Learn how to navigate grief during the dying process and after the death of a beloved animal companion.
Wendy Van de Poll has felt a connection with animals since a very young age and then learned about the grief associated with the death of a pet after her own dog Marley died of cancer. She serves as an End-of-Life and Pet Grief Support Coach to help provide a safe place for people to grieve the loss of their animal companions. She shares her tips for surviving grief and also ideas for creating an end-of-life plan for our pets.
(This interview previously aired on the End-of-Life University Interview Series.)
Whether you live with an animal companion yourself or you know someone who loves a pet dearly, you need to be prepared for the day when that animal reaches the end of life. Wendy Van de Poll helps people prepare in advance for pet loss and also helps them deal with the grief that follows the death of a beloved animal friend.
The impact of the loss of a pet can be more significant than the loss of a human companion.
In this interview you will learn:
Why it’s important to create an end-of-life plan for pets
What to include in a pet’s end-of-life plan
How to make the dying process easier for a pet
Common myths surrounding grief after the death of a pet
Advice for those experiencing pet loss grief
How to support a loved one dealing with grief over the death of a pet
Suggestions for helping a child cope with pet loss grief
Wendy Van de Poll is dedicated to providing a safe place for her clients to express their grief over the loss of their pets.
Her passion is to help people when they are grieving over the loss of a pet and her larger than life love for animals has led her to devote her life to the mission of increasing the quality of life between animals and people no matter what stage they are in their cycle of life! She has been called the animal whisperer.
She is a Certified End of Life and Pet Grief Support Coach, Certified Pet Funeral Celebrant, Animal Medium and Communicator. She is the founder of The Center for Pet Loss Grief and an international best selling and award-winning author and speaker.
She holds a Master’s of Science degree in Wolf Ecology and Behavior and has run with wild wolves in Minnesota, coyotes in Massachusetts and foxes in her backyard. She lives in the woods with her husband, two crazy birds, her rescue dog Addie and all kinds of wildlife.
Learn why and how to start a forgiveness practice now instead of waiting until your last days.
In this episode I share my thoughts about the importance of forgiveness and why you shouldn’t wait until the end of life to start practicing it. I’ve been working on it all my adult life and I can guarantee you it’s a worthwhile endeavor!
For the month of April I’m hosting the 10-day S.M.A.R.T. Decisions Challenge to help you get your advance directives completed in honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day. You’ll be guided step-by-step to figure out what really matters to you so that you can utilize that information as you fill out your living will and healthcare proxy forms. Sign up here.
If you are interested in teaching a death and dying class at some point in the future you can download the Teaching Guidelineshere! When you sign up you’ll be on the mailing list to learn about the upcoming Work Group and Mastermind for death and dying teachers!
Many of my hospice patients have been concerned about practicing forgiveness before they died. I sat with them at their bedsides as they struggled to let go of their anger and bitterness so that they could die in peace.
But I learned that it is possible to start the process of forgiveness now so that the task will be much easier at the end of life. Here are some of the mindset shifts I’ve found are helpful as you learn to forgive (listen to the episode to hear the details):
Life is a classroom – you can learn from any experience
You are not entitled to a life free from difficulties
The past no longer exists except in your memory where you keep negative events alive
It’s not your job to punish those who have harmed you (and trying to do that just hurts you even more)
You can make yourself whole again without getting an apology
The 4-View Forgiveness can help you get a broader perspective on past events
Simple rituals can help you let go of the past
Get the Forgiveness Tool Kitto learn more about strategies for practicing forgiveness on a daily basis so that you will be free of the burden of resentment at the end of life. Sign up for the kit here.
Tune in every Monday for a new episode! Leave a review on iTunes if you like this content (it really makes a difference) and go to Patreon.com/eolu if you’d like to become a supporter!
Learn about Molly’s innovative workshops on end-of-life planning that utilize art projects to inspire deep conversations.
In this episode I share an interview with Molly Stuart who is a lawyer, artist, chaplain and hospice volunteer. She teaches a wonderful workshop on end-of-life planning that includes art to help people uncover their deepest values and concerns.
Watch this episode on YouTube to view Molly’s slides:
The month of April features National Healthcare Decisions Day and in honor of that event I am sharing the 10-day S.M.A.R.T. Decisions Challenge – a free challenge that will help you get your end-of-life planning done with guidance along the way by email.
You can still sign up for A Year of Reading Dangerously if you’d like to read one book a month with us about death and dying! Sign up here.
Get the Teaching Guidelines for a Death & Dying Class and you’ll be on the list to hear about upcoming Work Groups and a Mastermind Group for Death and Dying Class teachers. Download the guidelines here.
Thank you to my latest supporter on Patreon.com/eolu: Kathy Lynch and thanks also to Cathy Duke for increasing your pledge! I’m so grateful for your contributions!
My guest Molly Stuart shares information about her innovative end-of-life planning workshops. We discuss:
How she got interested in teaching about end of life issues
The complicated nature of advance care planning
The 3-part workshop she designed, which includes:
Practical end-of-life medical and legal issues
Emotional aspects of living while knowing you’re going to die
Transformation and legacy
How Molly uses art to address:
The creative projects her students create as part of her workshops
How to create a legacy art project after the death of a loved one
Remember to tune in every Monday for a new episode and if you enjoy this content please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes!
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!
Learn how to awaken to higher consciousness NOW so that you can experience conscious dying at the end of your life.
In this episode I share the secret behind the 3-part tagline I use on the EOL University website and at the end of every podcast. (If you listen regularly you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!) I discuss the wisdom behind the phrases I repeat each week and how they represent keys to our ongoing spiritual evolution!
My long-awaited trip to Italy begins tomorrow, the day after the original airing of this podcast! You can follow my journey on Instagramand Facebook as I hike, bike, eat, drink, pray, and write my way through the country–all in search of the perfect stories for my new book on grief! I’ve pre-recorded enough podcast episodes to last until I return in one month–“see” you then!
I would like to send a HUGE THANK YOU to my latest supporter on Patreon.com/eolu: Rich Hayes, who is a hospice chaplain. Check out his website at www.richhayes.com and his book God Made Simple. If you would like to join the list of patrons go to Patreon.com/eolu to learn more and chip in $1 or $2 per month to support this podcast and the EOLU Interview Series. You’ll receive a thank-you on this podcast and I’ll also promote your end-of-life related book, website, cause or business. PLUS you’ll receive the monthly Hospice Happy Hour Q&A recordings!
3 Keys to Living & Dying Consciously
(Be sure to tune in to upcoming podcast episode #112 when I will feature an interview with philosopher and sage Ken Wilber about conscious dying and the death of his wife Treya. If you are interested in conscious dying you won’t want to miss it!)
In order to die consciously you must first begin to LIVE consciously right now. Here are my 3 tips for awakening to higher consciousness–they have been hiding all along in the simple tagline I use at the end of every podcast! Now you’ll find out what I mean when I remind you of them every week!
Face Your Fear
You must go through your fear in order to rise above it; the more you hide and run away from your fear of death (which is the ultimate fear) you run away from joy, as well. So begin to accept that Death is inevitable–everything in the Universe dies–and life is full of difficulties. Once you embrace that fact you can begin to work specifically on your fear of death and turn it into acceptance.
Think about death every day. Include contemplation of death as part of your daily practice; get used to the idea that life is fleeting and you don’t know when it will come to an end.
Read about death. Find books (e.g. What Really Matters) and stories that portray death and dying in a meaningful way to help you see that it is not necessarily something to fear. The dying process can be a beautiful time of healing for patients and families.
Write about death. Use your journal to record your thoughts and emotions about death. Observe how they change over time as you continue this practice of increasing death-awareness. (The book The Tao of Death with its companion journal can be a helpful tool for reading and writing about death.)
Learn about death. The more information you have about the end of life, the more your fears will lessen. Knowledge is one of the most powerful antidotes to fear. Tune in to the interviews on End-of-Life University for an ongoing education about all aspects of the end of life.
Work with death. Consider volunteering for hospice to learn how to sit with death and witness the dying process. Hospitals and nursing homes are also good places to volunteer to get closer to death and overcome your fear.
There is no substitute for preparation, no matter what you might face in the future. Once your fear has decreased begin to plan ahead for the end of life and imagine how you would like that experience to unfold. Here are some steps to help you get ready:
Know what really matters to you. Spend some time thinking about what in your life is most important and prioritize those items. You need to know what you value in order to make tough decisions in the future.
Make choices for what you want at the end of life. Use a tool like the Conversation Project Starter Kit to help you decide what type of healthcare you would like to receive in your last days.
Complete your paperwork. You need to appoint a healthcare proxy and fill out an advance directive form in order to give your wishes some legal clout. But you also need to talk to your loved ones and your doctors about your wishes so they will know how to care for you if you can’t speak for yourself.
Tend to your relationships. Learn how to forgive NOW so that you won’t be rushing to complete this important task while on your deathbed. Remember to say “I love you” to those who matter to you whenever you have an opportunity.
Learn to BE in the present moment. Let go of ruminating about the past and worrying about the future–love and joy exist right here, right now in this present moment.
Love Your Life
Once you have learned to manage fear and to BE ready for anything that comes your way, you can begin to learn to love your life just as it is, even if you are surrounded by tragedy and pain. Here are some steps to consider:
Live according to what really matters to you. Let you values guide your choices each day and put your time and energy into the things that are most important.
Practice gratitude each day. Keep a journal and begin by writing down one thing you are grateful for each night before you go to sleep. Even in the worst of times you will be able to think of one thing to be thankful for–you just have to shift your mindset to a more positive focus.
Learn to find love in every situation. After you have developed a gratitude practice you will begin to notice that love is actually present everywhere, in everything that happens. Start focusing on the love and you will find it more and more frequently.
Allow love to fill you. You can become a channel for love to the rest of the world by simply letting love into your life in every possible way. Fill yourself with love so you can share it with others.
Life is an ongoing learning process! No lesson comes easily or without a certain amount of pain, but it’s worth it. If you begin conscious now and begin to live a life of love, then you will remain conscious when it becomes your time to die. You will continue to radiate beauty and joy to those around you–I’ve seen it happen over and over again!
Here are two books to help your learning process and your practice of death awareness: