Life has been constantly abuzz with opportunity to give of myself. I am overflowing with absolute gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of the amazing and beautiful education and work with the Sacred Passage End of Life Doula Certificate training in Boulder. It was only months ago in September of 2017 that I began my training to become an End of Life Doula. I have cared for the dying as a CNA and was blessed to receive the opportunity to expand my training through the generous gift of a client.
Since beginning my training I’ve faced a few obstacles working through family issues, but have found how the deeply therapeutic work undertaken in the Doula training has empowered me with a conviction to face them and move through them. I am blessed. Between phase one and two of the program, I continued to care for and coach a dear elder friend and was given a new opportunity to do the same for a new client, much closer to my own age.
She’s in her fifties with a care staff of four, for round the clock care in her own home. She was born with cerebral palsy and recently diagnosed with colorectal cancer and melanoma. With no treatments other than pain management available to her, Emm has made it clear that she will not talk about death and no one else is allowed, she was adamant that she was not dying.
I chose to begin interacting with my new client through using the Best Three Months Vision Maps with two of her care staff. I arranged a meeting with the two ladies and their co-workers. We spoke candidly about death almost like in a death cafe setting, open and honest. Then I shared the Best Three Months Vision Map tool and how KNOWING the woman in their care could help them find ways to make the following weeks and months full and joyful. These loving individuals recognized through seeing their own visions, that there was a great deal they could do for Emm.
As a result of getting to know Emm more intimately, she has shopped for new nighties, held a Christmas party, and has been out for many occasions that were special to her. I had been giving her Comfort Care massages that I learned from my training, on a volunteer basis, expressing to her parents in their nineties that they were helping me through a practicum project. And before I made my way to Phase 2 they had insisted on paying me to return twice weekly. Then they asked me to relieve the night staff one or more times a week. I have also learned from the Conscious Dying Principles, the importance of practicing self-care to reduce burnout and emotional fatigue. I’ve had the staff meet a couple of times to connect and vocalize in person how they are as a care team, how they are doing individually, what’s changing and how.
When I meet with Emm for massage, I ask if she would like prayer. Every prayer she has requested has been answered. Her bowels back-up due to the narcotics and are relieved twice weekly after massage, (we call it her prayer-sage). Back pain is relieved, peace comes and anxiety slips away! The tumors continue to grow, she can barely speak now, and she is weary. Minor hemorrhage has begun. I encourage her staff with peace and love.
Saturday as I sat with Emm, I asked some Big Bold Questions, another great practice for awakening I’ve learned at the Conscious Dying Institute, and she made her way gloriously through each of them, resulting in a family meeting. Her parents and siblings gathered around her today and she told them, “I’m fine, don’t worry, I’m dying... but I’m not scared. I’m just sorry that I can’t stay to help you through all of this mom and dad.” Then I invited each of them to take a turn beside her to speak from the heart. What a beautiful experience!! I snuck away leaving them to privately enjoy the time and space.
Shirley Grant is mother of five daughters and three stepdaughters, Nana of five grandsons, three granddaughters and a surprise grand arriving this June! I’ve taught small children in Sunday school, brownies, and kids clubs off and on from 13 to now. After staying at home raising my girls, I worked managing a small unique boutique for 15 years. Recognizing my love for people, I realized it was time to return to school and become the nurse aide I’d secretly dreamed of. I completed high school in my late forties, and continued on to my CCA certification. I’ve been loving this career, working with our amazing elders. I spent the past almost 10 years caring for elders day to day needs and holding sacred space for them in their final days. A precious honor! I’d been blessed with the opportunity to spend nearly all of my dear sister’s last four months with her. We talked, shared, planned for many months before I arrived. After my time with her, I returned to work KNOWING I must see death done differently...less clinically...more personally, more lovingly. I KNEW after the time with Linda, it was more than a hope or a dream...I knew I CAN and therefore I MUST become an End of Life Doula! I changed the way I personally provided end of life care... thankfully with the support and agreement of coworkers on my team. Positive changes were immediately recognized. I’ve been honored to teach various workshops for my peers as well as those in other areas of employment in our facility. I was given the opportunity to help a friend bring her aging mother home and coach her care. This friend has blessed me with the Sacred Passage Doula certification training. I currently work privately with individuals facing death and their loved ones, making use of combining my certifications with first aide, food safe, freedom ministry, prayer-sage, and music therapy.