. Pray – even if you are not religious utilize prayer (or meditation, contemplation, or mindfulness) as a means of sending your love and light to others who are hurting right now. Attend a prayer vigil or memorial service if there is one in your area (or create one yourself.) Non-directed prayer for the good of all is more effective than directed prayer.
  3. Light a candle – Dr. Wyatt tells the story of lighting  7-day sanctuary candles after 9/11 as a symbol of shining light during a dark time.
  4. Look within – use this time of despair as an opportunity to look inside yourself and examine your own Shadow for hatred, anger and bitterness. Be inspired to heal your old wounds and help the collective Shadow heal as well.
  5. Practice compassion – work to find and express compassions for everyone involved in such a tragic incident: victims, their families and friends, the perpetrator, member of the community, state, nation, and world; and those who spread hatred instead of love.

Read the companion blog to this podcast here.

Sending you much love!!! Remember to check out the donation page at patreon.com/eolu if you’d like to support this podcast, sign up for End-of-Life University emails at eoluniversity.com, and leave reviews for this podcast on iTunes!

Blessings!!!

End of Life, EOLPodcast, Grief, Spirituality

Ep. 42 The Shared Death Experience with Lizzy Miles

Today’s episode begins with a discussion about the mass shooting that just occurred in Orlando, Florida on June 12th. Dr. Wyatt shares some thoughts about why the Shadow side of life is emerging right now and what each of us must do to help our society: work on our own Shadow wounds and fears. She mentions her online home study course “Get Over It for Good: Healing the Hidden Wounds of Childhood” which you can check out at this link if you are interested:

Get Over it For Good Course

Next Dr. Wyatt introduces her guest Lizzy Miles who is a hospice social worker and who brought the first Death Cafe to the US in 2012. You’ll hear a little about how that took place and then Lizzy will tell the story of a Shared Death Experience she had when her aunt was dying. This interview will cover:

  • the definition of an SDE
  • how SDE’s differ from NDE’s
  • why it is important to accept the metaphysical experiences of patients and family members near the time of death
  • myths surrounding the dying process

Remember to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you TODAY! Life is short so don’t waste a moment of it!

Go to Patreon.com/eolu if you are interested in supporting this podcast and the EOLU interview series by donating $1 or $2 per month. Also be sure to share this podcast with your friends and leave reviews on iTunes if you enjoy the podcast!

 

 

End of Life, EOLPodcast, Hospice, Spirituality

Ep. 41 Creating Sacred Space in the Midst of Chaos

Today Dr. Karen Wyatt thanks her new Patron Leslie Robertson for her support of EOLU on the donation page at patreon.com/eolu . Leslie is working on a project to train unemployed women in their 40’s-60’s to do end-of-life work. If you become a patron, as well, Dr. Wyatt will mention your name and your work in a future episode.

Next Dr. Wyatt talks about the stresses endured by hospice workers in this time when both healthcare and death have become a business. She discusses the impact of late admissions to hospice on the workers who must care for patients and their families when there is only a short time to meet their needs. This talk includes:

  • Finding meaning in dying even when you work for a “business”
  • The sacredness inherent in the dying process
  • A helpful mindset for dealing with the stress of end-of-life work
  • How to be a channel for love and compassion rather than generating them from your own heart
  • Body/Mind/Spirit practices for self-care to ensure that you can help create sacred space for patients
  • The Lovingkindness Blessing:
    • May I be at peace.
    • May my heart remain open.
    • May I realize the beauty of my own true nature.
    • May I be healed.
    • May I be a source of healing for this world.

Thanks for listening! Remember to leave reviews for this podcast on iTunes and help support EOLU at patreon.com/eolu.

End of Life, EOLPodcast, Grief, Hospice, Spirituality

Ep. 36: Tribute to Maria Dancing Heart Hoaglund

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Rev. Maria Dancing Heart Hoaglund, hospice chaplain and spiritual counselor who authored the books The Last Adventure of Life: Sacred Resources for Living and Dying from a Hospice Counselor and The Most Important Day of Your Life: Are You Ready? Maria died tragically after being struck by a car while walking in a crosswalk.

Maria has been a beloved member of the end-of-life community and in this episode Dr. Wyatt shares her personal recollections of Maria, reads excerpts from Maria’s books and plays a clip from Maria’s interview for End-of-Life University in 2013. Whether or not you have met Maria in the past, you will become acquainted with her beautiful soul and enlightened spiritual wisdom through the messages in this episode.

Many blessings to all who love Maria and feel the pain of her absence in this physical plane. Maria left a beautiful legacy for each and every one of us that will continue to guide and inspire our work for the future.

Maria’s books are available on Amazon:

The Last Adventure of Life

The Most Important Day of Your Life

End of Life, EOLPodcast, Hospice, Spirituality

Ep. 10 Helping a Loved One Have a Conscious Death with Rev. Maria Hoagland

Join Dr. Karen Wyatt and her guest, hospice chaplain Rev. Maria Hoagland who discusses various techniques for helping a loved one be more comfortable and find meaning in the dying process.

In this interview you will learn:
-Self-care tips for caregivers
-How to talk about death and dying to overcome society’s fears
-How to help a loved one experience a more conscious death

Hospice, Spirituality

Two Months to Live

As I write this my friend has just left the doctor’s office and returned to her part-time home in our community. She has learned in the last few moments that her cancer has recurred and is rapidly growing in her abdomen. For the next two days she will be packing up her belongings and loading the car for a long road-trip back home, where she will have to tell her family her shocking news: she is expected to live for just a few more months.

The calendar slips from her hands, along with her plans for the rest of the year: a college reunion during the summer, an autumn trip to Europe, a journal article she planned to write, a research project she intended to complete …

Everything has changed now. She moves slowly through the mundane motions of this day, in dazed confusion: folding the laundry, organizing the grocery list, sweeping the floor … But wait, does it matter? Does any of this matter?

She sorts through the belongings in her home, one-by-one: a book (I’ve read this three times), a teapot (My mother-in-law gave this to me), an old sweater (I got this on our trip to Alaska), and photographs … so many photographs. Each item surveyed and analyzed. Do these things really matter?

She is talking too quickly now, her mind jumping from subject to subject, trying to avoid the looming, inevitable reality that will overshadow and consume everything in its path over the next few weeks. Her conversation seems almost nonsensical to me as I struggle to grasp what is going through her mind at this moment.

She is all alone now. She has entered a place where her family and friends, no matter how close they are, cannot go. As a hospice physician I have walked this path with many patients in the past. And though the scenery has varied with each person, I have noticed certain landmarks throughout each  journey.

I cannot change my friend’s path or take away her suffering. I can only wait with her and watch and pray. For these coming days I shall look through her eyes and feel through her heart, observing life and all its oddities; noticing, while looking back from the perspective of death, what of this life really matters?