End of Life Doula Resource: Find something that inspires.....

Practicing self-care is of utmost importance to End of Life Doulas.  And sometimes it's as simple as a deep, calming breath, a conscious rinsing of your face, or an inspiring verse.  May this poem bring comfort and care to those at end of life and those who serve them.

Eagle Poem, by  Joy Harjo  

To pray you open your whole self

To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon

To one whole voice that is you.

And know there is more

That you can’t see, can’t hear;

Can’t know except in moments

Steadily growing, and in languages

That aren’t always sound but other

Circles of motion.

Like eagle that Sunday morning

Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky

In wind, swept our hearts clean

With sacred wings.

We see you, see ourselves and know

That we must take the utmost care

And kindness in all things.

Breathe in, knowing we are made of

All this, and breathe, knowing

We are truly blessed because we

Were born, and die soon within a

True circle of motion,

Like eagle rounding out the morning

Inside us.

We pray that it will be done

In beauty.

In beauty.

Joy Harjo, “Eagle Poem” from In Mad Love and War. Copyright © 1990 by Joy Harjo. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

End of Life Literacy Protects us ALL

End of Life Caring Literacy Protects Us All

Caregivers encompass uncountable numbers of an often poorly educated workforce who take care of our loved ones when we cannot. These caregivers live in our communities. They become a part of our homes and families. Increasing caring literacy for these medical and non-medical caring professionals is a way to give back. It provides a career path that not only stabilizes caregivers in the fundamental science and stages of dying, but it may increase spiritual awareness, loving kindness to self and other, and overall sense of well being as well.
 
Increasing end of life literacy may positively influence the patient’s experience of care, decreasing pain and suffering in our communities. It may expand our understanding of “do no harm”.  In our time of deepest vulnerability, frailty, and dependence, caring literacy protects all of us.
 
Validating Roles of Caregivers

By validating the work of caring professionals as Sacred Passage Guides, we confirm the worth and value of caregivers who dive into the turbulent, complex waters surrounding the stages of life, illness and death for all of us. When we bring human caring sciences to our home caregivers—the foreign laborers, single mothers, family members, volunteers who keep vigil at the bedside of those who are dying, those who midwife us to the other side—we invest in our own good death and we give legitimacy - an honored role to non-medical caring professionals. We validate and honor one of the oldest caring professions on earth.
 
Let’s talk about it: Conversational Confidence 

Though America's view of Death is changing rapidly, talking about death is one of our culture’s top taboos.  End of life caring literacy program invites us to explore our hopes and fears about dying in advance of the onset of death. Exploring our relationship to death may increase self-knowledge. It may break down barriers between ourselves and others when we most need comfort, communion, trust and safety. When we explore our feelings and thoughts about death, we learn more about our lives now. We come in direct contact with our spiritual beliefs, our life’s purpose, our unfinished business, what our bodies need or want, how we influence and are influenced by our environment and our relationships. We build a foundation of confidence upon which we may then talk about life and death with others. By becoming confident in our ability to talk about death we may have more influence on how we live and how we die.  We might reduce harsh, costly interventions that threaten what we value most. We may reduce emotional and financial stress of our families, health care systems and nation. We might place our awareness and attention on our loved ones or on our spiritual life vs. living at any cost. We may be more available to life’s blessings, mysteries, miracles and unexplainable events.

Acknowledging Mysteries and Unexplainable Events

Most caregivers attending at end of life bear witness to mysterious and unexplainable events that happen around the dying process. Most of these events have a feeling of awe and mystery. They deserve our respect. They deserve to be shared and acknowledged.

Recently I heard this story from a caregiver: “I was with an elderly nursing home resident when she died. She hadn’t had her eyes open or spoke in about a week and all of a sudden she opened her eyes, smiled, and said in a very clear excited voice, ‘Oh, Winston. You’re here. You’re okay.  Yes, Yes, I’m coming Winston.’ The elderly woman turned to the caregiver and said,  “Tell my family that Winston and mom are okay.”  The caregiver said that she then closed her eyes and died.

The care giver followed her intuition and told the story to the elder’s family. In doing this the caregiver discovered that Winston was the elder’s younger brother who died in a fire in the arms of her mother over 30 years ago....

Click here read entire article

Breaking Into Light

Accounts of subtle energy as factual reality have existed since the beginning of recorded time - experiences with angels, devils, fairies, elves, gods, heaven, the void, mysteries, colors, sounds and miracles - a whole universe of mysterious events during life and death.  

Is there something inherent during the dying process that can transform our experience of ordinary reality?  What if a traditional, clinical education included training in how to validate and support the experiences of those who speak of traveling back and forth between this life and the next?  How would this impact caregivers and their ability to serve the sick and the dying if they were introduced to the subtle energy realms, and allowed to express their own understanding of them?

Excerpted from: Breaking Into Light by Tarron Estes, Natural Transitions Magazine.  Read full article.......

What does it mean to "Occupy Death"?

“We can't control if we'll die, but we can occupy death” in the words of Peter Saul, an emergency doctor. He asks us to think about the end of our lives — and to question the modern model of slow, intubated death in hospital. Two big questions can help you start this tough conversation.

What does it mean to Occupy Death?  I think it means to Embody, transform our current death denying cultural. Just as there is no prescription to cure death, we cannot “proscribe” how to attend as people are dying.

Five Gates of Grief

Francis Weller’s Five 5 Gates of Grief are a profound inquiry. Identify your loses in each of the gates. Provide Emotional support for yourself and those facing death and loss. Everything you love you will lose. Places inside you that have not known love.  Sorrows of the world. What we expected and did not receive. Ancestral Grief: bodily holding from grief of our ancestors. Watch Francis Weller Video below.

And Join us for sacred circles and rites of passage in our End Of Life Doula Certificate!  http://www.consciousdyinginstitute.com/events/

“Death is But a Dream” with Dr. Christopher Kerr

Are the visions and visiting of those facing death illusion or a part of the dying process itself? Watch this trailer for the upcoming film: “Death is But a Dream” with Dr. Christopher Kerr! http://deathisbutadreamfilm.com/

Personal Dreamwork

Sessions With Tarron

“Tarron’s dream work is truly eye-opening, inspiring, and deeply insightful. My life, both waking and sleeping, has been enriched with a deeper resonance and understanding of my dreams and their import in my life. In her group work, she creates an environment where we all learn from each other’s dreams, while offering numerous techniques for self-investigation. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her!” — Elisabeth Thomas

Contact Tarron for Dreamwork Sessions and End of Life Coaching Sessions @tarron@consciousdyinginstitute.com

Enroll for our End of Life Doula Certificate and learn more about Acknowledging Mysteries and Unexplainable Events http://www.consciousdyinginstitute.com/events/

Acknowledging Mysteries and Unexplainable Events with Dr. Christopher Kerr

Validate the nearing death visions and dreams of those nearing death…watch this powerful Tedx video by Dr. Christopher Kerr! Enroll for our End of Life Doula Certificate and learn more about Acknowledging Mysteries and Unexplainable Events Enroll for our End of Life Doula Certificate and learn more about Acknowledging Mysteries and Unexplainable Events http://www.consciousdyinginstitute.com/events/

Sacred After Death Care

Grassroots movements throughout America take back care of their loved ones after death with Sacred After Death Care, Rituals for the body and green burials.  Read this article called: “A Perfect Ending”. 

Join us for Our end of life doula certificate! It offers demonstrations and information about this grassroots sacred after death care.   Our next Boulder training begins:  Jan 27, and in Vancouver:  Feb 11.   More info: http://www.consciousdyinginstitute.com/events/.

New Year's Resolutions - Making them a NEW Way!

Make New Years resolutions a new way: "Before I die I want to ___." TED Fellow, Candy Chang turned an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood into a giant chalkboard asking a fill-in-the-blank question: "Before I die I want to ___." Her neighbors' answers were surprising, poignant, funny, becoming an unexpected mirror for the community.  What do you want before you die?

News: Interviews and Articles

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The BBCRadio News Hour London recently interviewed Greg Lathrop, R.N. Greg is a Sacred Passage: End of Life Doula and Conscious Dying Institute Faculty. Greg describes how he "walks beside, and just a little behind" his dear friend and patient, Tom. He describes how being an End of Life Doula is a way to "return to the old ways in a new way".  Listen to interview.....

 

"What End of Life Care Needs Now: An Emerging Praxis of the Sacred and Subtle" by Wiiliam Rosa,MS, RN, LMT, AGPCNP-BC, CCRN-CMC, Caritas Coach and Tarron Estes

Conscious Dying Institute (CDI) is paving a new path…one emerging from awareness, humanity, dignity, caring consciousness, and a return to the sacred. {In this work} we Explore an Emerging Archetype: The nurse as healer…a universally recognized professional archetype that extends beyond clinical specialty, culture, gender, credentials, or disciplinary worldview…Read more....
Visit Advances In Nursing Science Issue

 

 

Conscious Dying and Cultural Emergence: Reflective Systems Inventory for the Collective Processes of Global Healing by William Rosa MS, RN, LMT, AGPCNP-BC, CCRN-CMC, Caritas CoachPublished in: Beginnings | American Holistic Nurses Association October 2014

How do you want to die?  Not if you die, but when…how do you want to do it?  Better yet, how do you want to be cared for during your final moments? Do you envision a serene transition of integrity and dignity? Is death a mystery you fear or a celebrated rite of passage?  Let’s not be idle with our time but spend these moments together confronting some deep truths present before everyone, again, giving pause to the sacred nature of a continually emerging quandary: How do I want to die?

Death is the instinctual exhale to our inhale, wane to our wax, and stillness to our frenzy. It is the truth beyond all perceived and subjective relevance and the bottom line to our overly articulated, seemingly justified rationales with which we defend our positions. It is the deal-breaker, the game-changer and the silver lining all in one. Ironically, death is an elusive, inexplicable phenomenon and yet, we confront it more closely and encounter it more deeply with each passing moment. Death halts the physical life, whether abruptly or protractedly, and, in the midst of the dying process (and in the stewardship of said process), space is created for dignified caring, compassionate practices of bodymind-spirit-heart, and humanizing the ethical values inherent within the holistic paradigm. Read full article.....

Grieving is “Praising Life”

December offers many joyous gifts. And because this month has the highest death rates of all months, there can be sadness and grief for many. Our End of Life Doula program offers practices for Grief. Of these practices, one graduate said: “The grief ritual was an amazing opportunity.... it may be a once in a lifetime experience.”  Listen to Martin Prectel in a powerful talk on grief:  Grieving is “praising life” 

How do we talk to our parents about death?

"How do I talk to my parents about Death?"

In the best of worlds, all our loved ones would have a beautiful, clearly outlined shared vision for their final days, weeks, months of life.

Even though we hear more and more about the importance of "The Conversation", most of us find it difficult to talk about death with those we love. This is normal and so beautifully human.

As adult children, we have lots of mixed feelings fully alive, in play, and in conflict when considering this conversation with parents. We often feel love, fear, desire, and helpless, and sometimes guilt.

These feelings signal that something is very important to us. We can use these feelings to help us get closer to our loved ones and to approach the conversation with increased vulnerability and more success.
    So before talking to anyone about death, Ask:
Why is it important to ME?  Why do I want to know?

Here are some reasons why:
Because we love. We care. We want to be there or want someone to be there. We want to be a positive support. We want to know so we can give our family what they want even if it isn't what WE want. Because we want to know how to support them to have a blessed, beautiful transition and die in a good way. In Their Way vs our way.

Remember this is about YOU. You are the one who wants to talk. So start the conversation with:
"Hey mom. I love you so much, andI need to talk to you about something that is really hard and important to me."

Generally if our parents or loved ones feel that we need their help and why, they are very open and willing to offer up some beginning words about what they want. EVEN if it is "I Don't Know!"  So come to your parent as a person needing their support. This includes telling them how much you love them and how much you want to take care, be there, love them, make this time good for you and everyone. And to do that, YOU need Them.

Second:  This is a not a one shot"conversation". It may take many times to complete. No one I know had it all planned out in one sitting.  With my dad, it took about 3 years over many dinners, vacations, and sometimes in between television commercials to understand and make plans with him and for him.

Third: Speak to this person in their own language and with their own images, metaphors, stories. It's important to share your own thoughts and feelings about what you want, too. This can help stimulate creativity and thinking. But Remember the nature of the person you are having this conversation with. What era were they born into and what is their capacity to vision about a good death? Lots of people born in the 20s/30s/ even 40s are able to think about how they want to be "buried" and that is about as far as it goes.

Fourth: Read A Mother's Final Gift. My mom and I are reading it together. She can't put it down.  It is a story --the type of book written in a language my mother loves about another woman her age. It portrays a beautiful, thoughtful, end of life vision and how her family found their pleasure in supporting her every wish. It is a treasure and it has opened a path for both of us to talk about what we want.

Rites of Passage or Right to Die?: Beyond legsilation for end of life

Beyond “Right to Die” to Rites of Passage: An Alternative view of Canada’s Legislation

Recently Canada’s parliament decided: “Canadians should not need to be terminally ill to access doctor-assisted dying, and those with mental illnesses or psychiatric conditions should not be excluded, a new parliamentary report says.” Laura Stone, The Globe and Mail, February 25, 2016.

What does this really mean? I believe it reflects a heightened listening to humanity's desire to restore death to its sacred place in the beauty, mystery and celebration of life.

Legislation such as points to a beautiful, natural human desire to move beyond helplessness, beyond hopelessness, beyond do no harm, to offer compassionate compassionate human care in the face of extraordinary suffering.
 
Our systems may open the way for compassionate end of life choices, but far greater is our personal desire to respond to the emotional, physical and existential suffering of families, friends, and patients facing death. Far greater is a growing desire to "Occupy Death". To be with our people and those we love in ways that not only ease suffering but inhabits the dying time as portal for the evolution of human consciousness.

As a culture of humans now highly dependent on law and medical authority, the true call is to Go Beyond “Right To Die” toward seeing and creating our deaths as a “Rite of Passage”. Deaths that bring healing and transform all involved as we remember how to connect with ourselves and each other, communicate with confidence and compassion, and comfort those we love in this last great rite of passage.

End of Life Doulas are frontline caregivers who offer healing vs.curative care to families and patients during critical illness and the dying process. They work in teams, being available around the clock before, nearing and during death. Their compassionate presence increases quality life moments of the families and patients they serve. The presence of an end of life Doula at bedside assures that families and loved ones can focus on what is most important throughout the dying time. What a relief it would be to know that a Doula could be there for you.

A recent Huffington post article noted that education of frontline caregivers Is THE MOST important single step in providing excellent patient care while our health care systems navigate the increasingly complex health needs of 76 million aging baby boomers and manage the high cost of medical expenses and poor patient satisfaction at end of life.
 
In the early 80s, Elisabeth Kubler Ross talked about this very thing: the imperative for a new model of end of life education for clinicians and caregivers. For without this new form of education, she believed, the fear based culture of death and dying and restoration of human dignity for patients and families and their ultimate healing would not be addressed.
 
Conscious Dying Education addresses this imperative by training Doulas who create healing care for the dying. Since opening October 13th, 2015, we have trained over 450 End of Life Doulas. Our transformational education brings a sacred caring healing philosophy and experience of wholeness back to caregivers who serve at end of life as awakened beings.Their loving comforting presence increases life-giving moments of families and patients in home and health care settings in the U.S. and abroad.

Let’s work together to increase the authentic loving, healing presence of caregivers who serve our families friends and loved ones through turbulent yet transformative moments of dying.

Join The Conscious Dying Institute in forwarding our mission to restore death to its sacred place in the beauty, mystery, and celebration of life.

  1. Become a Conscious Dying Educator  If you are a clinical leader, clinician or system executive, our programs can increase quality care and positive system patient satisfaction scores by training staff in our end of life education, community engagement, and life fulfillment onsite/online course offered in conjunction with University of Colorado School of nursing early 2106.
  2. Become a "Sacred Passage Doula": If you are a caregiver, healing arts or clinical professional, this innovative end of life career training will restore your purpose and power as a caring healing agent and support you to serve at end of life.

In love and caring,
Tarron Estes
Founder Conscious Dying Institute

Rural America: The Authentic Doula Culture

Rural America's Authentic Doula Culture:
Story Telling on Death and Dying

During mealtime, the only conversations from women in my family were on illness and death. No matter what else might have been going on in the world, Kennedy’s assassination, Vietnam, presidential elections, sports events ( discussed by men)— women only talked about was who was sick and who was dead.
 
I’ll never forget what my Uncle said about "death talk". He said, “Tarron, here's what it’s like: My wife and I go down to the café to have a meal.  As soon as we walk in the door,  she goes off to say hello to her women friends and before I can sit down, every one of them is rattling off the hospital report”.

If you sit through these discussions long enough, you will get the complete medical history on every family and what the doctor said about their health. You could hear my relatives describe the color that someone’s skin turned before getting to the hospital and what street the ambulance took a wrong turn on. You could hear in depth discussions of the food someone ate and whose wife cooked it before her husband had a heart attack. You could gain insight into all the things people do to bring on the hard luck of sickness and what was expected to become of them.

When someone died, “Lord, Lord…” were the first words beginning every sentence, and then, “Poor old so and so”. My mother, her five sisters and both my grandmothers talked on and on about who was at the funeral home and why their relative didn’t show up fast enough to see him before he was laid in the ground. They would dress up any day of the week and go down to the funeral home with casseroles and dishes of homemade beans and ham and pecan pies and cornbread in hand to honor the dead during an open casket showing no matter who had died.
 
They took their lace hankies-- prepared to grieve and mourn and listen to the same sad hymns sung by choir members of differing churches. Dying was a whole town affair, and talking about it was sewn into this Southern rural culture like the patches on a quilt.  You not only talked about what happened, but you showed up to see the body all coiffed and life-like in the casket. Then you went to the cemetery for the burial.
 
After the last shovel of dirt was tossed on the grave, friends, family and clergy moved from cemetery to home. There they opened plates of pecan pies, pound cakes, sliced ham, fried chicken, creamed corn and three bean casseroles. They poured sweet tea into glasses of ice and served the grieving family.
 
At this after-death "house warming", you learned more about a person’s life than they would ever want told. But each story, told with great affection, gave the family the sense that their loved one had been known, loved and was already missed and remembered.

Death is a Rite of Passage. Grief is an intiation to New Life

Death and Birth are Bookends of Life.

Death is a Rite of Passage that brings a family of initiatory emotions: grief, anger, terror, rage, disappointment, sadness.

But of all these, Grandmother Grief leads the way. She calls forth an Initiation that renews, heals and cleanses our souls.


In our fear based end of life culture, Grief has become something to be managed and Death something to defy. We can bring compassion to ourselves and each other in these places where we see no living examples, no one modeling how to grieve or bring a sacred rite to passage to those facing death. Though we may see no clear examples, we can learn to bring death and grief back to their sacred places in the beauty, mystery and celebration of life.  Maladoma Some' talks about this experience:

“Dealing with “the things we cannot escape” (but want to or try to) is best accomplished within the sacred space of ritual. Ritual facilitates and provides us with a unique channel to access higher power. Certain issues don’t want to be resolved mechanistically. We don’t have to know how the power works; we just have to show up and let the higher forces deal with the issues. Ritual provides a safe place for the soul and body to affirm life over death, to affirm continuity over discontinuity.” Maladoma Some’

In our last Sacred Doula program, our graduating class designed and experienced a very powerful grief ritual so that all of our incomplete losses and their stories could be shared and released. We prepared ourselves for this ritual in many ways.

The night before, we wrote about a powerful loss and how it had affected us. We created a healing space in the room to honor these loses. We invited a wonderful musician to sing and play guitar.

We asked elders from our community to attend and support us. We wore beautiful white, blue or black clothes. Before we entered the space we were cleansed with special smoke and marked our faces with charcoal tears. We entered this space with sacred intent.

We placed beautiful scarves, fabric, flowers, candles, and photos of our loved ones on the table. And as each individual shared their story of love and loss, we listened with compassion and tears. We ended many hours later filled with awe and love. Our spirits and bodies were refreshed and renewed.

 

This grief ritual transformed us individually and created a strong caring healing community that we can trust in and rely on. It gives us reference for how to show up for others who will be in our care.
 
Here are some of my thoughts from my studies on grief and death and from my personal experience from this day.

  • I came to see that Death and Birth are bookends of Life. Both are markers of our earthly existence.

  • Like Birth, Death is not an end. It is an initiation into a yet unseen, mysterious passage that all human beings enter and through which life is renewed.

  • Death’s initiation into new life is lead by its family of emotions, its spiritual journey, and its turn toward meaning and completions for all involved. 

  • The emotional family surrounding death: grief, rage, fear, terror, anger, disappointment, loss call us to these powerful rites of passage that no other time offers.

  • When these feelings are honored as a right of passage, when we are appropriately supported, seen and held to experience these powerful feelings, to stay with them, not run away, in our own time and in our own way, we are transformed. Whether we are the one leaving or the ones left behind, we need support to travel in these rivers of feelings that come to claim us. We need people who know how to keep us safe to navigate the journey.

  • If we are held, seen, and supported in a good way, we can enter this emotional landscape and can stay there as long as it takes for the healing forces of grief to wash over us. We can experience grief as an initiation into new life that has the power to cleanse our soul, re-set our energetic field, and ground us in the vulnerability that is the flowering of our connection with our own hearts, our family, and humanity

  • Grandmother Grief gives us a way back into our own heart. It is precisely because we love so much that we have the opportunity for a greater human experience.... an opportunity to be initiated into greater inner harmony, unity with our own heart, memory of our innate healing gifts and ancient wisdom, and to be re-affirmed in love with all our relations.

  • Because we love so deeply, even if that love and care may be temporarily covered over in resentments or conflicts, it can still give rise to new life.  It can provide opportunity to re-fine, re-kindle, re-move, re-store, shake us free of locked and held feelings.  It can rejoin us with the truth of love and the memory of who we are. Becoming a Sacred Passage Doula supports everyone to live fully and completely through end of life.