End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 207 The Dance of Life and Death – Part 2: Balance

PodcastBalance

In this 4-part series of solo episodes I’m sharing wisdom about the intertwining of life and death in a perfect dance that spirals throughout eternity. Today I talk about balance, which is an essential element of any dance. Learn how to balance dying while living and living while dying! These thoughts are derived from my book What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying.

Get the book here.

Listen here:

 

This episode includes:

  • Thoughts on coping with tragedy and 5 tips for spiritual survival
  • Why we cannot live fully (and in balance) if we ignore death
  • How the medical system perpetuates the separation of death from life
  • How being mindful of death helps us let go of attachments and live with equanimity
  • Practices for bringing death awareness into daily life:
    • Morning gratitude practice
    • Mantra: This day is a gift
    • Notice death around you – including tragedies in the world
    • Observe the “little deaths” each day
    • Practice getting back into balance
  • Discover joie de vivre (the joy of living) and practice love through your final breath

Links mentioned in this episode:

Art of Dying Author Series_ September 6, 2019 7-8_30 pm

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes! Thanks again to all supporters on Patreon.com/eolu, especially my new patron, Heather Thomas–your contribution means  everything to me!

End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 206 The Dance of Life and Death – Part 1: Timing

PodcastDanceTiming

In this 4-part series of solo episodes I’m sharing wisdom about the intertwining of life and death in a perfect dance that spirals throughout eternity. Today I talk about timing, which is one of the essential components of any dance! These thoughts are derived from my book What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying.

WRM@flatcover

Get the book here.

Art of Dying Author Series_ September 6, 2019 7-8_30 pm

Join me for the Art of Dying Author Series on September 6th at the Open Center in New York City. I’ll be discussing What Really Matters and signing books! Learn more here.

Also check out my workshop September 7th: Earth Lessons for the Soul here

Life and Death, two partners holding one another closely, swaying eternally to the music of the Universe. 

Karen Wyatt MD from What Really Matters 

Listen here.

 

This episode includes:

  • Rainer Maria Rilke’s letters to the bereaved
  • Why death and life are locked in an inseparable dance
  • How we learn slowly about death through life’s experiences
  • How to cope with the unique timing of life’s events when it doesn’t fit our hopes and expectations
  • Why even our mistakes and failures turn out to be perfect

We must live in both, be intimately at home in both [life and death.]

– Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Dark Interval

darkinterval

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes! Thanks again to all supporters on Patreon.com/eolu, especially my new patrons, Michelle Wilkinson and Sandy Lemen–your contributions mean everything to me!

 

End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 204 The Death Deck: Making it Fun to Talk About Death with Lisa Pahl, LCSW and Lori LoCicero

Learn about a popular new card game that helps people open up about death and have fun while they’re doing it.

PodcastLisaLori

My guests are hospice social worker Lisa Pahl and writer Lori LoCicero. They will share with us how they met and teamed up to create the fun new card game: The Death Deck. Learn all about the game and how you might start incorporating it into your work and family conversations. Learn more about the game at the website:

http://thedeathdeck.com

DD BOX

Get The Death Deck.

Listen here.

 

This interview includes:

  • How this writer and hospice social worker teamed up to create a game about death
  • How to use The Death Deck
  • Why games are helpful to support conversations about the end of life
  • How The Death Deck differs from other conversation games
  • Why The Deck Deck appeals to unique audiences like college students
  • How to use the game to augment special conversations with loved ones about death and dying
  • Where to learn more and get the game

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes! Thanks again to all supporters on Patreon.com/eolu – your contributions mean everything to me!

 

End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 200 What I’ve Learned from 200 Episodes of the EOLU Podcast

Find out my insights and lessons learned after completing 200 episodes of this podcast.

Podcast200

I’m excited to have reached this milestone of 200 episodes of the podcast! Today I’ll look back at some of the interviews I’ve done and share my “take-aways” so far. Here’s hoping for 200 more episodes. Thank you for your support over the past 4 years.

Learn about End-of-Life University here.

Listen here.

 

This episode includes:

Other links from this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes! Thanks again to all supporters on Patreon.com/eolu!

 

End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 199 The Wisdom of the Heart: Compassionate Care Training for EOL Doulas with Francesca Arnoldy

Learn how a training program for end-of-life doulas is preparing a wide variety of students to care for their loved ones with compassion and heart.

PodcastArnoldy

My guest Francesca Arnoldy has trained as both a birth and death doula and continues to guide clients through these passages at the beginning and end of life. She is the developer and program director of the End-of-Life Doula Professional Certificate Program at the University of Vermont that provides training for not only doulas but also other medical providers and lay people in caring for the dying. She is the author of the book Cultivating the Doula Heart: The Essentials of Compassionate Care. Learn about her work at her website:

https://www.contemplativedoula.com

doulaheart

Get the book here.

Listen here.

 

This interview includes:

  • Similarities between birth and death
  • The unexpected success of the EOL Doula Certificate Course at the University of Vermont
  • Why the course stresses the importance of doing personal inner work before serving others
  • How the shift in death awareness seems to be accelerating now
  • The difference between sympathy, empathy and compassion
  • Why we need to avoid trying to “fix” others
  • What it means to truly “hold space” for others
  • How the doula program fills a gap in medical care and is being gradually accepted by the medical community in Vermont

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes! Thanks again to all supporters on Patreon.com/eolu!

EOLPodcast, mortal wisdom, Spirituality

Ep. 195 Why Death is Life’s Best-Kept Secret

Learn how to live your best life by embracing your mortality.

PodcastWisdom

In Part 8 of the Mortal Wisdom Series I’ll summarize the 7 lessons presented in the previous episodes and discuss the mindset we need to adopt in order to live fully and peacefully as mortal beings. Find out my tips and guideposts for living a death-aware life no matter what blessings or challenges we are given to navigate. Listen to Parts 1-6 first if you haven’t heard them yet!

Mortalwisdom

Listen here:

 

This episode includes:

  • Why each day should be a “good day to die”
  • How to carry death with you at all times as your wise advisor
  • How all 7 lessons from mortality fit and flow together:
    • Suffering
    • Love
    • Forgiveness
    • Presence
    • Purpose
    • Surrender
    • Impermanence
  • Why life is like an episode of “Chopped” cooking show: the “ingredients” life gives you are always a surprise and your task is to make something beautiful and delicious from them
  • 5 tips for living a death-aware life each and every day

Nake nula waun: I am ready for whatever comes.

– Lakota Sioux battle cry

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes! Thanks again to all supporters on Patreon.com/eolu, especially my new Patrons: Jennifer Turner, Laura Sodders and Tom Johnson-Medland!

 

End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 192 You Might Die Tomorrow: A Global Movement for Living Fully with Kate Manser

Learn how this grassroots movement is helping to promote mortality awareness around the world.

PodcastManser

My guest Kate Manser is a writer and motivational speaker who created the You Might Die Tomorrow movement in response to her own grief experiences. She will discuss how she overcame her own fear of death and how she has spread You Might Die Tomorrow globally.

Learn more at her website.

zrCyG7%9RVGdHqcd6zWe4g

Get stickers here.

Listen here.

 

This interview includes:

  • How You Might Die Tomorrow got its start
  • The psychology of mortality awareness
  • How having a provocative message is helpful to promote death awareness
  • The benefits of Deathbed Meditation
  • How to mitigate the fear of death
  • How to create urgency around end-of-planning planning
  • How acknowledging mortality helps us find happiness
  • How to get You Might Die Tomorrow stickers to display

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes! Thanks again to all supporters on Patreon.com/eolu, especially my new Patrons, Judith Kubran, Laura Stanger, and Cole Imperi.

 

End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 182 When You Die … You Will Not Be Scared to Die with Lindsay Tunkl

Learn how art and the written word can be a powerful tool for confronting our mortality.

PodcastTunkl

My guest Lindsay Tunkl is a conceptual artist and writer who explores subjects such as death, heartbreak, and the apocalypse. Her work has been shown at galleries in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Today she will talk about her book “When You Die You Will Not Be Scared To Die” and her workshop Parting Practice: Rituals for Endings and Failure. 

Learn more at Lindsay’s website:

http://lindsaytunkl.com

Tunklcover

Get the book here.

Listen here.

 

This interview includes:

  • How Lindsay’s fear of death inspired her to approach it through her art
  • Why the fear of death should not be shamed
  • How both death and emotionality are banished in our society
  • Description of Lindsay’s book of meditations
  • How the book can be used for a contemplative/journaling practice
  • The importance of both the mundane and the profound in life
  • How to reframe death by writing lists similar to the book
  • The ability to plan ahead for death is actually a luxury that is not afforded to everyone
  • How to use the book as a tool for exploring mortality in conversation

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes! Thanks again to all supporters on Patreon.com/eolu, especially my new patron Diane A. Kelly!

 

End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 156 How to Talk to Strangers About Death & Dying

Learn some tips for starting important conversations about death with people you are meeting for the first time!

PodcastStrangers

 

IMG_4043In this episode I’ll share with you some stories about my recent yoga retreat and the many amazing conversations I was able to have with strangers about death and dying. I’ve got a few tips for you about starting up your own conversations about death with random strangers. (Here’s a photo from a sunrise hike I took during the retreat!)

 

Links to articles mentioned in this episode:

Tips for Talking With Your Loved Ones About the End of Life

How to Have Everyday Conversations About Death and Dying

How to Talk to Your Healthcare Provider About Your End-of-Life Wishes 

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

You can still sign up for A Year of Reading Dangerously online reading group and read one book each month about death, dying and the afterlife. Click here to learn more.

HealingChantsAlbumThis episode is sponsored by the album Healing Chants by Gia! You’ll love Gia’s angelic voice and ethereal music for meditation and relaxation. (Full disclosure: Gia is my daughter!)

You can listen to samples and purchase the album here.

Stay tuned to the end of the podcast as I’ll play her song Evocation as the Outro today!

A HUGE THANK YOU to my latest supporter on Patreon.com/eolu: Karen Van Hoof! I appreciate your support very much. Thanks also to all of the other patrons – sign up and join the team for as little as $1 per month at Patreon.com/eolu!

FEATURE PRESENTATION:

Today I’ll tell you about my recent 5-day retreat at a yoga center where I went to relax, do yoga and finish revising one of my books. While I was there I had the pleasure of talking with many other visitors to the retreat center about death and dying, which was fascinating. Normally I don’t find many people out in the general public who want to talk about death. And while the people I conversed with weren’t necessarily interested in death before our discussion they each seemed to come away with a new understanding or sense of peace.

In order to confront our society’s fear of death we need many more conversations like this to happen every day with people who are not already tuned in to death awareness.

Each of us needs to step up and reach out to others to start a dialogue about death that might prove very helpful to our conversation partner and very informative for us.

Here are my tips for talking with strangers about death and dying:

  1. Choose the right time and place: my conversations generally took place at the table while I was sharing a meal with various strangers. Breaking bread together creates an automatic sense of connection and safety since we usually associate mealtimes with positive feelings. There is also often some free time between courses where conversation can happen naturally. It may also work well to talk about death during other shared activities like hiking, gardening or cooking. Watch for the right opportunity to arise.
  2. Find common ground first: make sure you have established a basic connection by talking about the meal (or the garden, or the hike, etc.) Since my conversation partners were also there for yoga classes we had an automatic common subject to begin chatting about while we established a connection.
  3. Perfect your “elevator speech” which is a very brief story you tell whenever someone asks “What do you do?” The idea is that your answer is so brief you can complete it during a short elevator ride from one floor to the next. So think of one or two sentences you can use to answer that question and give another person an idea of your work. My answer at the yoga retreat was: “I’m a retired hospice physician who now writes books.” Tell them enough to garner their interest and curiosity and lead naturally to more questions. I purposely avoided mentioning death and dying in my initial introduction so that I wouldn’t frighten anyone away before we even got started. But most individuals I encountered were intrigued and asked more either about the hospice work or about the books I’m writing. Both of those questions led directly to a talk about death and dying. On several occasions the other person immediately brought up a story of a loved one or friend on hospice. Many times it was a story that desperately needed to be told and also came with questions about death, dying and hospice. I was amazed by the quality of conversation that occurred in these instances and the need for accurate information. I’m convinced that many people out there really do need to talk about death and dying but rarely encounter anyone they can speak to, which is where you come in!
  4. Hone your listening skills: for these conversations focus on listening rather than telling your own story. Watch for cues from the other person that there is a need to say something and encourage them to talk by asking a question or two and stopping to listen attentively. We are all passionate about our work and other endeavors and there will be opportunities to share that at some point in the future. Initially it’s more important to just listen and hold space so that the other person can ask questions and get the support they need. Rely on your intuition to tell you when that person is ready for a little nudge or encouragement to go deeper into their feelings.
  5. Share just enough information: again it is important to be a good listener so when you do describe your work don’t go overboard. Use simple and accurate terms to convey what you do but pause and allow the other person to ask for the information they need.

As you’ll hear when you listen to this episode I was able to have meaningful conversations with different people every day while I was at the retreat. These are some of the most important discussions we can be having right now so take a chance and strike up a conversation with a stranger about death and dying!

There will be a new episode every Monday so be sure to tune in again! And if you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes.

Until next time …

Face Your Fear            BE Ready              Love Your Life 

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End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 130 How Death Awareness Can Change the World

Learn about studies that have shown the positive benefits of death awareness and why we need more of it in the world.

PodcastDeathAwareness

DEATHEDforeveryoneIn this episode I share some recent studies that validate the fact that being aware of death has positive effects on behavior toward others. This is evidence that we need more classes, workshops, books, films, and discussion groups about death in order to promote health, peace, tolerance, and compassion in the world.

Read the companion article on Thrive Global here.

Remember you can still sign up for the online reading group A Year of Reading Dangerously by clicking here. Join us to read one book about death, dying and the afterlife each month during 2018!

Slide01You can also get the Teaching Guidelines for a Death & Dying Class here if you are interested in teaching a class in your community or for college or high school students. In addition when you sign up for the guidelines you could become part of a work group during the month of  March to create a death and dying class.

Sign up for the guidelines!

THANK YOU to all of you who help support this podcast with your donations on Patreon.com/eolu!!

FEATURE PRESENTATION:

Kenneth Vail and his colleagues at the University of Missouri recently did a review of several studies on death awareness and behavior. They found that increased death awareness was associated with several positive behaviors that could lead to needed changes in how we live our lives and connect with one another. Here are some of the findings:

  • Helping behaviors increased when people were given subtle reminders of their mortality, such as being near a cemetery. These positive behaviors include compassion, tolerance, empathy and pacifism.
  • Pro-environmental behaviors increased for people with heightened death awareness
  • Positive health behaviors such as quitting smoking, starting an exercise program, and performing breast self-exams increased for people who became aware of death
  • People with fundamentalist religious values who had previously rejected members of other religions were more likely to show compassion toward those of other groups when they experienced greater death awareness

In our world that is currently suffering  with environmental degradation, polarization of society, violence, and unhealthy behaviors perhaps increased death awareness could hold some promise for our survival. Join me in improving death awareness this year by reading books and teaching classes on death and dying!

Tune in every Monday for a new episode and if you enjoy this content consider leaving a review on iTunes (thank you – it makes a big difference!)

Until next week remember ….

Face Your Fear          BE Ready          Love Your Life

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End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 128 Why We Need Death Education for Everyone Right Now

Learn why the Death Education movement is vitally important right now for our society and get inspired to teach your own class about death and dying!

PodcastDeathEd

DEATHEDforeveryoneThis week I’m continuing my focus on death education by discussing some important reasons why right now we desperately need more death-ed in every aspect of our society. Learn how you might become a death educator in your own community and start to share your knowledge to help others become aware of death.

Slide01

 

Click here to get your free Teaching Guidelines for a Death & Dying Class to help you create your own class!

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS: 

You can still join A Year of Reading Dangerously and start reading books about death and dying with 700 other people around the globe! You’ll get to take part in live Q&A discussions with the authors of many of the books we are reading. For February we are reading Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty–and she’ll be joining our discussion at the end of the month! Sign up now by clicking here!

Thanks again to all of my supporters at Patreon.com/eolu! Your generosity and encouragement mean everything to me! Become a patron for as little as $1 per month–where else can you do so much good with just $1? Go to Patreon.com/eolu to learn more.

FEATURE PRESENTATION:

Today I’m discussing why we need death education everywhere in our society and here are some of the places where it should take place:

  • Home – parents need to learn how to talk about death and dying with their children rather than shielding them from the reality of death
  • Schools – high school and college classes are a perfect place to introduce death and dying to young, curious students who can only benefit from learning more about death. (Next week I’ll share an interview on this podcast with Stacy Smith who teaches The Psychology of Death & Dying to college students, and on EOLU at the end of February I’ll present an interview about a high school elective on Death and the Meaning of Life with the teacher and 3 of his students.
  • Churches – clergy of all faiths need to be educated about death and dying so that they can better support their congregants on end-of-life issues within their belief system
  • Workplaces – employers need to understand the impact of death and grief on their employees in order to create supportive policies for bereavement leave; workers need to know how to interact with co-workers who are suffering with illness and grief
  • Medical system – doctors, nurses, and all other providers of healthcare need education in how to get comfortable with death, talk about it with patients and families, guide decision-making, initiate conversations with patients
  • Hospitals and nursing homes – need education to create sacred spaces for dying, to support patients and families at the end of life and honor patients’ wishes

Some of the reasons why death education is so important right now are:

  • We are living longer and the incidence of complex diseases like Alzheimer’s is increasing which creates a need for better advance planning. Patients and families need to prepare for the type of medical care and caregiving that may become necessary and understand how they can provide for those possibilities in the future.
  • Medical technology continues to advance at a rapid rate. Our ability to forestall death and keep a body alive has far outstripped our willingness to grapple with difficult end-of-life decisions. We need education to help people plan and prepare for the future and be pro-active about the care they receive. Studies show that those who think and talk about death are more likely to put their wishes in writing, to talk with others about their wishes, and to stop medical treatment when it is no longer helping.
  • Ethical and moral dilemmas about end-of-life issues are splitting our society and families. Debates over physician-assisted dying and discontinuing medical care when it is not helping are going to increase with the aging of the Baby Boom generation. According to Pew Research Center surveys: 47% of Americans favor assisted-dying laws and 49% are opposed; 66% believe that there are times when doctors should stop treatment and allow patients to die a natural death, but 31% believe that doctors should always do everything possible to prolong life. These opposing perspectives are likely to be present in families too, especially if no advance planning has been done.
  • The high cost of being unprepared for death. Lack of advance care planning can lead to higher medical expenses, especially if the patient receive extreme care that was not actually warranted or wanted. Families unprepared for funeral planning are more likely to choose higher cost options and be vulnerable to unscrupulous marketing practices when they are grieving. Failure to plan ahead and put wishes in writing can cause increased stress and guilt for family members who must make decisions without any guidance.
  • The emotional and spiritual cost of ignoring death. As described in episode 127, death is our greatest teacher about life. Those who fail to recognize the inevitability of death are less likely to live to the fullest and appreciate the moment because they think they have plenty of time.

If you care about any of these issues and have been learning about death and dying by listening to this podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series, you are the perfect person to become a “death educator.” Start by sharing what you’ve learned with family and friends and consider putting together your own class in your community to help educate others. 

Slide01You can download my free pdf: Teaching Guidelines for a Death & Dying Class and get some tips and tactics for starting your own community death-ed class! When you download the handout you’ll receive an invitation to a special work group I’m putting together in March on brainstorming your class.

Click here to get the guidelines!

 

Stay tuned to future episodes of this podcast to get more information about death education: next week I’ll share an interview with Stacy Smith about teaching college students about death and dying. On February 22nd I’ll present an interview on End-of-Life University with the teacher and students from a high school death-ed elective.

I hope you feel inspired to become a “death educator” in whatever capacity suits you, whether you simply share your knowledge with family and friends or start a class in your community!

If you enjoy this podcast please consider leaving a review on iTunes – it will be greatly appreciated!

Until next week remember:

Face Your Fear          BE Ready           Love Your Life

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End of Life, EOLPodcast, Grief, Hospice, Tragedy

Ep. 122 Top 10 “Game Changers” of 2017 for the Death-Positive Movement

Learn about my Top-10 picks for people, events and trends that have changed the end-of-life movement in 2017.

PodcastGameChangers

2017In this final episode of 2017 I take a look back at the previous year and share my thoughts on some of the events and people that I believe will have a big impact on how our society deals with the end of life.

Happy Holidays!

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Patreonbecome2xYou can support this podcast by making a small donation of $1 or $2 at Patreon.com/eolu.

 

FEATURE PRESENTATION:

Here are my picks for the 2017 Game Changers in the Death-Positive Movement:

  • The documentary film “Extremis” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. The film was also picked up by Netflix in 2016. It is a powerful depiction of end-of-life care in the ICU staffed by Dr. Jessica Zitter, which should serve as a wake-up call to people about the need to do end-of-life planning before a healthcare crisis occurs.
  • Dr. Jessica Zitter’s book Extreme Measures was also released this year. In addition she wrote an article for the N.Y. Times (“First Sex Ed Then Death Ed”) calling for death education classes for all high school students. This novel idea has the potential to change our society’s perception of death and dying by introducing the subject to young people. Dr. Zitter is truly a game changer!
  • In March and May of 2017 the organization The Dinner Party (a movement to provide community for millennials dealing with loss) convened meetings with business leaders from some prominent US corporations to discuss loss and the workplace. They emphasized the importance of developing workplace policies and protocols for managing bereaved employees and offering them assistance. These conversations are just the first step in changing how grief is recognized and supported in the workplace rather than being ignored.
  • In April 2017 the 1st International Death Doula Training was held in Maui for the purpose of teaching people from around the globe to serve others as death doulas. This event was a game changer because it validated the death doula movement, increased the number of qualified doulas who can serve their communities, and provided a networking platform for death workers, which helped strengthen and expand the movement. The 2nd International training will take place in 2018!
  • Also in Apri the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit was held to address the epidemic of opioid addiction in this country. Measures have been taken to limit the number of pain pills that can be prescribed and dispensed at one time. This is an important and game-changing step to deal with the overwhelming public crisis of opioid deaths but caution is necessary. We must be vigilant to ensure that all hospice and palliative care patients have access to the medications they need for pain and symptom management.
  • On June 27, 2017 Jon Underwood, founder of Death Cafe, died suddenly and unexpectedly at a young age. Jon has been a game changer from the beginning by creating the Death Cafe platform for conversations about death that has spread around the world. But the tragedy of his death is also a potential game changer because of the powerful legacy Jon leaves behind and because of the potential for tragedy to inspire growth, creativity and healing. The entire death-positive movement is indebted to Jon for his inspiring and gentle leadership and may his death be a catalyst for transformation.
  • In July a new smart phone app named WeCroak was introduced. This app is a game changer because it helps people to think about death in a positive manner  by sending reminders (“You will die one day”) and quotes on their phones 5 times a day. Technology has the potential to revolutionize our approach to death and dying and this simple $.99 app is just one small step toward the change that is needed.
  • The film Coco was released in the US by Disney and Pixar in November. Coco tells the story of a 12-year old boy who is transported to the land of the dead on Dia de los Muertos. There he receives help from his departed great-great grandfather to return to his family in the land of the living. The film depicts joyful skeletons who dance and sing and it portrays a positive image of life after death. While it is a children’s movie Coco has a powerful message for adults and is likely to stimulate much conversation in families about death and departed ancestors. It is exciting to see Hollywood begin to address death in a positive manner and this film is a game changer that will hopefully lead to more such productions in the future.
  • In December the first EndWell Symposium, created by Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider and her foundation, was held in San Francisco. This groundbreaking symposium brought together thought leaders from healthcare, design and technology to share ideas on how to improve end-of-life care. The synergy of this collaborative event will have a ripple effect across the country and should lead to innovation and creativity around death and dying in the months to come. Dr. Ungerleider is a game changer for her forward-thinking generosity and ingenuity!
  • Also in December the Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy in Prescott AZ held a class for students in grades 9-12 on “Death and the Meaning of Life.”  School Director Charles Mentken taught the class, which provided a comprehensive look at death and dying from various cultural and religious perspectives. The elective class also introduced the students to options for hospice and palliative care, death doulas, home funerals, cremation, and traditional funeral and  burial services. This may be the first “pilot project” course of the type Dr. Jessica Zitter called for in her NY Times article and it is definitely a game changer. The students in the course have reported that their attitudes and fears about death have been totally transformed, as well as their approach to life, as a result of what they learned in the class. (I’ll be featuring an interview with Charles Mentken and 3 of his students on the End-of-Life University Interview Series in early 2018. Sign up if you’re not already on the list!)

I hope your holiday celebrations have been filled with joy and light and that you feel ready to embark on a brand new year next week! There will be a new episode on New Year’s Day where I will share my “wish list” for 2018.

Until then remember to ….

Face Your Fear            BE Ready           Love Your Life

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End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 100 Celebrating A Milestone with Larry George MD

Looking back and ahead to the future after 100 episodes of the EOLU podcast.

Podcastcelebration

larrysmIn this episode I’m joined by my own very dear husband, Dr. Larry George who talks with me about reaching the 100th episode of this podcast and offers his insights about the medical profession and end-of-life issues.

 

We discuss:

  • Why I started End-of-Life University
  • What I’ve learned from all the interviews I’ve done
  • My favorite episodes of this podcast
  • Goals for the future of End-of-Life University, particularly helping to educate the medical profession about death and dying
  • Why I think we need “physician-assisted LIVING”

Patreonbecome2xThanks to everyone who supports this podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series with your generous donations to Patreon.com/eolu. I’m grateful for your generosity!

And thank you to all of my listeners for joining me on this journey. Be sure to tune in next week for a brand new episode! Until then remember:

Face Your Fears.                     BE Ready.                     Love Your Life.

karen-signature

End of Life, EOLPodcast, Spirituality

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.

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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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End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 79 The Death-Positive Mindset: How to Create and Share It

The term “death-positive” is everywhere these days. But what does it mean and how do we spread this mindset through our society?

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In this episode I’ll share thoughts from a recent blog post about how to make sure your own death mindset  is clear and free of hidden wounds. These simple practices will help you stay on track as you do your work in the world.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

slide01The Step-by-Step Roadmap for End-of-Life Planning Course is now available if you need any help with your own advance care planning paperwork. You can learn more at this link:

http://www.eoluniversity.com/roadmap

 

death-afterlifesummitRegister now for the Death & Afterlife Summit, which will talk place on March 16-18, 2017. You’ll be able to hear presentations from 10 speakers on dying, death and beyond for FREE. Replays will be available if you can’t attend live. Learn more and register at this link: http://www.eoluniversity.com/afterlife

IN THE NEWS:

A Dutch nursing home is offering college students free rent in exchange for spending 30 hours per month with residents of the home. The students teach the elders how to use technology and get valuable experience connecting with the older generation. The expected benefits for the residents are decreased dementia symptoms, decreased loneliness and isolation, and increased life expectancy. A similar study is being conducted in the UK where students read poetry to nursing home residents, which has led to improved memory skills. We need programs like this in the US!

THE DEATH-POSITIVE MINDSET:

Read the original article here.

In order to help our society achieve a death-positive mindset we must tend to our thoughts and personal awareness of death. Even though we may work with the deaths of others on a daily basis, we can still be in denial of our own mortality. Here are some steps to take to ensure that your own death mindset is as free as possible of denial and fear:

  • Address your fears of death. Learn to live with your fear but not be controlled by it.
  • Explore your past experiences of grief. Process your old, unhealed losses and gradually work to release the pain you carry.
  • Challenge your misperceptions about death. Stop seeing death as sorrowful and learn to see that death can be both beautiful and tragic.
  • Change your language. Free yourself of “tragic-speak” and use non-negative language when describing death. Beware of overly positive platitudes as well, such as “It’s for the best” or “He’s in a better place.” Allow others to experience their own emotions about death without judging or amplifying their pain.
  • Think about death every day. Cultivate a daily death-awareness practice to stay mindful of how precious life is and to remember to make the most of every moment.

Do your work with an open mind and heart and help spread a death-positive mindset wherever you go.

supportonpatreon-e1412764908776If you’d like to support this podcast, go to Patreon.com/eolu to donate $1 or $2 per month.

Thank you to current patrons! Your support is greatly appreciated.

 

Tune in every Monday for a new episode and until next week remember:

Face Your Fears.               BE Ready.                 Love Your Life.

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EOLPodcast

Ep. 72 What’s in a Name? Semantics, Euphemisms and Taboos About Death

Let’s talk about HOW we talk about Death!

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In today’s episode we’ll look at some common euphemisms for death and learn how and why they came into use, how to break down our societal taboos against talking about death, and when it might actually be appropriate to use euphemisms.

Remember that this podcast is an offshoot of the End-of-Life University Interview Series, which includes two interviews per month with experts from all aspects of the end-of-life arena. If you are not already registered sign up here to get email notification each time a new interview is posted.

supportonpatreon-e1412764908776Support for the EOLU Series and this podcast comes from your generous donations at Patreon.com/eolu. When you support this show with just a $1 or $2 per month donation I will mention your name and promote your cause on the podcast as a thank-you!

In a new feature for this podcast I will start by highlighting some recent “death-positive” events in the news:

  1.  First a wonderful story appeared in USA Today about Morrie Boogaart, a 91-year 0ld man living out his last days in an assisted living facility in Michigan. While he his mostly bed bound due to his physical health, Morrie spends his days knitting hats for the homeless. So far he has given away over 8,000 hats! Thank you Morrie for being an inspiring example of how to live fully for all your days and use whatever energy and capacity you have to be of loving service to others. You are my hero!
  2. Next a study reported in the Journal of Psychopharmacology and on ScienceMag.org demonstrated that cancer patients who were given the hallucinogen psilocybin experienced a significant decrease in depression and anxiety. According to the author, the patients who had a “mystical experience” while using the hallucinogen were the most likely to have a reduction in fear. This compelling finding supports the data from consciousness studies that show that as consciousness develops there is less and less fear of death at each expanded stage of development, which will be significant later in this discussion.

As we turn to look at the use of euphemisms about death I want to explain why I use the term “end of life” in many of my discussions because some people have accused me of “soft-peddling” death when I use that phrase. But here’s what I mean when I refer to the end of life: I see End of Life as the final stage of human development that incorporates the process of dying, death itself, and the time after death.

For me, End of Life describes the phase on our journey through life when our attention finally turns to the fact that we are mortal and death is inevitable. When we begin to prepare for our eventual death we have entered the End-of-Life Stage in our human development. For some this stage doesn’t start until the process of dying is underway, but for others of us it begins earlier, when death may still be many months or even years in the future. So “end of life” is not a euphemism for death – it is a term that incorporates much more than the moment of death or the dying process.

An interesting article from the Journal in English Lexicology describes the functions of euphemisms throughout human history:

  1. To protect from discomfort over a subject that is “taboo”
  2. To mislead or misrepresent (as in some advertising)
  3. To present in a more positive or “aspirational” light (e.g. using “senior living facility” rather than “old folks’ home”)
  4. To reveal the hidden truth of something or remove a stigma
  5. To bind a group together and create a shared identity
  6. To entertain and lighten the burden of something that is difficult to bear (e.g. medical staffs using humorous references to cope with emotionally heavy situations)

To refer to all euphemisms as dishonest or misleading is to miss the fact that they have had a positive purpose throughout history: they allow people to discuss a taboo subject using terms that are less uncomfortable and triggering for them.

Most euphemisms change over time as taboos are confronted and dismantled. But some of the alternative terms for death have survived for centuries:

  • to “lose” a loved one to death has been in use since the 12th century
  • “pass away” or “pass on” have been commonly substituted for the word “die” since the 14th century
  • “deceased,” “departed” and “no longer with us” have been used since the 15th century

Interestingly not only have those euphemisms survived over hundreds of years they still have exactly the same meaning as they did when they first became popular. This is evidence of the fact that the “death-taboo” has not changed or broken down much during all of those centuries.

But we are part of a pioneering group that is trying to dispel the taboo about death so we freely use the words “dead”, “die”, “death,” and “dying.” But the majority of people in our society are still not comfortable with those words.

In fact, the consciousness of most people in our society has not yet evolved to a level that diminishes the fear of death. So they react to direct language about death with fear and rejection.

To break down a societal taboo there are at least two different approaches:

  • The rebellious approach, where unfair practices are exposed and denounced publicly, while advocating for openness and freedom. This approach brings much-needed attention to the taboo issue and pushes toward change. But it risks triggering resistance and strengthening the taboo for those who are afraid of the issue.
  • The quiet approach involves using positive language and energy to engage conversations that are not too confrontational. This approach also normalizes the taboo subject and even celebrates it with special events (such as Dying to Know Day.)

While the rebellious approach is needed to draw public attention and to shine the light on areas where change is desperately needed, the quiet approach is equally important to draw people closer to the issue by helping them to feel safe and to verbalize their fears.

This “quiet approach” may require us to use euphemisms judiciously so that we don’t repel or frighten away those who want to talk about death but do not yet feel comfortable with the language. Insisting that everyone use our appropriate and preferred terms for death may actually discourage and alienate them from conversation.

So if someone needs to say “My father passed away last year” or “I lost my father last year”, don’t correct them at that moment. Allow the conversation to unfold on that person’s terms because for now it is better to talk about “passing away” than to shut down the discussion altogether. Remember: that person does not yet have the same consciousness, awareness and comfort level with death that you have attained. Have compassion and meet people where they are so that you can gradually encourage and guide them to grow.

Until next week when a brand-new episode will air, remember to:

Face Your Fears.               BE Ready.            Love Your Life.

End of Life, EOLPodcast, Hospice

Ep. 70 Looking Back on 2016: A Positive Year for End-of-Life Issues

In this final episode of 2016 Dr. Wyatt thanks all of the patrons who have generously made contributions on Patreon.com/eolu this year! Thank you for offering your support for this podcast and the End-of-Life University interview series!

In this look back at 2016 we talk about the following positive events in the end-of-life arena:

  • In January JAMA dedicated a special issue to “Death, Dying and the End-of-Life”, which represents a positive breakthrough in awareness of EOL issues by the medical profession
  • Medical schools began adopting new training programs for students in pain management, palliative care, and communication skills around advance care planning. There is a college-level program that pairs pre-med students with hospice patients
  • Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are bringing in children and college students to interact with patients
  • Dementia rates in the US  have dropped in the past year
  • Pilot studies are underway involving providing education and training to family caregivers and providing a small stipend to caregivers
  • A demonstration project is underway to study the benefits of providing curative care simultaneously with hospice care
  • Studies showed that palliative care lowers healthcare costs along with providing increased quality of life, improved pain management and fewer hospital days
  • Harvard study of adult development showed that relationships are a key to longevity
  • California and Colorado both passed assisted dying laws in 2016
  • The nation’s first conference on VSED was held this year
  • Conversation Sabbath took place for the first time in November, bringing discussions about death and dying into places of worship
  • Dying to Know Day was held in the US, inspired by the movement in Australia
  • Miss Norma, a 90-year old woman who refused treatment for her cancer, spent most of the year traveling around the country in an RV with her son and daughter-in-law, fully enjoying the last days of her life

Thank you for tuning in to the EOLU Podcast during 2016! I hope this has been a positive and productive year for you. May 2017 be filled with growth, surprises, peace and joy! See you next year and until then …

Face Your Fears.              BE Ready.              Love Your Life.

End of Life, EOLPodcast, Grief, Hospice

Ep. 65 Changing the Perspective on Death: Highlights from Death Expo 2016

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In this episode Dr. Karen Wyatt shares her favorite “take-aways” from the 12 presentations of the recent Death Expo event. If you missed Death Expo you can still purchase the recordings from the event for just $36 (which is a great price for 12 hours of education.)  Go to this link to learn more. The speakers she highlights are:

Enjoy these highlights! If you feel inspired, consider purchasing the Collection!

Also visit the Patreon.com/eolu page if you’d like to become a supporter! As always:

Face Your Fears.                   BE Ready.                     Love Your Life.

End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 64 It’s Okay to Die with Monica Williams-Murphy MD

 

Join Dr. Karen Wyatt, the host of Death Expo, in this conversation with emeregency room physician Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy, author of the award-winning book It’s OK to Die. They will discuss Dr. Williams-Murphy’s mission “to create conditions in which people: plan ahead, make their peace, understand that it is OK to die naturally, and make educated choices which allow them to pass away peacefully and comfortably surrounded by those who love them most.”

In this interview you will learn:

  • the tragic consequences of being unprepared for the end-of-life
  • the factors that have contributed to our cultural change in attitude toward death and dying
  • how to prepare for the death of a loved one – understanding the physical changes associated with dying
  • how to make peace with death and let go at the end-of-life
  • what doctors need to know in order to offer better care at the end-of-life

Support this podcast and End-of-Life University Interview Series by donating at Patreon.com/eolu!

 

 

End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 50 How Death Can Be a Key to Happiness

Today Dr. Karen Wyatt thanks her latest Patreon.com supporter Zanya Biviano, who is the creator of the Grief Support Kit. The kit consists of the Finding Hope in Grief book, DVD, and CD, which make a beautiful gift for anyone who is grieving. You can read more about the kit and order it at www.griefsupportkit.com. As a special offer to podcast listeners, if you purchase one kit between now and August 12, 2016 you will receive TWO kits at no extra charge, with no additional postage! This is an incredibly generous offer from Zanya, so be sure to order your kits right away!!

Dr. Wyatt reminds listeners that they can support the EOLU Podcast and Interview Series by offering a donation on Patreon.com/eolu, by purchasing the EOLU Access Pass, or by buying her books on Amazon.com.

In this episode Dr. Wyatt discusses the fact that the country of Bhutan has been named one of the happiest countries in the world and the Bhutanese people practice contemplating death five times a day. There is a link between overcoming the fear of death, increasing joy and happiness in life, and improving overall health. Therefore the practice of thinking about death on a daily basis could offer many benefits. Tips for developing such a practice:

  • Establish a regular time each day for a death awareness practice
  • Stay relaxed by using deep breathing
  • Make it a pleasant experience by adding music, aromatherapy, art
  • Avoid fearful images of death and dying
  • Focus on the “big picture”
  • Keep a journal

Finally Dr. Wyatt talks about her newly released ebook “The Tao of Death” which is an adaptation of Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching.” You can learn more about the book at the link below. There is also a free Companion Journal for this book with a daily prompt for each of the 81 verses of the Tao of Death.

The Tao of Death: http://www.eoluniversity.com/taoofdeath

Here is a link to the blog that accompanies this podcast:

How Thoughts of Death Can Be a Key to Happiness

Have a great week and be sure to tune in every Monday. Thanks for all your support. Until the next time we connect:

Face Your Fear.      BE Ready.       Love Your Life.