This episode is sponsored by my book What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying. This book focuses on the spiritual lessons I learned from my dying patients and how they changed my life!
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 Kelvin Chin has helped people from all over the world look at and cope with their fear of death.
In this episode I share an interview with Kelvin Chin, attorney, mediator, and meditation teacher, who helps people address their fears of death individually and through workshops and lectures. He is the author of the book Overcoming the Fear of Death through each of the 4 main belief systems.
You can still join A Year of Reading Dangerously and spend 2018 reading one book each month about end-of-life topics. We’re having a great time so join us! Click here to learn more.
Thanks as usual to all my supporters on Patreon.com/eolu! I’m so grateful for your donations – they help me keep this podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series on the air!
My guest Kelvin Chin is the Executive Director and Founder of Overcoming the Fear of Death Foundation. Kelvin will share his experiences providing free counseling for people from all over the world to help them reduce their fear of death regardless of their belief system or culture.
In this interview you will learn:
How Kelvin started doing this work
The 4 Main Belief Systems about Death that cover all religions and cultures
How to help yourself or others overcome the fear of death
Why inner change is more important than changing external beliefs
How Kelvin’s talks and lectures about the fear of death are helping to reduce that fear for his audiences
The benefits of meditation in coping with our fears
Kelvin’s book is now available on Amazon. (NOTE: If you use my affiliate link to purchase the book I will receive a small commission from Amazon, which will not affect the amount you pay. Thank you!)
Tune in every Monday for a brand new episode! Leave a review on iTunes if you enjoy this content – I greatly appreciate it!
In this episode I’ll share my own “supernatural” dreams that occurred while I was caring for hospice patients. It’s time to come forward and talk more openly about these experiences to help shed light on the dying process and the after-death realms.
Register now for “An Evening with Ira Byock MD” which will take place on Monday August 21st at 6 pm Pacific/9 pm Eastern. We will be celebrating the 20th Anniversary of his groundbreaking book Dying Well. Dr. Byock and I will discuss the changes in palliative and hospice care that have taken place over the past 20 years and what changes still must occur to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to “die well.”
Click here to learn more and register (it’s free and you’ll receive the replay if you can’t attend live.) You’ll also receive the Dying Well Readers Discussion Guide – a very helpful resource for leading a book group or workshop on Dying Well.
This podcast is supported by generous donations to my page at Patreon.com/eolu. A HUGE “Thank you” goes out to my latest donor: Jane Duncan Rogers of BeforeIGoSolutions.com – a non-profit located in Scotland. And thanks as well to all of the other supporters who are chipping in a few $ per month to help keep the podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series on the air! Learn more or become a patron at Patreon.com/eolu.
I am currently planning an Autumn trip to Italy where I will be eating amazing food, viewing sacred sites, cycling, and researching a new book on grief. You can view my Pinterest board if you are interested in seeing all the locations on my “wish-list” for the trip. Feel free to make suggestions if you have a favorite spot in Italy that I shouldn’t miss! I’ll be sharing photos on Instagram and Facebook once the trip begins.
This week I attended a meeting at the IANDS 2017 Conference in Denver (International Association for Near Death Studies.) I sat together in a small circle with individuals from all around the country who have had near-death experiences and also with end-of-life caregivers who have had unusual “supernatural” experiences while working with the dying.
I was impressed by the courage of the group members who were willing to share their stories and risk being labelled as “flakey” or even crazy. And that’s what inspired me to record this podcast episode.
During my work with hospice patients on multiple occasions I experienced vivid dreams where I saw my patients in “soul form” (or a disembodied state) before they had actually died. These dreams brought me much comfort and also eased my fear of death. On some occasions I was able to share the dreams with family members who were comforted, as well, by the visions I had seen.
I have never shared these dreams publicly out of a fear of being ostracized by the medical profession. But the time for secrecy has long passed and we need transparency and truth in all matters surrounding death and dying. So I’m telling these stories in hopes that others might be inspired to talk openly about their experiences as well. If you have a story to tell but no one to share it with I hope you will email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and describe your experience – let’s support one another!
Tune in next week for another new episode. Until then remember ….
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.
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Tune in every Monday for a new episode and until next week remember: