Learn about a popular new card game that helps people open up about death and have fun while they’re doing it.
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:
Find out my insights and lessons learned after completing 200 episodes of this podcast.
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 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.
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:
Learn how a death doula started a business coaching doctors to address end-of-life issues with their patients.
My guest Rachel Giger is a death doula and hospice volunteer who responded to a need in her community by offering to teach local doctors how to talk about death with their patients. She now has physician clients from around the country who are eager to learn how to help their patients deal with the end of life. Learn more at her website:
Learn about the best of EOLU in 2018 and how to catch up if you missed any of these events!
“Death Education for Everyone” was the theme for 2018 and we’ll review all the great educational content that was provided in the past year. It’s not too late to listen in on the best webinars and interviews of the year before we get started on a brand new season of EOLU! Check out the links for the events you’ve missed in the description below.
Happy New Year to each and every one of you!
BIG NEWS!! Starting in 2019 the EOLU Interview Series will merge with the EOLU Podcast – so all the great interviews you are used to hearing on the interview series will now be available as podcast episodes. This means you can subscribe to the podcast and listen to the interviews on your phone while you are on the go! In addition you’ll be able to hear the solo episodes (like this one) where I share my wisdom, inspiration, and ideas for embracing the end of life and living fully today.
You can subscribe to the podcast at one of the following links (whichever podcast app you use):
Thanks for all of your support in 2018! I appreciate you for listening in and encouraging me to keep going. And I’m especially grateful to those of you who have become patrons on my donation page at Patreon.com/eolu: you make my heart sing!
2018 has been a wonderful year for EOLU that began with a goal of supporting “Death Education for Everyone.” In support of that goal the following programs were created:
A Year of Reading Dangerously online reading group; we’ve read one book a month this year and held 9 live book discussions with authors of the books in attendance. Nearly 1,000 readers from around the world have joined together to read the same book at the same time. We’ve all learned a lot about death, dying and the afterlife and have had fun in the process!
The “best” interviews of 2018 (though they were all fantastic!);
Hansa Bergwall talking about the WeCroak app he created for smart phones that reminds you of your mortality 5 times a day. Listen here.
Dr. Bob Uslander who has pioneered a new concierge model of end-of-life care, which could be a game-changer for the medical system and how we help patients navigate their last days. Listen here.
Alua Arthur of Going With Gracetalked about the legal issues that can occur after death and how to prepare for them in advance. Listen here.
Deanna Cochran RN and Suzanne O’Brien RN both talked about the creation of the End-of-Life Doula Council by the NHPCO and the National End-of-Life Doula Alliance, which now provides certification training for doulas. Listen to Deanna’s interview here. Listen to Suzanne’s interview here.
In this episode I share some thoughts about how to get involved in the end-of-life movement if you have recently become interested in death and dying. You’ll hear about my best ideas for contributing to change in the way people die and offering your service to others.
Welcome to our new sponsor: Authentic Presence Training from the Spiritual Care Program. Authentic Presence brings together practical contemplative resources with the knowledge and skills of modern hospice and palliative care. Suitable for professionals from all faith traditions or none, the course draws its inspiration particularly from Buddhist contemplative practice, the acclaimed classic The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, the work of the Dalai Lama, as well as contemplative neuroscience. Learn more here.
Join me and my guest Suzanne O’Brien RN for a free webinar: “EOL Doula Training for Caregivers and Volunteers” on Tuesday July 24th at 5 pm Pacific/8 pm Eastern. Register here and you’ll receive the replay if you can’t attend live.
Learn about these opportunities to be of service to the dying in many different capacities:
Work as a professional in hospice or palliative care (call your local hospice/palliative care program to see if you have the credentials needed and to learn about any training offered):
Become a volunteer – for those with no medical training:
Hospice volunteers are always needed (call your local hospice for more information)
Pet Therapy for Hospice Patients – if you have a special pet and would like to receive training to provide visits to patients. Learn more in this interview.
Seek out other opportunities in your community like Meals on Wheels, hospital or nursing home volunteer programs, church-related visitation programs
Become an End-of-Life Doula – check out the training mentioned above with Suzanne O’Brien and find out if this work is a good fit for you. Learn more here.
Start a caregiver training program – the need for in-home caregivers is going to increase dramatically over the next decade. Consider becoming a caregiver trainer to help your community meet this need.
Teach a death education class – there is currently a great need for education about death and dying in our society. Consider teaching your own class or workshop to provide information to others in your community. Get the Teaching Guidelines for a Death & Dying Class here.
Create a Community Event to inspire people to learn more about the end of life:
Learn what qualities are needed to become the best-possible death education teacher and get inspired to teach your own class!
In this episode I focus once again on death education and talk about the qualities that are best suited to teaching this subject matter. Find out if you would be a good teacher and what subject and students are ideal for your knowledge and experience.
You’ll be on the list to learn more about upcoming work groups to help you put together you own class!
You can still sign up for A Year of Reading Dangerously here (we’re having so much fun reading a book a month about death, dying and the afterlife!)
THANK YOU to my latest supporter at Patreon.com/eolu: Janel Barthe! Also thank you to Suzanne O’Brien of Doulagivers™ who has been supporting this podcast for over a year and is one of our biggest donors! Your encouragement and contribution to this work means everything to me! Go to Patreon.com/eolu if you’d like to join and become a patron – you’ll get access to the monthly Q&A call (Hospice Happy Hour) among other benefits!
Today I’m sharing some thoughts on what it takes to teach a death and dying class as part of my ongoing focus on death education for 2018!
To find out what you should teach and who your students should be consider your Passion, Knowledge and Experience. Make a list for each category:
What subject are you most passionate about in the end-of-life area?
What knowledge and training do you have in this area and in other subjects? What type of work have you done in the past?
What life experience have you acquired related to death and dying?
Try to find the overlap between these 3 lists. Ask yourself: what training or work history do you have that you could use to find students with whom you can share your passion and life experience? For example: if you have had a career in law enforcement, have been a hospice volunteer, and are passionate about helping people deal with grief then teaching law enforcement officers how to manage feelings of grief and trauma after being exposed to death in the field might be a perfect fit for you.
The qualities that will help you be a great teacher are:
Passion for your subject – choose the area that most makes you light up and your students will love learning from you
Flexibility – be able to change your focus on short notice based on the needs of your students and the events of life around you
Creativity – utilize your own inspiration to bring innovative ideas for activities, projects and field trips to your classroom
Curiosity – be a student yourself, always learning something new that you can bring to the classroom. Your syllabus will stay relevant and you will avoid burning out!
Open-mindedness – set aside your own agendas so that you can guide students to their own individual conclusions, even if they don’t agree with you; be able to let go of your attachments to the outcome of your teaching.
Even if you don’t feel like you are strong in all of these qualities don’t give up on the idea of being a death and dying teacher! You can keep growing and developing yourself as you teach others. Also don’t be afraid to get more education for yourself before you start teaching if there are subjects you still need to explore.
Learn about studies that have shown the positive benefits of death awareness and why we need more of it in the world.
In 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.
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!
You 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.
THANK YOU to all of you who help support this podcast with your donations on Patreon.com/eolu!!
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!)
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.