Ep. 118 How Travel Helped My Grief

Learn how travel can provide a “safe container” for healing grief and loss.

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In this episode I’ll share my own insights into how the experience of travel can help with the process of grief. This is also the subject of the new book I’m writing (I did research for it on my recent trip to Italy) … I’ll share a brief overview here!

You can check out all of my Italy photos on Instagram!

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

virtualdeathcafecroppedEach month I host a “Virtual Death Cafe” with fascinating conversations about death, grief and the end of life. Anyone can join by telephone or online. You can learn more about it at www.eoluniversity.com/death-cafe.

Also, if you missed Death Expo earlier this month you can still access the replays at this link: www.eoluniversity.com/de17speakers.

Patreonbecome2xThis podcast is supported through the generous donations of my patrons on Patreon.com/eolu. I’m sending a HUGE THANK YOU to all of my current supporters – your support makes a big difference! Join the fun for just $1 or $2 per month and you’ll receive the “Patrons Only” Q&A recording each month (Hospice Happy Hour!) Go to Patreon.com/eolu to learn more and sign up!

FEATURE PRESENTATION:

During several of my travel experiences in the past I have been dealing with grief and have found the process of travel to be helpful. On one trip to Italy, my husband and I learned of the death of our brother-in-law on the day we arrived in Venice. Unable to cancel the rest of our trip and return home immediately, which we wanted to do, we stumbled through the remainder of the vacation and managed to make peace with our pain.

Here are some of my “takeaways” about how travel can help with grief:

  • Permission to wander aimlessly. On our Venice trip we canceled all of our sightseeing plans and activities. We started each day with a totally clean slate and just wandered the streets and canals of the city all day long. By following our intuition and our broken hearts we were able to enter into our grief without distraction or attachment. Had we been at home with family we would have felt obligated to “do something” and “be somewhere” but because we were traveling we were free of all expectations.
  • Seeing the big picture. Because we were freed up from the details of our daily life at home, we found more space to explore grief from a “trans-personal” perspective, as something bigger than just our own individual lives. Experiencing grief in another country allowed us to:
    • Recognize that all people, everywhere, experience the death of loved ones. Our mortality and the grief it causes us is the interconnecting thread that binds us to all of humanity.
    • Go deep into history. By visiting ancient ruins we can see that all of humankind, throughout history has dealt with the pain of loss and struggled to make peace with death. Our experience of grief is just one part of a vast “whole” picture of human loss.
  • Surrendering to grief to find joy within. As travelers “stuck” in another country even though we wanted to be home, we had no choice but to surrender to the pain that engulfed us. When we allowed grief to find a home within (and even “became” a living embodiment of grief) we also discovered a startling capacity for simple joy over the beauty of being alive. I’ve written this before: suffering hollows us out so that we can contain an even greater measure of joy … and also love.
  • Understanding impermanence. Strolling through cemeteries, relics and ruined structures of the past illustrated to me perfectly that everything that exists in the physical realm is impermanent and will one day dissolve away. Only love and the energy of life persist eternally. And it is the depth of the love we experience for others that causes the magnitude of pain we feel upon their deaths. Grief is one of the visible manifestations of love in the physical realm.
  • Learning how to navigate in unfamiliar territory. On our “grief trip” in Venice we simply wandered every day until we were hopelessly lost. We took in everything around us along the way–noticing all the colors and sounds and fragrances of life. And when we felt ready to return “home” we studied our maps to figure out where we were and to slowly find our way back to more familiar territory. This skill of navigating in the unknown will prove to be very helpful to us throughout life and especially during our own dying process as we struggle to get back to a home we can’t remember.

I hope you will take the opportunity to travel some day, even when you are experiencing grief, to experience the profound benefits it can offer!

Tune in every Monday for a new episode of the podcast! If you enjoy this content, please share it with others and leave a review on iTunes! Until next week 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.

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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. 101 When Your Child Has a Life-Limiting Illness with Blyth Lord

Learn how Blyth Lord coped with the illness and death of her young daughter and went on to create the Courageous Parents Network.

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Blyth LordIn this episode I share an interview with Blyth Lord whose daughter Cameron died before the age of two of Tay-Sachs disease, a rare genetic disorder. She describes how she coped with her grief and established a non-profit to help other parents who are caring for children with life-limiting illness.

Learn more at www.CourageousParentsNetwork.org

 

ANNOUNCEMENT:

An Evening withDr. Ira Byock

On the evening of August 21st I’ll share a conversation with hospice and palliative care physician Dr. Ira Byock about the 20th Anniversary of his groundbreaking book Dying Well. Join us for this LIVE event where you will be able to chat with Dr. Byock and ask questions about his books and his work. Let’s show our gratitude for his dedication to improving the way we care for people at the end of life. Learn more and register here. (It’s free and you’ll receive the replay if you can’t join us on the 21st.)

Patreonbecome2xThis podcast is supported through the generous donations of “patrons” who chip in $1 or $2 per month to help cover the costs of production. A HUGE thank you to all of you who are helping out! Our next Hospice Happy Hour will take place on Friday August 25th (you’ll receive all the information by email.) If you’d like to become a donor go to Patreon.com/eolu to learn more!

I chose to share today’s interview because of the very recent death of Charlie Gard, an 11-month old boy in England with a rare, inherited mitochondrial disease. His terminal condition sparked a controversy that spread around the world when the hospital providing his care proposed that Charlie’s life support be terminated. Even the Pope and President Trump weighed in on the issue that went to a high court to decide little Charlie’s fate. Ultimately his parents yielded to the court’s decision and Charlie died on Friday July 28th.

This heartbreaking story points out how nearly impossible it can be for parents to make life-and-death decisions for their children. In this interview my guest Blyth Lord experienced a similar tragic situation when her baby daughter was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease, a rare genetic disorder. Blyth shares how she coped with the diagnosis and the remaining months of her daughter’s life, as well as her subsequent grief.

Blyth went on to found the Courageous Parents Network and to contribute to the Pediatric Starter Kit for the Conversation Project. You’ll learn:

  • What factors are most helpful to families coping with the devastating loss of a child.
  • The benefits of Pediatric Palliative Care from a parent’s perspective.
  • How the Courageous Parents Network is offering support to parents caring for terminally ill children.
  • How the Pediatric Starter Kit from The Conversation Project is helping parents have important conversations with their ill children.

Blyth Lord is the founder and Executive Director of Courageous Parents Network, a nonprofit focused on improving the experience of parents caring for children with life-limiting illness through education, advocacy and parent-to-parent support. Blyth is also the Executive Director of the Cameron and Hayden Lord Foundation, a small family grant-making foundation whose mission is to advance pediatric palliative care in the United States, as well as fund research of therapies for lysosomal storage diseases. Blyth’s daughter, Cameron, and nephew, Hayden, died of Tay-Sachs disease in 2001. In the years following, Blyth has promoted the needs of families caring for children with serious illness and how providers can best meet these needs. Blyth is also co-chair of the Parent Advisory Group for the AAP’s Section on Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

Blyth sits on the board of National Tay-Sachs and Allied Disease and on the board of The Children’s Room, a bereavement support program for young families who have lost parents/siblings/children.

Websites: http://courageousparentsnetwork.org

                http://theconversationproject.org

Tune in next week for another episode and until then ….

Face Your Fear.                     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.

 

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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. 84 The One Washcloth Project with Rochelle Martin RN

Learn how 3 emergency room nurses started a simple project to help families traumatized by sudden, unexpected death in the E.R.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis episode will feature my interview with Rochelle Martin, an E.R. nurse who started the One Washcloth Project to help families care for their loved ones after an unexpected death in the E.R. You’ll be touched to hear how this simple gesture can change the experience of traumatic death for people in emergency settings.

Learn more at onewashcloth.org

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Suicideblog_On April 10th  an 8-part series will begin on this podcast titled Suicide: Surviving the Aftermath. Each episode will focus on my own personal journey of healing after my father’s suicide death.

I will share my process of learning about my Dad and the factors in his life that led to his death, while also portraying the grief and guilt I suffered as a survivor of suicide. My goal is to share hope with those who are currently on this journey of grief.

For anyone who is currently experiencing a crisis and feeling hopeless the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support 24/7.

Call 1-800-273-8255 or Text HELLO to 741-741.

Click here to talk to someone now.

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 my newest supporter: Phyllis Shacter, author of the new book Choosing to Die about her husband’s choice for VSED at the end of his life. Learn more at her website PhyllisShacter.com. Thanks also to all of the patrons who have offered your support over the past year!

THE ONE WASHCLOTH PROJECT:

Rochelle Martin RN, death midwife and emergency room nurse, and Dr. Wyatt discuss the One Washcloth Project, which Rochelle co-founded to offer compassion and support to families who have suffered an unexpected loss of a loved one in the emergency room. They will talk about the challenges for both staff and family members of coping with death in the ER setting.

In this interview you will learn:

  • how the One Washcloth Initiative hopes to help families say goodbye to loved ones who have died in healthcare settings
  • about the challenges facing ER staff as they deal with traumatic deaths
  • what changes are needed in the medical system to improve the care offered to dying patients and their families in the ER and hospital.

Rochelle Martin is a Registered Nurse with specialty certification in Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from the University of Toronto, and has experience in emergency and acute psychiatry, palliative care, and spiritual care.

Recently certified as an End-of-Life and Home Funeral-Care Guide (Beyond Hospice, 2012), most of the families Rochelle supports are saying goodbye to loved ones immediately following unexpected, often traumatic deaths in ER. She considers it a great privilege to be with families in these raw, intense moments, when there is little to offer but compassionate presence.

Currently collaborating on a number of death midwifery-related projects, Rochelle is working to establish a Canadian national community of practice, has co-founded the One Washcloth initiative, and serves on the Education Committee of the National Home Funeral Alliance. Her local efforts include leading after-death care workshops for healthcare, religious, and community groups, and exploring a conservation burial partnership in Hamilton, Ontario.

Enjoy this special interview! Remember to tune in starting next week for the 8-part series Suicide: Surviving the Aftermath. Until then:

Face Your Fears.                    BE Ready.                  Love Your Life.

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Ep. 61 Reflections on Mortality From My Travels in France

 

In this episode Dr. Wyatt begins by talking about Death Expo, a free online educational event, which is coming up on November 10-13, 2016! She describes the 12 speakers who will be presenting during the event. To sign up go to:

http://DeathExpo.com

She then thanks her supporters for making donations at Patreon.com/eolu to help keep EOLU Interview Series and Podcast on the air!

Dr. Wyatt describes her recent trip to France and some profound insights that she experienced regarding death and dying:

  • the Battle of Normandy during WW2
  • Omaha Beach and the sacrifices made there
  • the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach
  • Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and thoughts about mortality and legacy

Listen to get inspired!

Sign up for Death Expo, tune in every Monday for a new episode of EOLU Podcast and remember:

Face Your Fears.                   BE Ready.                 Love Your Life.

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!!!