"Ask a Death Doula" Podcast is a weekly show hosted by Hospice and Oncology nurse Suzanne B. O'Brien. Ask a Death Doula will chronicle the Death Doula movement. We will interview leaders in this progressive movement from around the world as well as patients, families and Death Doulas. Please visit www.doulagivers.com for more information
Tuesday Jul 19, 2022
Tuesday Jul 19, 2022
Tuesday Jul 19, 2022
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