Ask A Death Doula
Forgiveness at the End of Life and Why You Should Not Wait

Forgiveness at the End of Life and Why You Should Not Wait

November 2, 2022
FORGIVENESS IS THE SECRET KEY TO UNLOCKING AN EXTRAORDINARY LIFE!
Join the Free Forgiveness Workshop Here: https://my.demio.com/ref/SF9qKjumP2eHsSx0
 
Forgiveness is a continued, deliberate decision to release feelings of
resentment, anger, or shame toward a person, group - or even yourself.

Whether it’s a simple spat with your spouse or long-held resentment toward a family

member or friend, unresolved conflict can go deeper than you may realize—it may be affecting your physical health and holding you back from the life you truly want. 
Forgiveness will set you free and allow you to create the future exactly the way you want it to be.
In this webinar, you will learn:
1. What forgiveness is & why we must learn to forgive. 
2. The two main types of forgiveness.
 
3. What end of life patients say about forgiveness and its transformative power.
Working with those at the end of life has taught me EVERYTHING about life and about how to live fully. Sharing this information with you is my life’s purpose, and the greatest lesson that I could ever share with you is the transformative power of forgiveness.

If you register for this webinar, it means that you are at a place in your life where you are ready for change. It means you are ready to release things that have held you stuck in an emotional prison and that you are ready to reclaim the pure loving energy that you are so that you can find your purpose and live the extraordinary life you deserve!

Forgiveness is so important because we only get one chance to live this life and avoid the pain of regret.  
If you want to go further and learn how you can utilize forgiveness in your life, Join me for my Free Forgiveness Workshop on November 10th at 7pm ET!!
 
Xoxoxo,
Suzanne B. O'Brien RN 
Building a Bridge Between Families and Hospice Care

Building a Bridge Between Families and Hospice Care

October 17, 2022

Join the FREE Hospice of Green Country event with Suzanne B. O'Brien RN on October 26th at 6pm EST Below!

 

Register Here: https://forms.hospiceofgreencountry.org/october-26th-suzanne-obrien-rn/

 

If your loved one got a terminal diagnosis today, would you know how to care for them?

 

Unfortunately most people would answer no.

 

Most end of life experiences are NOT going well today, and it is the lack of understanding about the natural process of end of life and the lack of skills on how to care for someone who is dying that is the main missing piece.

 

Doulagivers International has created a global platform to change that and it is offered for FREE!!!!

 

We have been dying for thousands of years, it is only in the last 100 that we have become so far removed from the awareness of death being a natural, sacred part of life's journey.

In this episode, you’ll hear about how Doulagivers is “filling the gap” between families and hospice care to provide the answer to a fragmented medical system and allow patients and families the best opportunity to have a positive passing. And for those of you who are caught in the same place and don’t know the skills on how to care for someone at the end of life — don’t fret, because we have a free live online training for you right around the corner!  (Take the End of Life Doula Training)

 

 

About Suzanne B. O’Brien RN

Suzanne B. O’Brien RN is an award winning hospice and oncology nurse and proud founding member of NHPCO’s ( National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization) End of Life Doula Council. A Council advancing Doulagivers/Death Doulas and Hospice Care to provide the best possible support to both patients and families.

The Perfect Storm:

9 out of 10 people want to be cared for at home when terminally ill.

Death is the number 1 fear in the world.

People come on hospice services very late in their process.

It is a culmination of these factors that are heavily contributing to end of life not going well for most. It is time to change that.

As a former hospice and oncology nurse, who has had the honor and privilege to have worked with over 1,000 people at the end of life, I can tell you that the answer to end of life not going well is to bring back the truth about death (how it is a natural and sacred experience) and to teach family caregivers the skill of how to care for someone who is dying  BEFORE they ever need it.

80%-90% of a positive end of life is planning ahead:

Learning the skills on how to care for someone who is dying changes everything.

If you answered “I don't know how,” then read on - because I’m here to share with you the inspiring story of how Doulagivers is working with hospices to “Fill the Gap” in mainstream medical care so that every person has an opportunity to have a “Good Death.”

 

I know what it’s like to feel scared and unprepared to care for your loved one at the end of life. I work with families on this everyday. It does not need to be this way. There is free training and support that is available to you right now. Do not wait until it is too late.

How to Thrive Through a Terminal Diagnosis with Jody Stokhamer

How to Thrive Through a Terminal Diagnosis with Jody Stokhamer

October 11, 2022

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to get a terminal diagnosis?

What would you do?

How would you cope?

What would you say to people?

What would your everyday life look like?

If you answered “I don't know”, then read on, because I’m here to share with you an incredible woman that will change your mind– and here’s why:

Number one: Jody has been given a terminal stage 4 ovarian cancer diagnosis and may be doing more with her busy days than I am.

Number two: Her sharing the power of presence and how every single day is a gift of gratitude and awareness that has brought new meaning to her life.

Believe me, I know what it’s like to feel scared and uncertain. Death is the number one fear in our world. That fear is paralyzing and is preventing us from accessing one of the greatest teachers about how to live.

In this episode, you’ll hear from Jody Stokhamer, an amazing woman who shares how she feels more healthy and alive today with a stage 4 hospice diagnosis than ever before in her life.

And for those of you who are caught in the same place of fear of death — don’t fret, because you’ll take away strategies ( take the End of Life Doula Training ) and a new perspective on life to ensure that you work through your fear and feel empowered and inspired about life!

 

So if you’re ready to let go of your fear and be inspired, then pop in your earbuds and tune in!

 

This is important because I think that as be and hospice, I love hospice. I love the people that work for hospice. It is such a beautiful model of care. And it's very misunderstood in the public is what, what I know. But they also, people don't fully understand the amount of time that everything comes to your house. But the nurse will come for a time period. The social worker. What about all of that other time that you're home? And I love that you just shared about understanding your husband's needs and what it would be like for him and having that other person that knows the end of life to be there to hold the space. And that really is, again, the definition of a Doulagiver. Now you have it with a home health aid. Beautiful. As long as we understand what's needed in that dynamic for everyone.

* (18:58): Hospice and Doulagiver Support is not just for the dying person- It is for their loved ones as well.Not just for you, but for your husband as well. So I love that you did that. And I think it's so important for us to understand how difficult it is for caregivers. You know, for me as the hospice nurse, I would come in and assess the patient and the model is that I'm supposed to teach the loved ones how to do the care. Sometimes I was there for only an hour. Periodically the fear of death. We're asking people to take care of their loved ones that are dying without them really knowing the first thing on how to do that. That is almost cruel. That has to change. And that Jody is again, why the level one doula givers is out there being taught every month for free to teach families how to do this, to teach people about end of life. So they don't have to be fearful to give them inspiration about what that lens could look like if we look through it at life.

* (21:43): Bringing Back the Awareness of Death: So let me ask you this, Jody. What, what do you think the world would be like if we could bring back that awareness early on in the journey? Talk to our children honestly and openly, age appropriately about the life cycle that we have with nature and with animals and, and everything that happens. And looking at life from the very early stages, not at the very end, with that kind of lens on what would our life be like? What would this world be like?

* (24:02):That awareness of end of life death is our greatest teacher. About how we are similar and how time is our greatest commodity and how kindness is something and presence is what we can give to each other every single day. And that can change the world.

 *(25:07): A Fundraiser for Jody

 

Also, if you haven’t done so already, follow the podcast. I’m adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed and, if you’re not following, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out. Follow now!

Links mentioned in this episode:

Ask a Death Doula Podcast- https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast...

Free End of Life Doula Training-https://www.doulagivers.com

International Doulagivers Institute-https://www.doulagivers.com

Jody's Go Fund Me Page-https://gofund.me/4569a4c9

The VSED Checklist

The VSED Checklist

August 10, 2022

In This episode of Ask a Death Doula, I will share what V.S.E.D. ( Voluntarily Stop Eating and Drinking ) is, why it's a viable option, and the checklist of things you need to go over before deciding if V.S.E.D. is right for you!

What is V.S.E.D.? [2:00] – V.S.E.D. stands for voluntarily stopping, eating, and drinking, and it is an intentional decision to stop drinking liquids and eating food for the specific purpose of causing death. It does not refer to stopping food or fluids provided by means of a feeding tube or to situations in which a patient has no appetite or is unable to eat or drink due to illness or disease. Time until death depends on a patient's underlying physical condition and disease state, but typically takes place within about 5 to 21 days with the median time of death occurring in 7 to 14 days after implementation - the cause of death is dehydration. The exact process of dying from V.S.E.D. will not be the same for every individual. Despite being intentionally used to cause death, the dying process experienced by V.S.E.D. is a natural one. In the first few days after ceasing intake of food and fluids, individuals may retain their energy levels for physical activity, but soon will become very weak. Once they begin to feel weak movement requires assistance in order to prevent falls or accidents, and weakness or dizziness may occur suddenly - which is why 24-hour support is recommended. Once the individual begins, the fasting causes mental alertness to be replaced by longer and longer periods of sleeping. In many cases, individuals eventually remain in a coma state during the final stages of death. The dehydration from V.S.E.D. affects the kidneys and the heart and each organ system in the body begins to shut down. One of the things that I want you to know about this is that it’s something that's naturally occurring in the end-of-life process already. One of the first tell-tale signs that somebody's headed into the transition phase is that they stop eating and drinking. This is naturally how the body starts to shut down to have its end of life. V.S.E.D. allows the person to have the intentional decision of speeding that up a bit when they have a terminal diagnosis.

 

Why People Choose V.S.E.D. [5:28] – It is critically important for me to discuss this topic because there is so much debate and discussion about Medical Aid in Dying (M.A.I.D.). The most common reasons that people want to choose medical aid in dying is that they don't want to suffer, and they don't want to be a burden to their family. V.S.E.D. is an alternative option that is not marred with controversy and does not require people to go through a lot of stressful legality issues. You don't have to wait for someone else's permission. You can decide if this is an option that you would like to take, but again, it must be an informed decision and done with the right support. I'm going to give you the checklist to make sure that you fully understand what's involved and if it's right for you. V.S.E.D. is a wonderful option and it gives power back to the person at the end of life. This is about empowering people with the information they need to make their own choices.

 

The V.S.E.D Checklist - The reason we have this checklist is because it really lays out everything involved and it needs to be a yes, across the whole entire board, before V.S.E.D. is implemented. The Doulagivers V.S.E.D. checklist also has a complete list of supplies and equipment needed to ensure that the patient is comfortable and safe during their V.S.E.D. journey.

 

This is YOUR Journey. You can choose whatever you want. Just make sure that you make educated, subjective decisions for you.

xo Suzanne

 

FREE End of Life Doula Training: REGISTER HERE: https://www.doulagivers.com

 
How to Write a Forgiveness Letter

How to Write a Forgiveness Letter

August 3, 2022

In this episode of Ask a Death Doula, I’m going to show you how writing a forgiveness letter can break the chains of these heavy emotions and allow you to have the future you want, and to be anything and everything you want to be in this life. Forgiveness can set you free:two_hearts::+1:

Epigenetics 101 with Suzanne B. O’Brien RN

Epigenetics 101 with Suzanne B. O’Brien RN

July 26, 2022

1. The Two States of Being [2:52] – We are holistic beings, and this means we are made up of four bodies of energy – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. We are equal parts of each of these four bodies of energy. At the end of life, our physical body begins to diminish, and our spiritual body of energy begins to grow. Witnessing this is a profound experience, and there is a certain part of this process where a person will have one foot in this world and one foot in the next. This is what I refer to as gaining their “spiritual eyes.” It is as if they tap into some kind of infinite intelligence and suddenly awaken to so much deep spiritual wisdom that had eluded them previously. They say things like, “I get it now!” and make sense of their past experiences and regrets. Their painful memories and hardships of life take on a new meaning and they tell me they all happened to give them an opportunity to evolve and connect with their “soul self.” It is soul growth – a growth of consciousness – and it is extremely powerful.

 

2. When Science Meets the Bedside [5:46] – I teach about this topic in the Doulagivers Certified End of Life Doula program, and it is one of my favorite things to teach. Henry P. Stapps is a well-known physicist who worked at the University of California, Berkeley. He did incredible work providing strong proof of his theory of non-locality. The theory of non-locality states that you and I are not local entities – that we are instead part of one, unconditional, loving consciousness. This is exactly what so many of my end-of-life patients have shared with me. Henry P. Stapp believes that our consciousness is a fundamental part of the universe and through his scientific findings was able to corroborate the existence of nonlocality properties in the field of quantum mechanics.

 

3. Epigenetics [6:49] – Epigenetics is a field of study in biology that examines the way our behavior and environment can affect our gene expression. It focuses on heritable phenotype changes which do not actually alter our DNA sequence, but rather can change the way our body reads the existing DNA sequence. We have 500 trillion cells in our bodies that make us who we are. Each cell contains gene expressions because they must replicate themselves over the course of our lifetime. These gene expressions are kind of like instructions for the cell so that they know what their function is. “Epi” is a Greek prefix which means “above” – so Epigenetics is the science of studying “above the genes” or basically, what is in addition to our inherited genetics that affects gene expression. What it has found is that your environment is the most determining factor on the health of our genes, and ultimately, our body. Providing ourselves with a healthy and conducive environment is, to a large extent, within our control. Where you are, who you allow around you, and what you put into your body are all products of environment. Your physical location can be controlled through the decisions we make and can have an incredible impact on our overall physical health. It is also true that what you think has a big impact on chemical releases within your body – meaning that what we choose to think about can have a strong correlation to our mental health. Our spiritual body of energy can be maintained and strengthened by allowing ourselves to just be and manage our stress and outside negative influences. We must tap into our creativity and stay in a place of harmony with our surroundings. This will allow you to follow your heart and create the life that you want – building meaningful things, contributing to the world around you, and developing loving relationships are all within reach. Epigenetics has discovered that a person can change their gene expression in as little as 90 days through intentional changes! Our emotional body of energy can be cared for through the power of forgiveness. There is the forgiveness of others and the forgiveness of self. Always remember that forgiveness is for you, not the other person. All of our experiences, especially the most painful ones, are opportunities to grow. Sometimes the most difficult moments of our life become the greatest things that have ever happened to us after we have time to process them. Through the understanding of Epigenetics, you can take control of your health and feed all four of your bodies of energy to live in total and complete alignment with your ideal life. You are in control of this.

 

FREE LEVEL 1 END OF LIFE DOULA TRAINING

REGISTER HERE: https://www.doulagivers.com

 
What if we have death all wrong?

What if we have death all wrong?

July 19, 2022

Big Ideas:

1. How We Created Such a Dysfunctional Relationship with Death [5:19] – As a young nurse, I witnessed how poorly end of life was going for the vast majority of my patients and their families. I was fortunate to grow up in a family that worked in the medical system, so hearing about people getting sick and dying was something that I heard being discussed at a young age. I was subjected to the topic and understood from the perspective of people caring for those at end of life how much compassion was required in this space. The realization that end of life was going to happen to everyone was ingrained in me early on – most people do not have the opportunity to understand this. Human beings have been around for thousands of years, and they’ve been dying the whole time. So, at what point did we start trying to run from death and treat it as optional? Over the last century, medical advancements, drastic increases in life expectancy, and the cultural shift around death have removed the awareness of our end of life from our journey. Now when it does inevitably come about, it leads to quite a disjointed and difficult situation for most people. People were in a much better place to handle and understand death when it was considered a natural and expected occurrence for ourselves and our loved ones. The medical system doesn’t even focus on how to properly support people at the end of their life – it is strictly focused on trying to cure disease and elongate life. We must remind ourselves that death is not a medical experience, but a human one.

 

2. Looking at Death as a “Graduation” [10:11] – As society has distanced itself from the reality of death over time, the belief systems we have adopted along the way have contributed to the fear and misunderstanding of it. Death is the number one fear in the world right now. When we deny the fact that we will die one day, it denies us the ability to live fully as well. There is so much beauty in befriending death. It allows us to truly understand the value of this day – to understand the value of compassion and presence. It empowers us to find our purpose in life and to live authentically to ourselves. Saying goodbye to the physical form of those we love will always have an element of heaviness and sadness, but what if we reshaped our perspective of death in a positive way? What if we looked at it as a kind of “graduation”? I have heard and believe that this life’s journey we are on is the truly difficult part. It is full of adversity and obstacles we must overcome as we search for the meaning in our existence and move closer to finding our individual truth. The whole part of life is to connect with your “soul self” and find that inner wisdom and peace. So, shouldn’t death be a celebration if we can believe that life continues on in another way after what we perceive as life here on earth? I think it should be an occasion to rejoice, remember, and honor the person who is moving on from this physical realm into whatever is waiting for them next. If we open our hearts and minds to this, we can realize we are so much more than our current physical form and treat death as an opportunity to remember this and celebrate the memory of those who have passed on.

 

3. What People at the End of Life Say [17:05] – The stories that my patients have told me before having their actual end of life has taught me so much and shaped my belief that there is so much more to this journey than most of us are aware of. One of my patients, Mary, had gallbladder cancer. She was admitted to the hospital because she had fallen and broken her hip after the chemotherapy treatment she was receiving had made her bones brittle. She and her sister were in a lot of shock when I first met them. One day, when I was moving her back into her bed, we noticed that she was out of breath - which was atypical of the disease she was diagnosed with. It turned out that she had a blood clot in her lung. I walked into her room with the doctor who was coming to explain what had happened to her and before either of us spoke, Mary said, “I just want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me.” I turned to look at the doctor and tears were running down her face. When I think back on it now, Mary was telling us that she was going to die before we even told her. At around eleven o’clock later that night, my coworkers told me that Mary woke up suddenly from a nap and exclaimed, “Get my sister! I’m transitioning, I’m transitioning!” with all the excitement that a child would have if you told them you were taking them to Disney World. I have always wondered what Mary saw that made her feel so at peace, and even excited, that the end of her life was coming. When you have the privilege of seeing and hearing about situations like that, you know that death is nothing to be fearful of.

 

Resources: FREE End of Life Doula Training 👍 REGISTER HERE: https://www.doulagivers.com

 
Death Doulas for Dogs

Death Doulas for Dogs

July 12, 2022

Big Ideas:

1. What is a Pet Doula [0:30] – There are people in this holistic end of life care space who are being drawn to work specifically with animals. It is incredible and incredibly needed. We have known for a long time that we need to start offering more support to people at the end of life, but what about our pets? Death is a natural experience, and all living beings will experience it and the people who love them really need that help and guidance. Now those who are end of life care providers can choose to focus their services within this niche or include this as part of their other services. End of Life Pet Doulas are a new calling! How beautiful is that?

2. My Personal Story with My Dog’s Death [1:58] – I used to have a Golden Retriever named Max. He was one of the greatest loves of my life. My heart bursts with love for him still when I think of him. He was 11 years old, and my son called me up while I was out of town one day and told me he wouldn’t eat his food. I knew something was wrong right away because Max never (and I mean never) skipped a meal. When I got home, he wouldn’t take treats and no matter what we tried to do or give him; he would reject all sources of food. As a hospice and oncology nurse who dealt with death daily as a professional, I still wasn’t able to wrap my head around the news that he was nearing the end of life after taking him to the vet and they diagnosed him with a late stage and aggressive form of cancer. It was very sudden, and I just wasn’t mentally prepared for it. The vets were quick to suggest putting him down and I was stunned and taken aback by it. I felt like I could take him home and manage his symptoms because of my background working with end-of-life patients and the fact that he still had quality of life. I discovered that it does not work quite the same way and I think that having a Pet Doula would have helped me so much throughout Max’s end of life process.

3. How Pets Die Differently Than People [8:04] – Animals operate differently than people. One of the similarities when they are nearing end of life, is that they stop eating and drinking. The biggest difference, on the other hand, is that there is no verbal communication between the animal and the caregiver. This is huge. For someone to assist an animal well at end of life, they must be incredibly in tune with non-verbal communication and know what to look for so that they can identify signs of discomfort and know the best course of action to take in a given situation. Animals cannot tell you when they are in pain or suffering. Another difficult aspect of this is that you cannot explain to an animal what you are doing for them and why. With Max, we had medicine to help with his pain and relaxation, but he absolutely hated it. He would try to fight taking it and it added so much stress to an already stressful situation. In hindsight, I would not have assumed that I could take care of him at home comfortably without additional support or more knowledge specific to animals and pets. There is definitely a great need for Pet Doula services that can assist people through this devastating experience. The grief and loss of losing a pet is a little different than what we go through with people, and the care that they need during their end-of-life process is also a little different.

 

Resources: FREE Level 1 End of Life Doula Training: https://www.doulagivers.com

PLEASE Rate Review the Podcast. We love to hear from you!

 

xoxoxo Suzanne

How Studies of Magic Mushrooms are Proving Consciousness

How Studies of Magic Mushrooms are Proving Consciousness

June 27, 2022

Big Ideas:

 

1.What Psilocybin is [00:27] – Psilocybin is the main psychedelic compound found in “magic mushrooms.” The talk of using this psychedelic at the end of life has been a hot topic and is being studied intensively. It is being looked at as having potentially effective medicinal/therapeutic properties in the treatment of fear, anxiety, and depression for those at the end of life. It is a naturally occurring compound found in specific species of mushrooms. It has been used for thousands of years all around the world as part of spiritual rituals and cultural ceremonies. In the 50’s and 60’s, Psilocybin started to be studied for its therapeutic properties in the use of treating a plethora of ailments and conditions. Everything from addiction, anxiety, depression, and other various forms of mental illness were treated in clinical studies with thousands of patients. In the 1970’s this research was abruptly ended. It has recently started up again with a renewed focal point on studying the use of this compound in those at the end of life.

 

2.The “Trip Treatment” [3:20] – In 2015, an article in the New Yorker was titled “The Trip Treatment.” It was all about the use and studies of Psilocybin and the promising results it has shown in treating those who had extreme fear, anxiety, and depression in their end-of-life journeys. Not only did they have great results overcoming these particular issues, but the use of Psilocybin led to incredible breakthroughs and a sort of spiritual understanding/awakening amongst those treated with it. There is now a growing movement for using Psilocybin for this purpose in the End-of-Life space. There is much debate over this issue, but there are new studies currently being conducted at NYU, UCLA, and John Hopkin’s University amongst other notable and well-renowned research institutions.

 

3.The Similarities Between the Spiritual Awakening at End of Life and Psilocybin Use [6:30] – Many of the things relating to the spiritual breakthroughs patients have in these various studies are remarkably similar to some of the things I have been sharing for years. As a former hospice and oncology nurse, I have worked at the bedside of over one thousand end of life patients over the last twenty years. My end of life patients say the same exact thing as those who have been treated with Psilocybin. I want to share that this experience is naturally occurring in people as they near their end of life. As their physical body is diminishing, their spiritual body is growing. There’s a time in their journey where they have one foot in this world and one foot in the next. In my opinion, many people go back and forth before they fully leave this world. I say this because I have had so many patients who suddenly wake up with a bunch of new information and a renewed and profound perspective on life. They speak of all being connected to one unconditional loving energy and this parallels what has been documented in these Psilocybin studies.

 

4.You Don’t Have to Wait Until the End of Life to Have Your Own Breakthrough [9:05] – The whole goal of life is the journey of evolving to find your spiritual self. To understand yourself and to be able to live authentically and true to who you really are. To overcome the obstacles and the suffering we deal with in our physical world. It is to get beyond your ego and to tap into what is in your heart and let it guide you. We all have two internal directional instruments we can choose to follow. One is our analytical mind that is shaped by our experiences, prejudices, and imprinting of other people’s views. Following this directional path leads to us living a fear-based existence. By contrast, our heart guidance system will lead us to our unique truth. If we understood this human journey for what it really is and that we are all connected to one unconditional loving energy with no judgment – that life is all about learning and growing – we would have so much more compassion for one another and shift the entire world into a better place for everyone.

 

1. “Death is having a rebirth and it is bringing back the sacredness of end of life and the sacredness of life. We have got to understand what this journey is about and how we can make it the best for everybody in it.” – Suzanne B. O’Brien RN

 

2. “Take the time to create a loving space in your heart and ask yourself, ‘Where does my heart want me to be of service?’ Find that internal place where you can love others, yourself, and everything and everyone on this incredible planet.” – Suzanne B. O’Brien RN

 

FREE LEVEL 1 END OF LIFE DOULA TRAINING REGISTER BELOW: https://www.doulagivers.com

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Do You Want to Die Like Patty and Greg?

Do You Want to Die Like Patty and Greg?

June 14, 2022

Big Ideas:

  1. A Breakdown Leads to a Breakthrough [3:20] – Many times the most painful moments in our lives lead to the best moments because it gives us an opportunity to find ourselves. The darkest points in our lives turn into the brightest when we grow spiritually through them. We are able to gain so much perspective through the struggles and challenges we face if we look at them through the proper lens. No one knows this better than Patty and Greg Howe. Greg was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2016 and doctors told him he only had a couple of weeks or a few months at most to live. This led to him searching for alternative treatments because his doctors told him they had nothing available that could help him. He found himself feeling really low when confronted with this intense adversity – but after a year of living after his initial diagnosis, he found his true strength and the beauty of life through overcoming his fear. Still alive and well, it is such an inspiration to hear him speak from a place of hope and joy and the positive shift he experienced through such difficult circumstances.
  1. When Patty Found Doulagivers [11:37] – Patty found Doulagivers in March 2020, during the height of the covid lockdowns. She had been a hospice volunteer since her father passed away in 2014, and she became curious about the concept of end-of-life doulas. She heard about this concept in another program she had taken and started to do more research on the subject, and she stumbled upon Doulagivers. She decided to call in to learn more about the program and we spoke on the phone, and she made her decision to enroll in our Certified End of Life Doula program after I asked her if she had the calling to do this sacred work. After starting the course and becoming part of our Doulagivers community, Patty discovered that she needed open-heart surgery after exerting herself during a hike and realizing something was wrong. She says the love and support she received from the other doulas in the semester empowered her with the confidence to know she was going to make a recovery from her surgery and be the best doula possible. Then, a little over two months after her surgery, she was given a terminal liver diagnosis. After her initial shock, Patty looked to Greg as her source of strength and inspiration and eventually looked at her diagnosis as a gift because she was finally able to understand what her husband had gone through with his own diagnosis. They processed things together and decided that they would continue to move forward in the face of this new challenge. The awareness of their own end of life gave them the push they needed to "repair” aspects of their lives they didn’t even realize they needed to repair.
  1. Greg Howe Became a Doulagiver After Witnessing the Rise in Patty [20:05] – Greg watched as Patty grew into a more confident woman aware of her own power, owning what was hers and finding her calling in life. It made him decide to also take the Doulagivers training and become a Certified End of Life Doula. Patty describes herself as being “encapsulated” by her purpose since walking fearlessly down this path in her life. Greg would sit in the background of Patty’s classes and on Thanksgiving in 2020, we held a special Zoom call for everyone who was at home and separated from their families that year. Another one of our Doulagivers told a story on that call about how her stepfather had stepped in and cared for her mother at the end of life with no formal training and how an incredibly strong and loving bond grew between them through that experience. The story moved Greg so much that he signed up for the course immediately after hearing it. He wasn’t sure how it would go at first because he has never been comfortable with people’s emotions, but he says it has been the most incredible journey for him and his personal growth. It has completely changed him in the most beautiful way.
  1. Time Magazine Article [30:28] – Last year, Patty and Greg were both featured in a Time Magazine article about End-of-Life Doulas titled, “Death Doulas used to Be Rare. The COVID-19 Pandemic Changed That.” One morning Patty was sitting on her bed and received a phone call about wanting to be interviewed by the author of the article. She says there was magic instantly in the conversation they had and that she and Greg were so grateful for the opportunity to shine light on this movement for such a large platform. Upon completing her other interviews with Doulagivers graduates and speaking to me, the author of this article told me that it was the most exciting article she had ever written. It was such an honor to hear that. 
  1. Patty and Greg’s End of Life Resort [35:58] – Patty and Greg had an idea to use their property in Alaska to create a special place for people at end of life to experience one of the most beautiful places on earth. They collaborated with doctors and social workers to refine the dream for this end-of-life resort. They realized that Alaska is a special place for everyone, and they heard that some people were renting hotel rooms so that they could spend their last time on earth in Alaska and die there. So, they thought, why not create such a better experience for those people that was more personable and curated to them for that purpose? To allow them to spend their final moments surrounded and mesmerized by the stunning scenery and nature of the Alaskan wilderness. They gravitated towards this vision and have committed to making it a reality. The ability for someone at end of life to be able to be in such a wonderful place and have access to two guides who know the feeling of confronting that situation firsthand is such a beautiful thing. Patty and Greg are an inspiration and shining example of what can happen when you find the courage to follow your calling and trust in that journey.

 

Memorable Quotes:

  1. “We have been dying for thousands of years. Only in the last 100 years have we completely removed death from the natural fold of life and turned it into something we feel the need to fear. We have to bring back the sacredness of end of life.” – Suzanne B. O’Brien RN
  1. “When you align with that higher frequency of purpose and calling – when you step forward to answer that – the universe shows up for you. So, I always say, ‘When you show up for the universe, the universe will show up for you.’” – Suzanne B. O’Brien RN

Resources: https://time.com/6128469/death-doulas-covid-19-pandemic/  

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