Looking back and ahead to the future after 100 episodes of the EOLU podcast.
In 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.
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
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.)
Tuesday August 8th isDying to Know Day and I’ll be hosting a Virtual Death Cafe at 5 pm Pacific/8 pm Eastern. (More information at eoluniversity.com)
“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!)
Here are the benefits I’ve received from my daily spiritual practice of death contemplation:
Gratitude for every moment of life
Taking responsibility for my life
Looking within myself for answers
Finding joy in being alive
Being prepared for anything!
You 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 email@example.com or Tweet me @spiritualmd.)
The term “death-positive” is everywhere these days. But what does it mean and how do we spread this mindset through our society?
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.
The 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:
Register 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!
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.
If 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:
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.
Support 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:
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!
Next a study reported in the Journal of Psychopharmacology and on ScienceMag.orgdemonstrated 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:
To protect from discomfort over a subject that is “taboo”
To mislead or misrepresent (as in some advertising)
To present in a more positive or “aspirational” light (e.g. using “senior living facility” rather than “old folks’ home”)
To reveal the hidden truth of something or remove a stigma
To bind a group together and create a shared identity
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:
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 …
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:
Andrew George – LA photographer and creator of the “Right, before I die” photo series
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!