EOLPodcast

Ep. 366 The Death Conversation Game and Talking About Death with Angela Fama

Learn about a creative game to help foster conversations about death.

My guest Angela Fama is an artist and photographer who lives in Vancouver Canada and is also a recently trained death doula. She created the Death Conversation Game and facilitates online seasonal Let’s Talk About Death conversations. She will share how she became interested in exploring death as a subject and why she created the game. We will also play a few rounds of the game so you can see how it works! Learn more at her websites:

www.angelafama.com

www.deathconversationgame.com

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • Angela’s What is Love project
  • How focusing on love led her eventually to learn about death
  • Why Angela needed to talk about death after a serious accident
  • What inspired the Death Conversation Game
  • How playing a game helps facilitate conversations about death
  • Why it’s important for people to talk about death
  • How to create a safe, trauma-informed space to discuss death
  • We play the game to demonstrate how it works
  • Who might benefit from using the game in their work
  • How Angela’s time in Zimbabwe influenced her decision to become a death doula
  • Angela’s request for a collaborator to extend the reach of the game

Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?

The Flaming Lips from Do You Realize

Links mentioned in this episode:

  • Song: Do You Realize by The Flaming Lips
  • Get in touch with Angela: info@deathconversationgame.com

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If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu, especially my newest patron Martha Lundgren, and to those who have bought me a coffee and made a donation through Paypal! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 365 How to Live a Death-Aware Life with Karen Wyatt MD (ENCORE)

Learn the benefits of having a personal practice to increase our death-awareness.

In this encore solo episode I’ll be sharing with you research that shows that the human brain has a primal mechanism to protect us from thinking about and acknowledging our own personal death. Even those of us who study death and teach others how to prepare for the end of life can be in denial about our own mortality. However, living with “death awareness” is the best way to grow spiritually and make the most of every moment of life. My book The Tao of Death (with a companion journal) can be used for daily contemplation and help you become more death aware in your own life. Let’s talk about why we need to maintain our death-awareness and how to do it!

www.eoluniversity.com/taoofdeath

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • A study that shows the defenses against death-awareness that exist in the primitive human brain
  • Why personal death-awareness must be intentionally cultivated
  • How death-awareness can expand and transform our lives
  • Why daily death contemplation is essential to our growth
    • Think about the fleeting nature of life
    • Acknowledge fears of death and dying
    • Recognize barriers to awareness
  • Benefits of increased death-awareness:
    • Enjoy the present moment
    • Find comfort in stillness
    • Experience authentic gratitude for life
    • Experience awe
    • Become less attached to material things
    • Be more inclusive and less exclusive
    • See everything as sacred

Links mentioned in this episode:

Buy me a coffee

Donate on Paypal

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu and to those who have bought me a coffee (thank you Elisa Weger!) and made a donation through Paypal! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 361 Exploring End-of-Life Controversies Through Fiction Writing with John Byrne Barry

Learn about a novel that explores the moral dilemma of a son whose father asks him to end his suffering by hastening his death.

My guest John Byrne Barry is a writer, designer, actor, pickleball player, and crossing guard. He is the author of the novel When I Killed My Father: An Assisted-Suicide Family Thriller that explores what might happen if a son followed through on his father’s request to hasten the end of his life. He discusses how fictional stories can help us address controversial issues and find new perspectives on them and why he writes fiction “with a conscience.” Learn more about his writing at his website:

www.johnbyrnebarry.com

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • Why John chose to wrote a novel that addresses a family member helping a loved one end his life
  • How John did research for the book in order to understand hospice, end-of-life and right-to-die issues
  • How fiction can help us look at controversial and complicated issues and find more compassion for one another
  • How John portrayed communication issues, old family conflicts, and shadow wounds as obstacles to decision-making in the book
  • What John learned from writing this book
  • How end-of-life issues are becoming more visible in popular culture
  • What readers might take away from the book and apply to their own lives

Links mentioned in this episode:

Buy me a coffee

Donate on Paypal

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu, especially my newest patron Karen Hendrickson, and to those who have bought me a coffee and made a donation through Paypal! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 358 STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers with Mary Roach

Find out what happens when a body is donated to science and how cadavers have benefitted the living through various types of research.

My guest Mary Roach is the author of multiple New York Times bestsellers including STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, which has sold over 1 million copies and been translated into 17 different languages. She’ll tell us why she wrote this book, how she did the research for it and what she learned from this project. Her stories range from macabre to heartbreaking in this look at the “other side” of death that we rarely explore: how the deceased benefit the living. Learn more about Mary’s work at her website:

www.maryroach.net

View on YouTube

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • What drew Mary to write about cadavers
  • The surprising fact that this book sold over 1 million copies when it was first published in 2003 in our death-phobic society
  • What it was like to do research for this book
  • Which experiences were most challenging for Mary
  • How cadaver researchers cope with the trauma of witnessing human carnage
  • Why cadavers are our superheroes and the contributions they have made to the betterment of humankind
  • A touching ceremony Mary witnessed at the UCSF gross anatomy lab
  • What is a “beating heart” cadaver
  • How cadaver research has changed over the years

Links mentioned in this episode:

  • Order All the Flowers of the Mountain by Christina Holbrook here (and thank you!)

Buy me a coffee

Donate on Paypal

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu, and to those who have bought me a coffee and made a donation through Paypal! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 354 The Hospice Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide with Barbara Karnes RN

Learn about the basics of hospice care, when to consider it, how to talk about it with others, and what to expect during the dying process.

My guest Barbara Karnes RN is an internationally recognized author, speaker, thought leader and expert on end of life care. She is the author of the “little blue hospice book” Gone From My Sight: The Dying Experience, which has sold over 30 million copies worldwide in 12 different languages. Today Barbara shares her insights and stories about the hospice journey for patients and their families and walks us through each step of the process. Learn more about her work at her website:

www.bkbooks.com

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • When is it time to consider hospice
  • Why hospice care is a special type of medical care
  • How to find a good hospice
  • What it takes to care for a loved one at home
  • What hospice does and doesn’t provide for families
  • How to talk to a loved one about hospice
  • What to expect as death draws near
  • How hospice provides comfort and pain management

Links mentioned in this episode:

Buy me a coffee

Donate on Paypal

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu, especially to Jan Wessel for increasing your pledge! Also thank you to Thilda Zorn for your Paypal donation and Bob Hoffman for buying me a coffee! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 353 The Rebellious Widow: Love and Life After Loss with Jill Johnson-Young

Learn practical tips for navigating the caregiving journey and grief after the death of a spouse.

My guest Jill Johnson-Young is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has worked in hospice and as a therapist specializing in grief, loss, dementia, and trauma. She shares her personal journey as a caregiver for two spouses and as a “double widow” along with helpful tips for grief and how to break the “widow rules.” She is the author of numerous books about grief for adults and children including her most recent The Rebellious Widow: A Practical Guide to Love and Life After Loss. Learn more at her websites:

www.therebelliouswidow.com

www.jilljohnsonyoung.com

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • The “widow rules” and why they need to be challenged
  • How society judges grievers rather than allowing them to take their own unique path
  • How anticipatory grief helped with her process of grief after death
  • The importance of fostering intimacy for couples who are facing death (making “body memories”)
  • How medical and hospice providers often overlook the needs of the caregiver
  • What to say to couples dealing with a terminal illness
  • Why couples should discuss the caregiver’s future after death
  • Setting boundaries and asking for help as a caregiver
  • How she found “helpers” to connect with her children and watch over them during the dying process and funeral
  • The jarring moment when a diagnosis is received for both patient and caregiver
  • Challenges facing same-sex couples as they access care
  • Humor as self-preservation for medical staff and caregivers

Links mentioned in this episode:

Buy me a coffee

Donate on Paypal

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu, especially my newest patrons Janis Wiebking and Robin Blanche! Also thank you to Francis Pope Hewitt for your Paypal donation! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 352 Cross-Cultural End-of-Life Practices with Gary Wederspahn

Learn about fascinating end-of-life rituals from cultures around the world.

My guest Gary Wederspahn is a board member of the Final Exit Network and the author of a book and many articles on cross-cultural communications and relations. He has served as a Peace Corps Director in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Ecuador and has traveled in over 20 countries. He shares his passion for studying end-of-life rituals and traditions wherever he has traveled, including slides from many different countries. Learn more at these websites:

www.finalexitnetwork.org

www.thegooddeathsocietyblog.net

Watch on YouTube

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • What is appreciative inquiry and how it facilitates conversations
  • Why studying end-of-life traditions introduces you to the values and deep culture of societies
  • How end-of-life care has been outsourced here in the U.S. to our detriment
  • Mayan traditions around death in Guatemala during Dia de los Muertos
  • Three-part community cremation rituals in Bali
  • The “thin veil” between the living and the dead that is perceived in many cultures
  • How “continuing bonds” with ancestors help strengthen the family
  • The use of cremated ashes to make burial beads in Korea
  • How Vietnamese funeral processions resemble funeral parades in New Orleans
  • Ceremonial kites flown in Guatemala city to honor their ancestors during Dia de los Muertos
  • Zoroastrian custom of leaving corpses in “Towers of Silence” for vultures to consume
  • Ifugao people in high country of Philippines keep bodies of their ancestors in rafters of the house and bring them out during special events
  • “Bone collecting” ritual after cremation in Japan
  • Igorot hanging coffins in the Philippines
  • Tibetan sky burial also depends on vultures; Sioux burial platforms similarly rely on ravens to consume the body
  • How Gary’s exposure to the rituals of other countries has informed his own decisions for the end of life

Links mentioned in this episode:

Buy me a coffee

Donate on Paypal

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu, especially my newest patron Erinn Gregory! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 349 Why My Family Chose Hospice with Kathleen Vallee Stein

Learn about the hospice experience from the perspective of a family member.

My guest Kathleen Vallee Stein worked for the California Department of Aging and has written numerous articles on caring for aging patents for more than twenty years. Her work has been published in the Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Pasadena Star-News, Orange County Register, and the Jewish Journal. Recently she has written a book about her family’s experiences as her father faced the end of life called Loving Choices, Peaceful Passing: Why My Family Chose Hospice, and today she’ll share insights from that hospice journey with her father. Learn more at her website:

www.valleeview.com

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • How her family made the decision to choose hospice for her father
  • The challenges of having conversations about hospice with a loved one at the end of life
  • How the family had to bring up hospice with the doctor initially but he was helpful after that point
  • The relief experienced by the entire family and the patient once they made the decision to stop curative treatment and to enroll in hospice
  • Negative misperceptions about hospice are an obstacle to early admission
  • How her father’s temperament changed for the better after going on hospice
  • Why Kathleen hired in-home professional caregivers even though her parents were initially opposed to it
  • How they managed their parents’ financial issues as a family
  • Dealing with old family conflicts that arise at the end of life
  • How the hospice chaplain made a big difference for her father
  • The many positive surprises that arose during her father’s end of life
  • How they planned the funeral and made decisions about disposition
  • How she and her mother grew closer through the challenges of caring for her father at the end of life
  • Advice to those considering hospice for a loved one
  • Hope and “precious time” with her father in his last days

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 348 My Living Obituary: Legacy Therapy at the End of Life with Maggie Gannon and Heidi Connolly

Learn about a new platform that helps people create their own obituary or legacy project to benefit their loved ones after death.

My guests are Maggie Gannon, an Adult Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist who started My Living Obituary, and Heidi Connolly, an author, musician and intuitive coach who helps people write their obituaries. Maggie created My Living Obituary to help palliative care and hospice teams increase quality of life and improve patient experience. Heidi helps people using the platform craft their own stories to leave behind as a legacy for their loved ones. Learn more about their work at these websites:

Maggie: www.mylivingobituary.com

Heidi: www.theobitwriter.net and www.heidiconnolly.com

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • The evidence behind legacy therapy to enhance dignity at the end of life based on research by Dr. Harvey Chochinov
  • How telling our life story helps us find meaning in our existence
  • Legacy therapy helps improve quality of life and decrease depression for patients
  • Studies have shown that family members benefit from legacy therapy as well
  • Listening to patients’ stories has been shown to increase their sense of worth and value
  • How the legacy therapy platform can be incorporated into the intake process for patients and used to measure quality of life and bill for advance care planning
  • Tips for writing an obituary:
    • Just get started
    • You don’t have to be a good writer
    • Make lists of characteristics, preferences, stories
    • Find a good “hook” for the story
    • Include poems, music, videos
  • The benefits of having a guide and a platform to help people craft an obituary
  • Creating your own living obituary before you die helps unburden loved ones at the time of your death
  • How this platform allows unlimited space for obituaries, unlike newspaper obituaries
  • How clinical staff can use the platform to enroll new patients and assist them with the life review questions

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 343 When My Time Comes: Conversations About Medical Aid in Dying with Diane Rehm

Hear award-winning journalist Diane Rehm discuss what she learned about Medical Aid in Dying through conversations with people both for and against these laws.

My special guest Diane Rehm was the host of The Diane Rehm Show on WAMU and NPR for nearly 40 years with a weekly on-air audience of more than 2.8 million people. She is the author of 5 best-selling autobiographical book including her latest When My Time Comes: Conversations About Whether Those Who Are Dying Should Have the Right to Determine When Life Should End. She shares her experiences traveling the country and interviewing people about medical aid in dying for the book and the documentary film by the same name. Learn more at these websites:

www.dianerehm.org

www.whenmytimecomesmovie.com

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • Diane’s journey with her husband John at the end of his life
  • Why Diane was inspired to create the documentary (and later the book) When My Time Comes
  • How memories of Dr. Kevorkian may still create fear and negativity around this subject
  • Lack of joy in life is a more common reason for choosing MAID than physical pain
  • Why choosing MAID is different than suicide
  • Current facts about Medical Aid in Dying laws in the U.S.
  • Common arguments against these laws from religious and disability communities
  • Safeguards built into these laws to prevent abuse and coercion
  • Patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are not eligible for MAID
  • This option is not equally available to all groups of people across the country for multiple reasons
  • How Brittany Maynard’s story galvanized this movement
  • The goal is to allow choice for people at the end of life

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu, especially my newest patrons Erica Sanchez and Kelly Bean! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 341 Burial at Sea and Other Sacred End-of-Life Rituals with Olivia Bareham

Learn about the beauty of full-body burial at sea and why it is becoming a more popular alternative.

My guest Olivia Bareham is a certified Death Midwife, Home Funeral Guide, Interfaith Minister and Funeral Celebrant. She is the founder of the Sacred Crossings Institute, which provides education for death midwifery and home funeral support and of the Sacred Crossings Funeral Home. Today she discusses full-body sea burials and other unique alternatives she offers at her funeral home. Learn more at the website:

www.sacredcrossings.com

Read the transcript here.

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • How Olivia first became interested in home funerals
  • How Olivia is “paying forward” the mentoring she received as she was learning about home funerals
  • Death as a teacher and a gift
  • What inspired Olivia to start an alternative funeral home
  • What is full-body sea burial
  • How families and loved ones can participate in a sea burial
  • How to plan a full-body sea burial
  • Who might consider a sea burial for themselves or for a loved one
  • How Olivia facilitates rituals for families of ICU patients who are being taken off life support
  • How stillbirth services help parents with their overwhelming grief

Links mentioned in this episode:

  • Register for Q&A Session with William Peters on At Heaven’s Door here

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLU Blog

Finding Meaning in a Broken Life

Focus on the goodness of life rather than the regrets to find healing.

Jody was just 36 years old when she found out her colon cancer was incurable. I came to her apartment for our first hospice visit and saw that she was depressed and despondent over her diagnosis—as I had expected for someone her age who was raising two children by herself. She told me story after story of all the regrets she was carrying. And I just listened.

Her life had been unimaginably difficult—in foster care for most of her childhood then finally adopted at age 12 by a wonderful couple who loved her dearly. But she had been so filled with rage she couldn’t receive their love. She experimented with drugs and alcohol and was in and out of juvenile detention for petty crimes throughout her teens. There had been other even deeper regrets, but she didn’t want to talk about them. 

Jody was angry and bitter, but also ashamed. She believed she had wasted her life and now her children would grow up without a mother. She asked if there was any way to speed up her dying process because she could no longer face all of the emotional pain that was coming to the surface. 

We talked about things she could do to help with grief for her children, like writing letters to them that they could open at various milestones throughout their lives. She liked the idea that she could make sure her children didn’t feel unwanted, which she had experienced for most of her life.

I wasn’t sure how we could help Jody heal from all of these regrets. There were so many broken threads in her life and so many pieces to help her put back together. But then a little miracle happened. On my next visit with Jody she was like a different person: joyful and filled with energy and laughter. And she had more stories to tell me. 

Jody’s adoptive sister had come for a weekend visit and had brought with her boxes of old photos and a scrapbook. The two of them spent hours each day going through the photos together and gluing them into the album as a keepsake for Jody’s children. They wrote little stories on the pages to explain the pictures, which were arranged in a chronological timeline of Jody’s life.

She showed me each of the pages and told me entirely different stories than I had heard on my previous visit. Here was a family trip to the beach when she was 16. There was her favorite Halloween costume. And look: she was all dressed up for senior prom. Then there were pages and pages of pictures of her with her children: playing games, reading books, opening Christmas gifts, laughing, hugging, eating—all the little moments of life.

Jody wiped a tear away and smiled at me with a radiance I hadn’t seen before. “I’ve had a good life,” she said. “And I’ve been a good mom.” 

Here in her hands were the photos that documented all of the goodness of her life. In comparison to the magnificence of these moments, her regrets had faded away. She found meaning in the memories captured in these photos and was able to weave the broken threads of her life into a beautiful tapestry that was uniquely hers. 

Jody died just two weeks later. But she had been able to go through the album with her children and tell them all the stories that were depicted there. And she managed to write each of them letters that they could open when they were older. They would know they were loved and that their lives mattered and that an angel would be watching over them for all of their days. 

For most of us—like Jody—life hands us a mixture of sorrows and joys. We can view it all through the lens of regret and wish that things had been different. But we can also find ways to pick up the broken pieces and put them together to create a work of art–the likes of which has never before been seen–that might just change the world.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 340 Caregiver Crisis: Meeting the Needs of the Future with Jessica Zitter MD

Learn about the current crisis in family caregiving and what you can do to help.

My guest Dr. Jessica Zitter is a specialist in Critical Care and Palliative Care medicine and the author of the book Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life. Her work is featured in the documentary Extremis as well as her new film, Caregiver: A Love Story. Today she discusses the current crisis situation for family caregivers who are drastically overworked with little support. This is one of the most important topics we can address for the future! Learn more at these websites:

www.jessicazitter.com

www.caregiveralovestory.com

Read the transcript here. Watch video on YouTube

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • What inspired Jessica to create Caregiver: A Love Story
  • How film is a compelling medium for encouraging people to change their behavior
  • How medical providers are often unaware of the stresses facing family caregivers
  • More people are now dying at home than in the hospital which means there is huge need for caregivers
  • 1 out of 5 Americans is caring for a loved one at home
  • The burden experienced by caregivers is physical, mental and financial
  • We need a workplace culture that supports caregivers
  • Family caregivers are providing billions of dollars of unpaid work for an average of 4.5 years
  • Hospitals and doctors are doing a poor job of preparing caregivers for the tasks they will face – The Care Act requires them to provide education (but it’s not happening)
  • Hospice staffs are also burdened by the caregiver crisis
  • We also need to build up and support professional paid caregivers

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 339 Feng Shui for Hospice Patients with Char Tarashanti

Learn how paying attention to the small details of the surroundings can make a big difference in the wellbeing of hospice patients.

My guest Char Tarashanti is a retired Hospice Chaplain and Certified Feng Shui Consultant. She shares how the principles of Feng Shui can be applied to the care of hospice patients and improve the physical environment as well as the harmony and balance of the space. Her practical suggestions make it simple for any of us to create more pleasing and appealing surroundings for people at the end of life. Download her handout here:

Handout

Read Transcript

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • What is Feng Shui
  • How death is viewed within the Feng Shui tradition
  • How Char became interested in Feng Shui and in hospice work
  • The benefits for patient and caregiver of creating a more harmonious space
  • The essential elements of Feng Shui and how to apply them to a hospice room
  • How to manage clutter and get better organized in a home hospice setting
  • The two most important features of Feng Shui for hospice patients
  • How caregivers should communicate about any changes being made in the home before beginning the process

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu, especially my new patrons Aby Fy and Anne Janssen and to Richard Schneider for increasing your monthly pledge! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 338 Ask Doctor Death: Tough Questions About Tough Topics with Terri Daniel and Karen Wyatt

Learn how Terri Daniel and I used our experiences with loss and grief to motivate the work we do today.

In this episode I’m featuring a conversation I had with the Rev. Dr. Terri Daniel on the Ask Doctor Death Podcast, of which I am an occasional co-host. Terri is the creator of the former Afterlife Awareness Conference and now the Conference on Death, Grief and Belief, which will be held July 2022 in Portland OR. We share a wide-ranging discussion that includes our own personal stories and our spiritual journeys, which have brought us where we are today. Learn more about Terri and the conference:

http://www.danieldirect.net

http://www.deathgriefandbelief.com

Download transcript here

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • The grief experiences that brought each of us to do work focused on end-of-life issues
  • What it means to us to be spiritual but not religious
  • How we each have found meaning in suffering and grief (and why we wish everyone could)
  • How toxic theology can harm people at the end of life or during grief
  • What we disagree with about some contemporary advice given to those who are grieving (especially on social media)

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu, especially my new patrons Monica Kaniewska and Katharina Mack! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLU Blog

Don’t Focus on Regrets at the End of Life

Why it’s not helpful to ask dying people what they regret about their lives and what to do instead.

“Don’t waste your time in anger, regrets, worries, and grudges. Life is too short to be unhappy.” 

Roy T. Bennett

For some reason there’s been a buzz in the last few years about finding out what people on their deathbeds regret most about their lives. We hear this often: “they regret what they didn’t do more than things they did.” That’s fine to say and tends to be good advice for those of us who aren’t facing our last days. We can learn from their mistakes and pledge to live our own lives differently from now on.

In fact, research on regret as an emotional state has shown that it may be helpful for young people as a reminder to reconsider their current path and make better choices for the future. But when regret occurs in situations where there is no chance to change the current circumstances or make things better, it can cause chronic stress and do both physical and emotional harm. Individuals who feel they have no path forward can experience guilt, self-blame, disappointment and depression as a result of spending their time focusing on their regrets.

Regret sells

However as a society we are drawn to learning about the regrets of other people because we fear making mistakes or missing out on opportunities. We are eager to benefit from someone else’s suffering if it means we can avoid the same path for ourselves. Advertisers rely on our fears by using regret as a motivator to sell products, such as “this person didn’t buy from us and paid more money for worse service.” We don’t want to be the foolish person who regrets their choice so we pay attention to messages like that and we buy products, books and courses that teach us how to avoid these costly mistakes.

Not helpful at the end

There’s nothing really wrong with this tactic except when it applies to people who are nearing the end of life. Because they may not have time to repair the past or forge a new direction in the future, they have no opportunity to truly learn from their regrets. Placing their attention on the mistakes of their lives may lead them to despair and a feeling of worthlessness as they prepare for the end, especially if you are unable to guide them beyond their self-blame.

Do this instead

Instead of asking “what regrets do you have from the past” we would be better advised to ask “what are you grateful for in your life” or even “are there things left undone that you would still like to address.” If the person wants to talk about regrets it’s fine to go there, but it’s not helpful to introduce the topic to them if they’re not already thinking about it. Viewing life as a series of mistakes or regretful events is painful and creates a spiral of negativity. But we can help people avoid that downward spiral and lessen their distress by asking better questions.

Listen and find meaning

People at the end of life generally benefit greatly from doing a life review and being able to tell their stories in a safe setting. The art of being a good listener includes helping them find meaning, connection and resolution through their own stories without judgment or shame. To truly help a person find peace at the end of life focus on forgiveness, gratitude for what life has offered, self-compassion and letting go of self-blame. But don’t ask about regrets unless you know you can lead them out of that dark place to a higher, more healing perspective.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 330 The Legacy of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross with Ken Ross

Learn about the paradigm-shifting work of Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and how her son carries on her legacy through the EKR Foundation.

My guest Ken Ross, son of Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, is the founder and current president of the EKR Foundation. He discusses the foundation’s mission, which is to enhance compassionate care for the seriously ill and dying, as well as his mother’s important work and legacy. We talk about Elisabeth’s life and pivotal moments that influenced her to focus on death and dying, as well as the resistance she met during her lifetime and the criticisms of her work that continue to this day. Learn more about the EKR Foundation at this website:

www.ekrfoundation.org

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • What is was like for Ken growing up in the midst of his mother’s groundbreaking work
  • How Elisabeth was inspired to focus on death and dying as a medical doctor
  • The many challenges and controversies Elisabeth faced throughout her life
  • Elisabeth’s book On Death and Dying (published in 1969) and how she conceived of the stages she observed in her work with terminal patients
  • The criticisms of the 5 stages model and why they represent a misunderstanding of Elisabeth’s original intention
  • How Ken supports his mother’s legacy through the global work of the EKR Foundation
  • Upcoming classes being planned by the foundation
  • Elisabeth’s final journey as a patient needing care from others
  • Lessons Ken learned as a caregiver
  • How Elisabeth’s personal interest in mysticism and the afterlife helped her at the end of her life

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 329 Shared Death Experiences: How They Transform Dying and Living with William Peters

Learn about shared death experiences and how they can lessen the fear of death and help with grief.

My guest William Peters is the founder of the Shared Crossing Project and is recognized by many as the world’s leading authority on the shared death experience (SDE). He discusses SDEs and what he has learned through his research, including how these experiences benefit those who have them. He is the author of the book At Heaven’s Door: What Shared Journeys to the Afterlife Teach About Dying Well and Living Better, which will be published by Simon & Schuster in early 2022 and we talk about it in this conversation. Learn more about William’s work at his website:

www.sharedcrossing.com

Order the book here

OR Find an independent bookseller near you

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • What is a shared death experience
  • What happens during a shared death experience
  • Who is likely to have an SDE
  • What is the Spectrum of End-of-Life Experiences
  • How do SDEs benefit those who have them
  • Are SDEs becoming more accepted in our society
  • The ongoing research being conducted by the Shared Crossing Project
  • Advice for those who may have experienced an SDE without understanding it
  • How to increase the likelihood of having a shared death experience
  • How to submit your story to the Shared Crossing Project if you feel you have had an SDE

Links mentioned in this episode:

  • Book: The Art of Dying by Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick
  • Research Article: American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu, especially my new patron Jennifer Blalock! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 328 Sacred Death Care and the Deathwalker Archetype with Sarah Kerr PhD

Learn how to tell if you’ve been called to be a “deathwalker” and how to offer sacred care to others at the end of life.

My guest Sarah Kerr has been a death doula, ritual healing practitioner, and trainer since 2012. She draws on nature-based spirituality, sacred sciences, and the richness of the human soul in her work and she is the founder of The Centre for Sacred Deathcare. She discusses the “deathwalker archetype,” how many people are being called right now to do this work, and the courses she offers to help us create more complete maps for dying, death and bereavement. Learn more about Sarah’s work at her websites:

Education and training: www.sacreddeathcare.com

Death doula services: www.soulpassages.ca

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • How Sarah was drawn to the work she does as a death doula, ritual practitioner and trainer
  • Why social healing requires getting accustomed to endings and death
  • How death care helps us merge our knowledge of science and spirituality
  • How The Centre for Sacred Deathcare got started
  • Challenges and blessings that have arisen from COVID
  • Simple, personal rituals for being present during difficult times
  • What is the “Deathwalker Archetype” and how to know if it is active in your psyche
  • How Western medicine leaves out the Soul when dealing with health issues
  • Why we need new maps for dying, death and bereavement
  • The 3 maps of The Soul’s Journey Course Sarah teaches
  • Why Deathwalkers need to be in community with one another

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu, especially my new patron Lelia Ball! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 327 Warm Water: The Last Act of Compassion in Hospice Care with Pepper Cappuccio RN

Learn about the unique stories gathered by a hospice nurse who works primarily on-call during after-hours shifts.

My guest Pepper Cappuccio is a registered nurse who has worked in hospice care for over 12 years. As an on-call nurse who frequently works evenings and weekends he is often present at the time of death for patients or shortly thereafter. He is the author of the book Warm Water: The Last Act of Compassion, which consists of stories of patients and families he has helped throughout the years as they navigate the last hours of life. He discusses the uniqueness of his work and shares stories about experiences in hospice that have changed his life. Learn more at his website:

www.peppercappuccio.com

Get Warm Water:The Last Act of Compassion here

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • How Pepper was inspired to become a hospice nurse
  • Why he is willing to take night call for his hospice and how it differs from field work during the day
  • How he uses music as a source of calming or inspiration in his work
  • How he chose the stories he included in the book to represent a cross-section of patients served by hospice
  • What it’s like to be a male nurse in a traditionally female profession
  • Why families need support during the hours shortly after the death of a loved one
  • What Pepper has learned from his hospice work and what he hopes readers will take away from his book
  • Special stories of synchronicity from the book

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu, especially my new patron Cindy Spence! Your contributions make all the difference.