EOLPodcast, Spirituality

Ep.254 A Call for Greater Kindness in a Suffering World

Three steps for increasing your capacity for kindness in a world that is polarized, divided, and suffering right now.

In this episode I’ll share some poems, stories and philosophical musings about our polarized world, which is filled with suffering, and how we can rise above our difference and our pain to show compassion and kindness to one another.

Listen here:

Featured poem from this episode:

SMALL KINDNESSES 

by Danusha Laméris 

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk 

down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs 

to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you” 

when someone sneezes, a leftover from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.

And sometimes, when you spill lemons 

from your grocery bag, someone else will help you 

pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other. 

We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, 

and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile 

at them and for them to smile back. 

For the waitress

 to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, 

and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass. 

We have so little of each other, now. So far 

from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange. 

What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these 

fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here, 

have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.””

— from Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection by James Crews, Ted Kooser

Links from this episode:

  • Get the poetry book here: Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection
  • Join the team at Patreon.com/eolu and get access to the EOLU mug“Mind if we talk about death?” (only Patrons can purchase it). PLUS get our new bonuses: the monthly EOL News Update, movie reviews from 2 Doctors and a Movie, and automatic access to A Year of Reading Dangerously!

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, Spirituality, Tragedy

BONUS 10: Love Over Fear – Stories for Precarious Tims

Welcome to this weekly bonus series of brief stories designed to touch your heart and offer you comfort, joy, laughter, and inspiration as we face uncertain times together! Remember always to choose LOVE over fear!

Story 10: What Life is Bringing Me Now

What Life is Bringing Me Now

Featured Quote:

Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning pp. 98-99

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. … Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual. … When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.”

Viktor Frankl
EOLPodcast, Grief, Tragedy

Ep. 241 Life in Italy During the Pandemic: Coping with Loss and Isolation with Claire Duiker PhD

Learn how people in Italy are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and what they would like us to know as we follow a similar path.

For the past few weeks we’ve been hearing heartbreaking reports from Italy about the devastation caused by COVID-19 and the efforts there to stop the spread of the virus. My special guest this week is my friend Claire Duiker who lives in Florence, Italy and will give us a personal view of day-to-day life under lockdown in her community. She shares her own coping process and what we can learn from Italy’s long history of suffering due to wars, plagues and invasions. Claire is a tour guide who is usually traveling this time of year in her job with Customwalks.com.

Listen here:

Life in Italy During the Pandemic

This episode includes:

  • The current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
  • What life is like for Claire under lockdown
  • How she is coping with her own stages of grief and loss while being isolated
  • The magnitude of this global event and why it is a privilege to witness history-in-the-making
  • How Italy’s long history of suffering through wars, plagues and invasions has led to a legacy of resilience
  • How the family-centered people of Italy are coping with being separated from dying loved ones
  • How isolation can help us confront our own egos and gradually become better people

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination …”

Mary Oliver – Wild Geese

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, mortal wisdom, Spirituality

Ep. 197 How Grief Unites Us to Stand Together in Love

Learn how to use grief and loss to build bridges with others.

PodcastGriefUnity

In this solo episode I talk about one of the key Mortal Wisdom lessons I’ve learned; everyone is grieving over something and grief can be a factor that unites us. This message is essential today as we face polarization and divisiveness that threaten to tear apart our society. I’ll discuss how to use our own grief to build a bridge toward others who are different from us.

Listen here.

 

This episode includes:

  • Why we need to stand together right now
  • How our grief unites us with others
  • What wisdom traditions teach about grief
  • Grief opens the heart to carry more love
  • How to utilize grief as a bridge to others:
    • Embrace your own grief and carry it lightly
    • Notice signs of mourning and grief wherever you go
    • Remember that everyone you meet has suffered loss and pain
    • Before judging another acknowledge that person’s suffering
    • Have conversations about grief and loss with those you conflict with
    • Find harmony with others
    • Share love rather than hatred
  • Beware of “dark forces” that are trying to use our differences to fragment society; find commonality in our grief to heal the wounds of the planet and our communities

Forget the nonsense of there and here, race, nation, religion, starting point and destination. You are Soul and you are love. … Love is the bridge between you and everything.

-Rumi

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 Patreon.com/eolu, especially my new Patron: Diane Button!

 

EOLPodcast, mortal wisdom, Spirituality

Ep. 193 The Thorn and the Rose: Pain as a Portal for Grace

Learn how to use challenges as a tool for growth and find grace in the midst of pain.

PodcastSuffering

In Part 7 of the Mortal Wisdom Series I’ll discuss how our greatest tragedies can ultimately lead us to growth through the gift of grace. As I prepare for the 30th anniversary of my father’s suicide death this week I share my thoughts on my own journey through grief. These are the lessons we can learn from our mortality and how to thrive in life while knowing that death awaits. Listen to Parts 1-6 first if you haven’t heard them yet!

Mortalwisdom

Listen here:

 

This episode includes:

  • How my father’s suicide changed the trajectory of my life
  • Why the remedy for pain is found “inside the pain” as Rumi wrote
  • There is no “other side” of the tunnel of grief
  • How our grief journey can only be viewed clearly in retrospect
  • How to “burn our pain as fuel”
  • The meaning of grace and how it arrives as a mystery
  • How sorrow prepares us for joy

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace–only that it meets us where we are, but does not leave us where it found us. – Anne Lamott

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 Patreon.com/eolu, especially my new Patrons, Robyn Mott and Amy Wallace; and thank you to Christina Ensminger for increasing your monthly pledge!

 

EOLPodcast, mortal wisdom, Spirituality

Ep. 183 How to Let Go of What You Thought Should Happen

Learn how to let go of expectations and your bitterness over life’s disappointments.

PodcastSurrender

This is Part 2 of the Mortal Wisdom Series and I’ll discuss the lesson of Surrender and why we need to learn to let go in order to experience joy in life. These are the lessons we can learn from our mortality and how to thrive in life while knowing that death awaits. Listen to Part 1 first if you haven’t heard it yet!

Mortalwisdom

Listen here:

 

This episode includes:

  • How suffering increases when we believe that things should have been different
  • How clinging to the need to control the events of life can lead to bitterness and regret
  • Life flows like a river and we cannot control or stop the flow by resisting it
  • Why staying attached to our expectations keeps us from experiencing what life is offering us in each and every moment
  • How to reframe disappointments by being curious about what life is bringing
  • Journaling practice to identify attachments and resentments so that they can be reframed
  • Bridge ritual for letting go of attachments and receiving the flow of life
  • Untying the knots as a practice for letting go (Thank you to our beloved angel Megory Anderson and her book Sacred Dying)

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 Patreon.com/eolu, especially my new patrons Alive & Mortal, Phyllis Nickel, JoAna Dwyer, and Seth Edelman.

 

EOLPodcast, Spirituality, Tragedy

Ep. 168 How to Find COMPASSION in Times of Suffering

 

PodcastCompassion

 

 

buddhafire
Photo credit: @NBCLA

Today I’ll share some thoughts on recent tragedies that have occurred near me this week, the meaning of compassion, and why at times we humans are not able to feel compassion for others when they suffer. Then I’ll share the words that have guided me to experience deeper compassion for many years. Download a copy of the Lovingkindness Blessing below:

Lovingkindness Blessing

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

DDCteachTune in to a series of brief webinars by 5 new teachers of death and dying classes. They share excerpts from their courses that we hope will inspire you to want to teach your own community class based on your knowledge, experience and passion for end-of-life issues. Click here to watch the webinars.

Teach about Death and #ChangetheWorld!

To further your own end-of-life education check out the Integrative Thanatology Certificate Program at the Open Center’s Art of Dying Institute at this link: https://www.opencenter.org/art-of-dying-intergrative-thanatology

FEATURE PRESENTATION:

In this episode I discuss:

  • Why we sometimes react negatively toward others who are suffering rather than with compassion
  • The meaning of the word compassion (“to suffer with”)
  • Why the ego rejects and judges the suffering of others
  • Why we must grow spiritually before we can experience genuine compassion for others
  • The lotus blossom as a symbol of compassion and spiritual growth
  • How the 5 verses of the Lovingkindness Blessing signify the necessary steps toward sharing genuine compassion during times of suffering:
    • May I be at peace
    • May my heart remain open
    • May I realize the beauty of my own true nature
    • May I be healed
    • May I be a source of healing for this world

You can help support this podcast and the EOLU Interview Series in 3 ways (THANK YOU in advance!):

  1. Tell other people about it who might enjoy this content
  2. Leave a review on iTunes
  3. Make a small donation ($1 per month) on my page at Patreon.com/eolu

Until next week …

Face Your Fear          BE Ready         Love Your Life

karen-signature

 

 

End of Life, EOLPodcast, Grief, Grief Travel, Tragedy

Ep. 118 How Travel Helped My Grief

Learn how travel can provide a “safe container” for healing grief and loss.

PodcastGriefTravel

kwadriatic.jpg
In this episode I’ll share my own insights into how the experience of travel can help with the process of grief. This is also the subject of the new book I’m writing (I did research for it on my recent trip to Italy) … I’ll share a brief overview here!

You can check out all of my Italy photos on Instagram!

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

virtualdeathcafecroppedEach month I host a “Virtual Death Cafe” with fascinating conversations about death, grief and the end of life. Anyone can join by telephone or online. You can learn more about it at www.eoluniversity.com/death-cafe.

Also, if you missed Death Expo earlier this month you can still access the replays at this link: www.eoluniversity.com/de17speakers.

Patreonbecome2xThis podcast is supported through the generous donations of my patrons on Patreon.com/eolu. I’m sending a HUGE THANK YOU to all of my current supporters – your support makes a big difference! Join the fun for just $1 or $2 per month and you’ll receive the “Patrons Only” Q&A recording each month (Hospice Happy Hour!) Go to Patreon.com/eolu to learn more and sign up!

FEATURE PRESENTATION:

During several of my travel experiences in the past I have been dealing with grief and have found the process of travel to be helpful. On one trip to Italy, my husband and I learned of the death of our brother-in-law on the day we arrived in Venice. Unable to cancel the rest of our trip and return home immediately, which we wanted to do, we stumbled through the remainder of the vacation and managed to make peace with our pain.

Here are some of my “takeaways” about how travel can help with grief:

  • Permission to wander aimlessly. On our Venice trip we canceled all of our sightseeing plans and activities. We started each day with a totally clean slate and just wandered the streets and canals of the city all day long. By following our intuition and our broken hearts we were able to enter into our grief without distraction or attachment. Had we been at home with family we would have felt obligated to “do something” and “be somewhere” but because we were traveling we were free of all expectations.
  • Seeing the big picture. Because we were freed up from the details of our daily life at home, we found more space to explore grief from a “trans-personal” perspective, as something bigger than just our own individual lives. Experiencing grief in another country allowed us to:
    • Recognize that all people, everywhere, experience the death of loved ones. Our mortality and the grief it causes us is the interconnecting thread that binds us to all of humanity.
    • Go deep into history. By visiting ancient ruins we can see that all of humankind, throughout history has dealt with the pain of loss and struggled to make peace with death. Our experience of grief is just one part of a vast “whole” picture of human loss.
  • Surrendering to grief to find joy within. As travelers “stuck” in another country even though we wanted to be home, we had no choice but to surrender to the pain that engulfed us. When we allowed grief to find a home within (and even “became” a living embodiment of grief) we also discovered a startling capacity for simple joy over the beauty of being alive. I’ve written this before: suffering hollows us out so that we can contain an even greater measure of joy … and also love.
  • Understanding impermanence. Strolling through cemeteries, relics and ruined structures of the past illustrated to me perfectly that everything that exists in the physical realm is impermanent and will one day dissolve away. Only love and the energy of life persist eternally. And it is the depth of the love we experience for others that causes the magnitude of pain we feel upon their deaths. Grief is one of the visible manifestations of love in the physical realm.
  • Learning how to navigate in unfamiliar territory. On our “grief trip” in Venice we simply wandered every day until we were hopelessly lost. We took in everything around us along the way–noticing all the colors and sounds and fragrances of life. And when we felt ready to return “home” we studied our maps to figure out where we were and to slowly find our way back to more familiar territory. This skill of navigating in the unknown will prove to be very helpful to us throughout life and especially during our own dying process as we struggle to get back to a home we can’t remember.

I hope you will take the opportunity to travel some day, even when you are experiencing grief, to experience the profound benefits it can offer!

Tune in every Monday for a new episode of the podcast! If you enjoy this content, please share it with others and leave a review on iTunes! Until next week remember:

Face Your Fear            BE Ready            Love Your Life

karen-signature

 

 

Hospice, Spirituality

Two Months to Live

As I write this my friend has just left the doctor’s office and returned to her part-time home in our community. She has learned in the last few moments that her cancer has recurred and is rapidly growing in her abdomen. For the next two days she will be packing up her belongings and loading the car for a long road-trip back home, where she will have to tell her family her shocking news: she is expected to live for just a few more months.

The calendar slips from her hands, along with her plans for the rest of the year: a college reunion during the summer, an autumn trip to Europe, a journal article she planned to write, a research project she intended to complete …

Everything has changed now. She moves slowly through the mundane motions of this day, in dazed confusion: folding the laundry, organizing the grocery list, sweeping the floor … But wait, does it matter? Does any of this matter?

She sorts through the belongings in her home, one-by-one: a book (I’ve read this three times), a teapot (My mother-in-law gave this to me), an old sweater (I got this on our trip to Alaska), and photographs … so many photographs. Each item surveyed and analyzed. Do these things really matter?

She is talking too quickly now, her mind jumping from subject to subject, trying to avoid the looming, inevitable reality that will overshadow and consume everything in its path over the next few weeks. Her conversation seems almost nonsensical to me as I struggle to grasp what is going through her mind at this moment.

She is all alone now. She has entered a place where her family and friends, no matter how close they are, cannot go. As a hospice physician I have walked this path with many patients in the past. And though the scenery has varied with each person, I have noticed certain landmarks throughout each  journey.

I cannot change my friend’s path or take away her suffering. I can only wait with her and watch and pray. For these coming days I shall look through her eyes and feel through her heart, observing life and all its oddities; noticing, while looking back from the perspective of death, what of this life really matters?