A Chaplain's Reflections on Death Doula Training

A Chaplain's Reflections on Death Doula Training

As a hospital and hospice chaplain, I am finding the tools and perspectives explored in the Death Doula training to be very helpful. While I have clinical perspectives that are at the forefront of my connections with patients, they are ‘rounded out’ by the existential and practical insights of the training.  For example, a few days ago I was visiting with a palliative care patient in the hospital.  He has a new prognosis of less than a week to live, although he has been living well with cancer for years.....

Read More

Big Tom's Song

Big Tom's Song

Everything’s important and nothing really matters.”

This is the message relayed to me by my dear friend and brother before he died. A paradoxical statement creating a still point where we sit and witness.  In my attempt to give him merely a glimpse of how his life is reflected in mine, I produced a song.

Composed by singer and songwriter Jay Brown [another dear friend and brother]. In his composition he carried the message a step further…

Read More

Magic, Mystery and "No-Coincidence" on the Path to Becoming a Death Doula

Magic, Mystery and "No-Coincidence" on the Path to Becoming a Death Doula

In less than two months, I will take my first steps to join the growing numbers of conscious-death practitioners in North America. I will enter this privileged position as a Sacred Passage End-of-Life Doula trained and certified, by the host of this blog, the Conscious Dying Institute.

Like those before me, I come to this rich opportunity to serve the dying and their families through life experiences that are distinctly my own. Yet, with this training, I am joining a collective of peers and future colleagues with whom I imagine I already share something quite profound:  a comfort with mystery.

Read More

A Physician Reflects on End of Life Doula Training

A Physician Reflects on End of Life Doula Training

Creative ways of exploring death and dying in our community was the theme of the gathering where I met Grigsby and Anne a year ago. They were a notable couple: Grigsby, a tall, slender, intelligent, poised male - a Yale-trained historian and Jungian philosopher and Anne, a beautiful, eloquent and thoughtful woman – a former counselor. Recently, I had the honor of bearing witness to Grigsby’s dying process, an experience that has deeply impacted my thoughts about end-of-life care. Grigsby chose to consciously approach the end of his life with strength, equanimity, courage, honesty and mindfulness, with little medical intervention from the time of a terminal diagnosis until his death in his own home seven weeks later.

Read More

End of Life

End of Life

How do we communicate in our culture about the end of life?

A leading Hospice Society – “Hospice is about living. Hospice strives to bring quality of life and comfort to each patient and their family. Our successes are in helping a patient and family live fully until the end. Often patients will feel better with good pain and symptom management. Hospice is an experience of care and support, different from any other type of care.”

A leading Cancer Society – “Learning that you have advanced disease growing and not responding to treatment – may make you feel lost and afraid. At this point, you know that the cancer is not going away and the time you have left to live probably is limited. But knowing what to expect and being prepared to deal with it can enable you to get the support and care you need so you can have the very best quality of life possible.”

These expressions of how to be supportive at the end of life from both organizations is very closely aligned.  At the Conscious Dying Institute, we recognize that the end of life is a special time whose depth can transcend all involved regardless of training and approach.  

Read More

Wisdom Traditions Offer Many Practices for Death

Wisdom Traditions Offer Many Practices for Death

In last week’s blog, we explored the concept of practicing for death ….  a concept  we present in the first segment of the Conscious Dying Institute’s End of Life Doula Certificate program.  The name of this first segment is:  Conscious Dying Practices For Awakening NOW!  Along with a focus on awakening, awakening to our innate healing gifts and talents, awakening to the power of bold inquiry, awakening to the gift of presence, there’s quite an emphasis on practices, and not only our own practice for death meditation featured last week.

In keeping with one of the Conscious Dying Principles developed by Founder, Tarron Estes, “Honor other’s beliefs while staying true to your own,” our death doula training program introduces practices from many traditions.  Read on to lift your spirit with words and practices from other wisdom traditions.

Read More

Why Practice for Death?

Why Practice for Death?

In the first segment of the Conscious Dying Institute’s End of Life Doula Certificate program, students experience an immersion in preparing the self as a healing environment.  As such, we focus on self-care and nurturance, connecting to individual healing gifts, establishing and re-establishing a sense of purpose, and deepening awareness of our own desires, wishes and beliefs about end of life….. and in particular, our own end of life.  We do this through practice…..lots and lots of practice, with students participating in breath practice, communication technique practice, movement practice, and many other tools of the trade. 

Why do we Practice?

Read More

Deathing Care: It Takes a Community

Deathing Care: It Takes a Community

I’ve been asked many times what it was that sparked my fascination with all things deathly since 2012. Everyone has a different answer to this question – some begin exploring when they, because of age or perhaps a diagnosis, become face-to-face with their own mortality. Others, because they were left feeling unsettled after a bad experience with the death of a loved one. Still others intrinsically know that we need to retrieve the “old ways”, the knowledge and practice of folding death back into the arms of a family or community.

For me, it was a gradual waking up to realize that we had it wrong in North America.

Read More

End of Life Doula Training

End of Life Doula Training

To be trained and certified by the Conscious Dying Institute places you as a participant in the movement to Restore Death to its Sacred Place in the Beauty, Mystery and Celebration of Life, Create a New Wisdom-Based Culture of Care and Healing and Contribute to the Evolution of Human Consciousness.

Training represents a prime opportunity to expand your knowledge and skills. Skills that will be useful-- as we are all destined to be touched by death.  Through shared learning and practice, End of Life Doulas elevate the experience of deathing. They learn to surrender and trust deeply in each moment. The rich, intensive, life-evoking training graduates receive prepares them to be supportive end of life companions who offer comforting healing care guided by what people want and need most.

Read More

End of Life Training for a Seventeen Year Old

End of Life Training for a Seventeen Year Old

My father died when I was seventeen years old.  I was young and the thought that my dad would die never entered my mind.  It might not have entered his and it certainly did not enter the minds of anyone who knew him.  He was healthy, handsome and hearty.

When he died of a heart attack there was shock.  He was forty three years old with a wife and two children at home.  He passed in the middle of the night with EMTs, blinking red lights and a neighborhood that was awakened from its slumber. Walls were punched, screams were let loose and tears flowed.

I am about to celebrate my seventieth birthday and have survived my own heart attack.

Read More

How a Visit from Death Saved My Life - Part 2

How a Visit from Death Saved My Life - Part 2

This week we continue with the conclusion of Dr. Matthew Wilburn King's story about learning from death and illness as a teacher.  "Death and disease are not enemies; both can be great friends on our journey through life. We should embrace them."  We publish this with gratitude for Matthew, and for all the caregivers serving those walking with death.

The trainings at the Conscious Dying Institute offer the possibility of facing our own fears of death and gaining skills to be really present and helpful to others and their families as they pass through their last days. This is a healing path, the sacred work of being an End of Life Doula.  Trainings offered in Boulder, Vancouver, Asheville, Gainesville.

Read More

How a Visit from Death Saved My Life - Part 1

How a Visit from Death Saved My Life - Part 1

I knew I was going to meet the angel of death prior to his visit.

At first I felt trepidation and angst. I didn’t know what to expect from such a powerful spirit, but I knew that he might be coming to collect me, even if I wasn’t ready to go.

I had been diagnosed with Stage IVB of a rare blood cancer, and although my oncologist couldn’t state if I was going to live or die, he made clear that I had a 15 percent chance of survival. In other words, 85 percent of the people diagnosed at the same time as me with this rare blood cancer are now dead.

Read More

Beyond “Do No Harm” To Caregiving as a Spiritual Practice & Evolution of Human Consciousness

Beyond “Do No Harm” To Caregiving as a Spiritual Practice & Evolution of Human Consciousness

The Hippocratic Oath is meant to be a protection for both patient and clinician. Here is a modern version of The Hippocratic Oath which goes like this:

  • I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant: 
  • I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow. 
  • I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism. 
  • I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug. 
Read More

LOVE, LOSS AND RECONNECTION

LOVE, LOSS AND RECONNECTION

There is a lot for me learn about who I am.  Part of that learning comes from looking back in time and exploring how I feel about the loss of loved ones. 

My dad died when I was seventeen. For the last fifty three years I have carried a memory of who he was and wondered what we could have become together.  My Uncle Max, who was his best friend, and I had some wonderful conversations about who my Dad was and what he meant to both of us. I am indebted to Uncle Max for giving me a fuller picture of the man who was my father. I cherish those conversations, memories and have some understanding about how they have shaped my present day thoughts and behaviors.  Understanding that I needed someone to answer my questions about my father, and how helpful it was, had a bearing on the step that my buddy Mike and I recently took.......

Read More

Whole Person End of Life Care: Improving Joy in Caregiving & Triple Aim in Health Care

Whole Person End of Life Care: Improving Joy in Caregiving & Triple Aim in Health Care

The Sacred Passage Doula Certificate Program prepares caregivers from all disciplines and care settings to befriend death, surrender and trust deeply in each moment and restore death to its sacred place in the beauty, mystery and celebration of life. It builds communities of care and healing, benefiting all those involved in care and healing during critical illness and at end of life.

End of Life Doula Education supports achieving the "Triple Aim" in Healthcare by focusing on Care and Healing at End of Life

The IHI Triple Aim is a framework developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement that describes an approach to optimizing health system performance. Conscious Dying Education and Care answers the national, ethical, and cultural imperatives to develop new designs for health at end of life --simultaneously pursuing three dimensions identified by IHI-- called the “Triple Aim”:

  • Improving the patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction);
  • Improving the health of populations (systems, cities, organizations, families, communities)
  • Reducing the per capita cost of health care.
Read More

Two Years to live: A Student's Inner Exploration Brings Healing to ALL

Two Years to live: A Student's Inner Exploration Brings Healing to ALL

Spike entered our course with an enormous depth of heart, excellent communication, authentic loving healing presence and years of life experience in the realm of Spiritual Awakening. Even before we knew he was dying, he became our class Beloved as he shared his truth, understanding, and personal experiences during our time together. It was not until our last day together that we discovered that Stephen's heart, his physical beating heart, may stop beating in less than 2 years.

Read this beautiful story of his journey, of the courageous and remarkable task of self-healing before death, and what it was like for a man with a terminal diagnosis to receive the end of life care and education offered in this course.  

Read More

Improve Life and Health for Doctors: Reduce Physician Burnout with Conscious Dying Education And Care

Improve Life and Health for Doctors: Reduce Physician Burnout with Conscious Dying Education And Care

Most of us have had the raw and devastating experience of The Diagnosis: the harsh news that Death is coming to claim our loved one. In an instant our lives are turned up-side-down. Our stress level blows the top off the meter. We may be frozen in shock or in the free fall of tumultuous emotions which challenge our mental and physical health and make it impossible to carry on with daily life.

The human being on the other side of the desk, the doctor--the one tasked with delivering the horrible news--is also suffering. Besides not having had much if any training in end of life conversations, the average doctor is scheduled to see the next patient in less than 15 minutes.

“We are supposed to see more patients in less time and provide much more documentation. We work daily with human tragedy, illness, death, and loss. Many of us don’t take time off or debrief after adverse events or patient deaths. Instead, we move on to the next patient. It’s no wonder that more than half of physicians report being burned out,” said Joan M. Anzia, MD.

Burnout is characterized by exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced effectiveness—unhappy, stressed out doctors. Physician burnout has been shown to negatively influence quality of care, patient safety, and patient satisfaction.

Read More