A Sacred Passage End of Life Doula Student’s Experience
This is part of my story of becoming. Becoming who I am, a medicine for others to tap into and utilize. I am becoming a Sacred Passage End of Life (Death) Doula because like many reading this, I feel a pull towards facilitating people of all ages in acknowledging their mortality to more truly live the life they desire and supporting individuals in their more immediate dying process. Beyond this, something about it simply feels “right”. I chose to take a training that I could begin to put into practice immediately, as opposed to a 2 year masters program or something of the like.
When I use the word “Death” I am referring to the energy of end and transformation that happens in big and small ways all around us every day. Yes, each living being will go through our own rites of passage through Death as we transition from this body to the Great Mystery, AND each of us is engaging with the energy of Death each time we make a choice. These are especially felt in the transition times of our lives which may affect primary relationships, career, or family dynamic with the addition of a child to name a few. So in this way the training and work is about far more than working with those who are dying. It is about honoring transitions both big and small.
The reading and homework to prepare for the phase one three-day workshop was some of the most evocative and engaging reading I have done in some time. It felt good to read material at 10pm which kept me turning the page instead of putting me to sleep. We explored the Death as holistically as possible - energetics, physicality, emotions, cultural perceptions, and the larger systems in which Death currently sits. The questions and writing assignments I worked on really began to peel back the layers of “what do I really want in this life?” and “what needs to be healed?”. This was all excellent preparation for what was coming, the first in person retreat/workshop.
The first retreat took all this information and dropped it into our bodies. Yes, there was so much information sharing, and much more than this, we were guided through a series of exercises each day to drop all of this information into our bodies, nervous systems, and hearts. After all, yes there is a science to the dying process, and much more importantly it is a human experience involving all domains of life: body, mind, emotions, Spirit, and so much more than one can read in a book or watch in a film. We expanded our minds, bodies, hearts, and Spirit to be able to hold another in an intense process all while staying with ourselves.
The first day we dropped in as a group together, getting to know ourselves and others in the cohort. I have been a part of many group processes as both a leader and participant and I must say this was done beautifully and masterfully. The second day was “the day of intense emotions”, spending time learning how to be with intense emotions, namely grief and anger, all while staying with our own emotions which would likely arise. This involved deep personal, interpersonal, and group work which peaked through our own “death” at the end of day two.
This profound experience not only facilitated deeper empathy for those who are letting go, it also supported important content and information about my own life to surface - relationships, desires, goals, incomplete processes, and gratitude to name a few.
The third day led us to a place of completion of this first seminar. Again, we were masterfully led to land and ground as a group and individuals so that we could go back into the world as high functioning individuals. This is not to say I was not exhausted or stirred up, because I was, but rather I felt good about this like everything was in its right place. During this last day we also went over the framework for the Best Three Months of Life Vision Map activity, how to use it, and expectations for our practicum before the next seminar.
The time leading up to Phase 1 training was full of good information to support both the experienced and inexperienced in deepening their relationship with Death and the dying process. The training itself was exceptional and led myself and our cohort on a journey of exploration, connection, and completion. I walked away feeling excited for the work that lies ahead.
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This blog post was a gracious contribution made by a Sacred Passage End of Life Doula student, Brad Smith.
Brad has worked and studied around the world supporting people of all ages to step into their sacred walk, wherever it is taking them. From adolescents’ rites of passage to Death and dying and many points in between, Brad supports people in building relationship between themselves and the sacred mysteries.
Brad has recently left his career with Boulder County’s Sustainability Office to hit the road and be a mobile death doula and student of wisdom keepers of various lineages.