A doctor learns about death by caring for her husband at the end of his life.
My guest Dr. Martha Calihan has been a practicing physician for over 30 years but she didn’t learn about the end of life until she became a caregiver for her ill husband. She shares how she navigated those challenging days and how being a caregiver made her a better doctor. She is the author of A Death Lived – a memoir of her end-of-life journey with her husband Charles. Learn more at her website:
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Learn why being present for others is actually a perfect self-care practice.
My return guest Kirsten DeLeo is an international trainer with the Spiritual Care Program and teaches about contemplative caregiving. She is the author of the newly-released book Present through the End and will discuss how and why we should strengthen our own ability to be present with others as part of our spiritual care of the dying. Learn more at Kirsten’s website:
Learn some helpful advice for being a caregiver for a patient with dementia.
Today I talk with Kathy Flora who has served as her mother’s caregiver as she has journeyed through dementia. Kathy shares her wisdom and advice for those who find themselves in a similar role with a parent or other loved one. She is the author of the book “Walking My Momma Home: Finding Love, Grace, and Acceptance Through the Labyrinth of Dementia.” Learn more at Kathy’s website:
Learn how to cope with all of the ups and downs and challenges of being a caregiver for a loved one.
My guest Tandy Elisala knows all about the stresses of being a family caregiver having cared for both of her parents while raising 3 children as a single mom. She is the host of the Empowered Family Caregiver Podcast, an author, speaker, and coach and she’ll share her best tips and advice with us today. Learn more at her website:
This episode is sponsored by Authentic Presence training for healthcare providers from the Spiritual Care Program. You can receive a certificate in contemplative end-of-life care by completing this series of three courses, including an 8-day residential immersion retreat. Highly recommended!
Today Julie Saeger Nierenberg and Victoria Brewster join me to talk about their book Journey’s End: Death, Dying, and the End of Life, which is a compilation of quotes, stories and resources that look at death from various perspectives. In our conversation we discuss:
How Julie and Vikki ended up collaborating on this book
How the stories in the book are organized:
Personal Stories of Professionals and Lay People
Professional Support and Caregiving Perspectives
Funeral Home, Post-Death and Alternative Burial
Grief and Bereavement
How they chose the contributors for the book
The feedback they’ve received from readers
How this book of stories can be useful in many settings for both professionals and lay people
How to submit a story for the next book in the series which will feature various cultural, ethnic and religious perspectives on death and dying
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.
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 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 how Treya Wilber’s spiritual practice helped her transcend fear and die consciously as told in Ken Wilber’s book Grace and Grit.
In this episode I share a powerful and heartfelt interview with Ken Wilber where we discuss the subject of “Conscious Dying” and how the life and death of his wife Treya so beautifully teach us to live and die consciously, as told in the book Grace and Grit.
Whether or not death and dying are issues that concern you at this time in your life, you will find value in listening to Ken’s discussion of this important subject. Each of us must come to terms with our mortality in the physical realm and be prepared for an unknown future. Each of us also must face losing those we deeply love, and caring for them through illness and adversity.
We can learn from Ken and Treya’s experiences how to love totally and consciously during our lifetimes – and how to let go of that love and life itself when that time arrives for us.
This interview will cover:
The meaning of “conscious dying” from a spiritual perspective
Ken’s caregiver journey and how it became his spiritual path
How Ken and Treya “carried one another’s pain” during the course of her illness and dying process
The Buddhist practice of tonglen and why it was important to Treya
How the term “passionate equanimity” describes Treya’s approach to living and dying
Ken Wilber is a philosopher, sage, author and integral theorist who has been called “the Einstein of Consciousness.” He is:
The most translated writer on consciousness studies in the United States
Author of 22 books on spirituality and science –
A Theory of Everything
A Brief History of Everything
Sex, Ecology and Spirituality
The Integral Vision
Creator of Integral Theory – a model for organizing different perspectives of life and consciousness
His book Grace and Grit chronicles the life and death of his second wife Treya Killam Wilber.
Learn how this caregiver coped with his wife’s illness and rose above grief to experience unconditional love.
In this episode I share an interview with Joe DiNardo who talks about his book A Letter to My Wife and discusses how his long-term practice of mindfulness meditation helped him cope with being a caregiver and grieving his wife’s death.
Thank you to all of my supporters on Patreon.com/eolu who have helped keep this podcast on the air! We just had our first “Hospice Happy Hour” hangout last week and it was a great success.
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My guest this week is Joe DiNardo, an attorney from Buffalo NY, who served as a caregiver for his wife Marcia during her cancer diagnosis, treatment and eventual death. As a long-term practitioner of Vipassana meditation, Joe found that his mindfulness meditation practice helped him through the difficult challenges of caregiving and grief and he has much wisdom to share with us from the perspective of a family caregiver.
Joe is also the author of the newly released book A Letter to My Wife, which follows his journey with late wife Marcia, from cancer diagnosis through death. The website states that “His practice of mindfulness is explored throughout this heartfelt dedication and serves as the foundation for his recommendations on coping with loss and healing. His story, which includes both practical advice and profound wisdom, is a real-life example of how powerful and guiding meditation can be during life’s painful and challenging chapters. ”
In this interview you will learn:
What Joe learned about being a caregiver from accompanying Marcia through illness
His best advice for other family caregivers
How he discovered the practice of meditation and began to apply it to his life
How mindfulness meditation helped him on a daily basis during Marcia’s illness and throughout his own grief process