In this episode I share my thoughts on how to approach the very difficult task of making an end-of-life decision about the treatment a loved one should receive. Many people are called upon to be decision-makers in these challenging situations and this episode serves as a guide for choosing the best option for someone we love.Download the handout below:
This episode is sponsored by Suzanne O’Brien and her training program for caring for others at the end of life at Doulagivers.com and by your generous donations on my page at Patreon.com/eolu! Join the team and receive special bonuses as a thank-you!
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Every day families are called upon to make nearly impossible decisions about the type of care a loved one should receive as they near the end of life. Here are some suggestions for how to navigate this challenging situation when there is no advance directive available for guidance:
Gather medical information from all healthcare providers involved in care
Ask direct questions:
What is the diagnosis and what complications have occurred?
What is the effectiveness of the recommended treatment?
What are the chances for recovery or improvement?
Are there side effects from the treatment or will it cause additional suffering?
What will happen if treatment is stopped?
What would you do if this were your loved one?
Get expert advice and guidance from a palliative care team if available in your hospital
Remember past conversations with your loved one that might give you clues as to his or her preferences for the end of life
Consider the statistics that most Americans prefer to die at home and most do not want aggressive treatment to prolong life in the face of an incurable condition
Ask your loved one for guidance by expressing your concern and your desire to make the best decision. Even though your loved one cannot verbalize, they can hear you – listen for any intuitive or “felt” guidance that might come to you about the best choice to make.
Be gentle with yourself and recognize that you have done your best in a challenging situation
Seek support from others outside your family
Tune in next week for another episode! Share this content with others who might it helpful and consider leaving a review on iTunes.
Learn some tips for starting important conversations about death with people you are meeting for the first time!
In 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!)
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!
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Learn how mothers and daughters cope with their changing roles as the end of life nears.
In this episode I share an interview with Kate Riley, author and death midwife, about our own relationships with our mothers and how they changed as we provided care to them at the end of life. Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there listening!
Thank you to my latest sponsor on Patreon.com/eolu: Marilyn Stoner. Thank you for support and thanks to all of my patrons – I appreciate your generosity very much!!
This episode is brought to you by my course Get Over it For Good: Healing the Hidden Wounds of Childhood. Learn to get over events from the past that keep you stuck and unable to grow. This is a self-study course that helps you identify your hidden wounds and discover the wisdom you can gain from them. Platinum supporters on Patreon.com/eoluwill receive a 30% discount on the course! Learn more about the course here.
My guest Kate Riley and I discuss the joys and challenges of daughters who care for their mothers at the end of life. Kate was the caregiver for her mother during the last 9 months of her life and shares her insights about that process.
In this interview you will learn:
The ups and downs of the caregiver journey
The benefits of presence at the end of life
How meditation helps with preparation for death
Death has its own mysterious timing
The pain of letting go of our mothers and being let go of by them
How caregiving helps us heal our relationships
Advice for daughters caring for their mothers
Kate Riley is a certified death midwife, minister, international story consultant, author and educator. She began private practice in compassionate end-of-life care after completing hospice training in the late 1980s. She serves as a liaison for individuals facing end-of-life decisions, working with their families and medical teams in providing a more person-centered approach. She encourages and supports those who want to take a conscious, active role in their own dying process. She is the author of The Green Velvet Journals and Launching Vee’s Chariot: An End-of-Life Tale. Kate lives in the Wood River Valley of Idaho—a great place to find balance in all of life’s stages. Her advanced training includes death midwife/doula certification through Final Passages and current enrollment in the California State University Palliative Care Chaplaincy program.
Remember to tune in every Monday for a new episode! If you enjoy this content please consider leaving a review on iTunes. Until next week:
Learn about the impact of unspoken grief on a young child after the death of a parent and why we need to do a better job addressing grief with children.
In this episode I share an interview with Rachel Stephenson, an author, speaker and educator, who shares the story of her mother’s sudden death when she was 5 years old and the lasting impact it has had on her and the lives of her family. Rachel’s TEDx Talk on the same subject has attracted a lot of attention and points out why we need to address grief and loss with children.
Watch Rachel’s TEDx Talk:
Sign up for A Year of Reading Dangerously reading group here and join us to read books about death, dying and the afterlife all year long!
Tune in to the 4-part webinar series Demystifying Palliative Carehere and learn all about the palliative care team members and their roles.
This episode is being sponsored by Gia’s Healing Chants Album – you’ll hear a selection at the very end of this episode. Click hereto learn more and purchase the album.
My guest is Rachel Stephenson, whose blog “Dear Dead Mother” and recent TEDx Talk have captured a great deal of attention online. We explore the process of grief, particularly for a young child who loses a parent, and how childhood grief differs from that experienced by adults. Rachel is passionate about opening the conversation about grief and loss.
In this interview you will learn:
the dangers of grieving in silence as perceived by Rachel
the experience of suddenly losing a parent through the eyes of a young child
what needs to change in our societal conversation about death
how to talk to a child about a death in the family
Rachel Stephenson is a writer, speaker, educator, and university administrator who is living fully with grief. She is currently the University Director of the CUNY Service Corps at The City University of New York, and her professional experience includes designing and implementing innovative experiential education programs in civic engagement, workforce development, and youth development; writing interactive curricula; facilitating/emceeing professional development workshops and special events; fundraising; and more at a range of educational institutions and non-profit organizations in New York City. She is married with three daughters. Though Rachel has not spent her career in the world of grief and bereavement, she has spent her life thinking about her own grief – her mother died suddenly when Rachel was five – and knowing that she would one day revisit her own story to connect with others about navigating loss.
Learn how our 100-year history of ignoring death has led to a death-phobic society and the consequences we face as individuals.
In this episode I share my thoughts on the negative effects, for individuals and for society in general, of our dysfunctional relationship with death. This topic leads into my theme for 2018: Death Education for Everyone, which you’ll be learning more about in upcoming episodes!
There’s still plenty of time to join the year-long reading group for 2018: A Year of Reading Dangerously. We just finished reading When Breath Becomes Air for January and are moving on to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty for our February selection. Click here to join the reading group!
Huge thanks to all of my current supporters on Patreon.com/eolu! I appreciate your generosity very much and also the emotional and spiritual support I derive from knowing that you are listening and that you care about the work I’m doing!
For the past century we here in the U.S. (and other developed nations, as well) have been gradually slipping into a state of ignorance about death. With the rise of modern medicine and the funeral industry, death has been removed from the home and from day-to-day life, allowing us to shove death into the far reaches of consciousness and to deny to ourselves that it exists.
But death is an essential component of life that cannot be ignored without causing some negative consequences. Today I’ll talk about these factors that result from ignoring death:
We think there’s always more time
We forget that life is fragile
We don’t cherish our relationships
We don’t appreciate change
We are unable to find meaning in life
We don’t live life fully
Here are the quotes I included in today’s discussion:
“Man … lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” – Dalai Lama
“Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” – Steve Jobs
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is true and important.” – Steve Jobs
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” – Norman Cousins
“Many people die at twenty-five and aren’t buried until they are seventy-five.” – Benjamin Franklin
So commit to start recognizing the presence of Death in your life every day until you can embrace and appreciate Death as a necessary component of Life. Then go out and start teaching other people to do the same thing!
Tune in each Monday for a new episode. If you enjoy this content please consider leaving a review on iTunes!