Learn tips for teaching college students about death and dying from psychologist and educator Stacy Smith.
In this episode I share an interview with Stacy Smith who teaches a course in the Psychology of Death and Dying to students at a local community college. She’ll offer some great tips about teaching your own class and help you get inspired to become a death-ed teacher!
Stacy Smith will share how she started teaching her college class: The Psychology of Death & Dying. In this interview you’ll learn:
How Stacy got interested in teaching a college class on death and dying
How to gain support from school administration and attract students to a death and dying class
An overview of Stacy’s lesson plan for this course
Projects, assignments, guest lecturers, and field trips she recommends
Feedback from students who have taken the course
Qualities of a great death and dying class teacher
Tips for starting your own class on death and dying
Stacy Smith has a degree in counseling education and counseling psychology from the University of Colorado in Denver. She created a Legacy program for 5-18 year olds dealing with grief and loss. She has been in private practice for 14 years and specialized in grief counseling. She has been teaching in the Psychology Department at Colorado Mountain College for 5 years, including the class: The Psychology of Death and Dying. She is currently writing a book about destigmatizing mental illness and treatment.
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!
This 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.
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.
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 issuesare 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.
You 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.
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!
Hear my far-reaching dreams and ideas for changing the way people die in the U.S. in 2018.
In this episode I talk about some of my own personal goals for the New Year and then discuss a list of ideas for ways in which we need to improve all aspects of the end of life. Get some inspiration for steps you can take within your own community and in your own personal life to “Be Good at Death.”
I’ve started a new year-long reading group called A Year of Reading Dangerously for 2018! We’ll be exploring death and the afterlife through books that hopefully will inspire us and stretch our boundaries. Sign up to receive a monthly email with the book selection for the month and a downloadable reader’s discussion guide. Join the fun!
A HUGE thank-you to my latest supporters: Claire Turner and Dr. Leslie Robinson. Your contribution is greatly appreciated as it helps defray the costs of producing and broadcasting this podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series, but it also provides me with much-needed emotional and spiritual support! To donate as little as $1 per month go to Patreon.com/eolu.
There is a new pledge level on Patreon-the Platinum level-where for a donation of $5 per month you’ll receive replays of ALL of the End-of-Life University Interviews for 2018. So check it out now!
What we need to do to “Be Good at Death” in 2018″:
Policy Level changes needed:
Improve reimbursement for Palliative Care
Stabilize and improve reimbursement for Hospice Care
Establish a system for paying family caregivers
Medical System changes needed
Integrate Palliative Care into Primary Care and therefore …
Increase home-based palliative services
Rank hospitals according to the quality of end-of-life care provided (based on an article by Dr. Haider Warraich from Duke University). Dr. Warraich’s criteria for this ranking include:
“percentage of patients with a documented health care proxy
percentage of patients who receive heroic measures like cardiopulmonary resuscitation or cardiac defibrillation
appropriate use of hospice and palliative care
the likelihood of a family recommending the hospital for end-of-life care
whether patients’ location of death was concordant with the place in which they had wanted to die
availability of around-the-clock spiritual resources
the training the medical team receives for dealing with the medical and psychosocial issues that arise when death is imminent” ((Thank you Dr. Warraich for this fabulous idea!))
Medical Education changes needed
Train all medical providers in palliative care (at least a one-month rotation) regardless of specialty
All medical students work with dying patients in at least one rotation
Teach better conversational and listening skills to medical providers
Help medical providers process their own fears and biases toward death and their repressed grief
Learn about my Top-10 picks for people, events and trends that have changed the end-of-life movement in 2017.
In 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.
You can support this podcast by making a small donation of $1 or $2 at Patreon.com/eolu.
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 Ungerleiderand 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.
Would you like to bring your community together to talk about death? Here’s how …
In this episode we will deconstruct a large-scale death-positive community event and share with you the lessons learned from that experience with guest Holly Pruett, founder of Death OK: Let’s Talk About It. The goal of this discussion is to inspire others to create events in their own communities. Below you’ll find some previous podcasts with helpful resources.
This podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series are supported by the generous contributions of listeners through the EOLU donation page at Patreon.com/eolu. To thank you for your donation I will mention your name on a future podcast episode and promote your EOL-related website, business, organization, book or cause! Go to Patreon.com/eolu to learn more and contribute $1 or $2 per month!
In the news:
The staff in the ICU at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario have been connecting with patients and their loved ones by creating “word clouds” for each patient, using the patient’s name plus adjectives and phrases suggested by loved ones and staff members (see the example of a word cloud in this photo.) Healthcare staff say the word clouds help remind them of the humanity of each patient, allow them to get to know the patient better, and stimulate story-telling about the patient. Families often take the word clouds home with them to help with their grieving process. (Make you own word clouds atwww.wordle.com)
A mobile palliative care team has been providing care to terminally ill homeless people on the streets of Seattle. The team receives referrals from shelters and drop-in clinics then tracks down the patients, evaluates them, and gets them connected to appropriate care. The program is similar to the PEACH (Palliative Education and Care for the Homeless) Program in Toronto. Results of the pilot project show that hospitals stays for the homeless patients have been reduced by 25% and ER visits by 50%.
Interview with Holly Pruett:
Holly Pruett is a Life-Cycle Celebrant, Home Funeral Guide, and the founder of Death OK: Let’s Talk About It, a ten-hour day of inspiration, information and connection in Portland, Oregon. She is also the founder of DeathTalkProject.comand the co-founder of PDX Death Cafe.
In this interview she breaks down Death OK and shares the process used to create this community-wide event along with the lessons learned.
This highlights include:
Why a small team of organizers is best
The benefits of a private, intimate venue for such an event
The importance of sustaining volunteer commitment
How to structure the financing for a large event
The benefits of choosing an engaging and provocative keynote speaker
We hope you’ll be inspired to create your own community event! Find more information at www.DeathOK.com.