End of Life, EOLPodcast

Ep. 156 How to Talk to Strangers About Death & Dying

Learn some tips for starting important conversations about death with people you are meeting for the first time!

PodcastStrangers

 

IMG_4043In 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!)

 

Links to articles mentioned in this episode:

Tips for Talking With Your Loved Ones About the End of Life

How to Have Everyday Conversations About Death and Dying

How to Talk to Your Healthcare Provider About Your End-of-Life Wishes 

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

You can still sign up for A Year of Reading Dangerously online reading group and read one book each month about death, dying and the afterlife. Click here to learn more.

HealingChantsAlbumThis episode is sponsored by the album Healing Chants by Gia! You’ll love Gia’s angelic voice and ethereal music for meditation and relaxation. (Full disclosure: Gia is my daughter!)

You can listen to samples and purchase the album here.

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!

FEATURE PRESENTATION:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Until next time …

Face Your Fear            BE Ready              Love Your Life 

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End of Life, EOLPodcast, Grief, Hospice, Tragedy

Ep. 122 Top 10 “Game Changers” of 2017 for the Death-Positive Movement

Learn about my Top-10 picks for people, events and trends that have changed the end-of-life movement in 2017.

PodcastGameChangers

2017In 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.

Happy Holidays!

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Patreonbecome2xYou can support this podcast by making a small donation of $1 or $2 at Patreon.com/eolu.

 

FEATURE PRESENTATION:

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 Ungerleider and 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.

Until then remember to ….

Face Your Fear            BE Ready           Love Your Life

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EOLPodcast, Grief

Ep. 121 Holidays & Grief: The Dinner Party with Carla Fernandez and Lennon Flowers

Learn how The Dinner Party movement helps millennials cope with grief and some tips for managing grief during the holidays.

PodcastDinnerPartyBanner

carlalennoncollageIn this episode I share an interview with Carla Fernandez and Lennon Flowers, co-founders of The Dinner Party, a movement that is helping grieving millennials find community. I also talk about some of their tips for grief over the holidays.

Learn more about The Dinner Party here.

Download the Holiday Grief Guide from The Dinner Party here.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

griefluggagelg2ED-1149289_1280Check out my new blog series on Grief Travel and learn some tips for planning travel to help with grief. Go to eoluniversityblog.com to find the series and start planning your own grief travel experience.

 

Patreonbecome2xThank you so much to all of my Patrons who have made donations on Patreon.com/eolu this year! I am forever grateful for your support and encouragement. If you would like to help keep End-of-Life University on the air you can go to Patreon.com/eolu and pledge just $1 a month to receive bonuses like the monthly Q&A recording I call “Hospice Happy Hour.” You’ll also be able to listen to all of the replays from the recent Death Expo 2017.

FEATURE PRESENTATION:

My guests Carla Fernandez and Lennon Flowers are the co-founders of The Dinner Party, a movement to create community and meaningful conversation around the isolating experience of grief for those in their 20’s and 30’s. Younger adults often feel out of place in traditional grief support groups and Carla and Lennon will share how their own personal losses led them to start The Dinner Party, which has now grown across the U.S. and beyond.

In this interview you will learn:

  • The inspiration behind The Dinner Party
  • Why The Dinner Party reaches out to millennials
  • How participants benefit from attending
  • How to become a host for a Dinner Party
  • How Carla and Lennon are working to create supportive workplaces for the bereaved
  • What resources are available on The Dinner Party website for grief in the workplace and grief at holiday times

Wishing you and your loved ones much love, joy and light during this holiday season, no matter how you choose to celebrate. I’ll be enjoying Christmas with my family next week but there will still be a podcast episode so be sure to tune in.

If you enjoy this podcast please consider leaving a review on iTunes to help more people discover this information.

Until next time….

Face Your Fear              BE Ready             Love Your Life

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