Best Death Possible (part two) – A Daughter’s Mission

The Difference A Doula Makes

An experienced Death Doula is someone familiar with many faces of death. While death is universal in its presence, it is individual in its experience. In my situation, a Doula would’ve been outside the grief circle, someone who could hold space for me as I expended my energy fighting for my mother. He or she would be able to offer perspective and guidance to spark ideas like bringing my mom’s personal items into the hospital, taking pictures, and bringing in music. A Doula would’ve been grounding for me.

It all happened in a week; Tuesday to Tuesday. When my mom was admitted no one suspected she wouldn’t be coming home. It was too fast for any of us to catch up, we only had a week; but that week will be with me the rest of my life.

We think of Death Doulas, or End of Life Doulas or even hospice as being appropriate only when death is imminent. Our most important work, however, happens long before that time. I chose to refer to myself as a Sacred Attendant, simply because that is what it feels like to me – attending the Sacred. Acceptance of death needs to be woven throughout our lives. It is not a final chapter of our story, but more like a character in the background without the knowledge of its time of arrival, nor the circumstances of it. Conversations about death cannot be reserved for some imagined time in the future when death appears imminent. They also need to include more than just the ideal circumstances because that just isn’t probable. Weaving death positive awareness into things like birthday celebrations, traumatic events, or illness could help remedy experiences like ours.

Thing 6 I’d change is doing a death plan. That first night when she said was scared, I would’ve stayed at the hospital. I would’ve pulled out a notebook and written down all the things she would want at her funeral. I would write a letter she’d dictate to whomever she wanted. I would’ve asked what songs she wanted at the service and what readings she wanted. I would’ve updated her living will with Health Care Representative (Proxy) designation. I would’ve asked her important questions regarding what she wanted to leave behind for all of us. I wouldn’t have hesitated to discuss this because we didn’t think it was time.

As a result of my experience with my mother, and with so many others, I created LIFE’S Book, an opportunity to create a death plan and so much more. Completing something like this with my mother would’ve not only established her wishes, but it would’ve been a bonding time for us. It would’ve also provided some guidance for others who didn’t know what to say while visiting. My mother could’ve asked them to simply pick up the binder and pick a page.

The Gift Of Time

Working in hospice I saw the Gift of Time in action. In a death denying society, the Gift of Time is bestowed upon those who chose to acknowledge time for letting go and embrace it. Peace comes with the embracing of death. Understanding that it is no longer a time to fight against the disease or circumstance, but to fight for magic in the last days. It is here that the term ‘good death’ was coined. A death free from suffering and in the comfort of their own home or home-like environment, surrounded by friends and family.

However, there are so many other types of death happening at any given time, don’t they deserve magic too? People die in car accidents, from falls in their homes, from assaults, and from sudden illnesses like stroke or aneurysms. Where are the good deaths for these people? Where is the dying-specific emotional, spiritual, and soul support for these folks? And what of those who lie down to nap one day and never wake up? Where are the goodbyes for their families? Their last words? And what of those who live alone with no one to ‘surround’ their bedside and care for them in their own home? What of them? Where are their good deaths?

They say there are no do-overs in life, and yet I see Life as one big do-over. Every day I get the chance to do things differently than the day before. I learn from my past experiences, I do not view them as insufficient or lacking in any way. The things I wished to do differently led me right where I am today, offering my support to others to reduce these events, by having conversations earlier than ‘imminent’. By doing this differently, I am honoring my mother’s death.

I was just getting my feet wet in the local community network groups talking about dying and death and…

Then CoVid19 Hit

The deathbeds now are even more sterile and are missing most or all family and friends. Fear of death hangs in the air like grey clouds in the Michigan winter sky. Still there is no acknowledging it. No preparations. No magic moments within conversations. Not even while quarantined together have there been conversations about death wishes. There’s just been blaming, conspiracy theorizing and more denial.

What’s emerged is a grief crisis. Compounded complicated grief where before there would be straightforward grief. On top of losing loved ones, we are losing our traditions for grieving. No matter your spirituality, religion or culture every aspect of grieving has been affected. Everything from not being able to be at the bedside to hold a hand, to not being able to have a funeral, with a million things in between.

This results in bereavement counseling being more important than ever. A counselor or a group to hold space to offer comfort and support. There will be more turbulent feelings. More uneasiness. More anger. More regret.

We will shortly be coming upon the first death anniversaries and the grief crisis will hit people unexpectedly. How we honor those anniversaries will be most important and if we do it right, will spark new traditions by creating meaningful ritualistic ceremonies to honor that date. We can only hope that by the time the first of the death anniversaries from this pandemic time roll around that the pandemic has subsided enough to allow more ritualistic ceremonies.

This is something I am preparing. This is something most end of life consultants are preparing.

My Mission

Ask 100 people what their idea of a ‘good death’ is and statistics say that 80 of them will say ‘at home surrounded by family and friends’. Some might even choose a facility with a ‘home-like environment like a hospice house, surrounded by family and friends’. Perhaps because they don’t want their family to have to live in the place where they died, or maybe they do not wish to burden their loved ones with caring for them. Whatever the case most people will not say ‘in a hospital’ and yet that is where 60% of deaths take place.

Why?

Some of it is due to death phobia. The medical community, in particular, has a hard time considering death, as was evident with my mother’s team. They are taught that death is an enemy to fight against at all costs. That cost is too great however, when it robs people of precious time with loved ones.

My mission is to offer the ‘best death possible’ for everyone. None of us can change the circumstances surrounding our death or that of our loved one. However, within the scope of that circumstance we can offer the best death possible.

The best death possible means embracing the circumstances as they are and doing it ‘your way’. It doesn’t mean giving up, so much as it is giving in to the flow of life. I have had the privilege of witnessing many magical life-changing moments that took place at a bedside. I want to bring that to anyone who wants it.

Unlike a hospice referral, to employ a Death Doula there is no need for a terminal diagnosis and 6 months natural life expectancy prognosis. The decision rests solely with the individual or family to initiate at any time. It can be initiated years before the actual death, making preparations, having conversations, and creating legacies. This starts building a relationship with someone who is then familiar to you at the end of life, providing all that much more comfort.

Embracing a best death possible philosophy provides opportunity for patients and families of trauma victims the same Gift of Time as hospice patients and families. It offers the same post-death follow up and support as well. It offers something more than what has been offered to date. A Sacred Attendant or End of Life Doula isn’t meant to replace Chaplains or Social Workers, it is something additional that offers a broader blanket of comfort care to a patient and their families. The service isn’t paid for by insurance or Medicaid/Medicare, so it isn’t restricted by regulations for reimbursement. The Attendant is free to provide whatever non-medical service is right for the individual and the family unit, and to provide it as long as necessary. She or he is not limited to a ‘justified’ one hour visit once a week.

Think what peace of mind this service could be to a son who lives 1,000 miles away from his mother who has dementia and lives in a facility. That he can have someone trusted to be there as many times a week as he wants.

What comfort it could be to a daughter from out-of-town to have in-town support as she lovingly cares for her father in his home.

What clarity it could bring a family whose members all seem to be on different pages.

What a difference it would make in the hospital to have compassionate end of life support available to individuals with sudden illness or decline, or traumatic injury and their family units.

And what of this…what if hospitals offered this service to family units right now, BECAUSE of CoVid protocols and restrictions? Why not give families something to replace a small bit of what has been taken away? It’s the right thing to do.

The services of Death Doulas, End of Life Doulas, Sacred Attendants, etc… will be unique to the individuals that provide them. In overview terms, they provide non-medical support to clients and families. Specifically, they might make a well-timed phone call or text; Be a visitor who is comfortable sitting in silence; Ask just the right question at just the right time; Or offer a listening ear you are not afraid to bend. These are the tangibles every End of Life Doula (EOLD) might offer. The innumerous intangibles are impossible to list here though because they are less about doing and more about being.

Peace Be With You…And May You Be Peace

If you or anyone you know feels they would benefit from this service please speak up to your doctors, your medical team or locate your nearest End of Life Doula through the End of Life Collective https://collective.round.glass/End-of-Life/about or the National End Of Life Doula Alliance https://www.nedalliance.org/ or reach out to me personally at healingritesofpassage@gmail.com or via the contact form on this site.

Suicide Scapegoating

So many messages these days telling people who are struggling to reach out. Fair enough, but part of what depression does is it mutes your ability to reach. If you are NOT depressed and you see someone struggling, YOU reach out. If you don’t see someone who used to be around, YOU reach out. ~Caissie St. Onge

Sometimes synchronicity still amazes me.


I saw this in a word porn meme today on Facebook. For a few days now I’ve been thinking about how to put into words my thoughts around all those copy and paste posts about ‘put this on your status for 1 hour. If you feel like you might hurt yourself please call me. My phone is always on. My door is always open….” and the suicide prevention hotline.


I myself have made posts after reading yet another notice of someone dying by suicide, stating that I would be available in any capacity to help.


Here’s the problem.


No one wants to announce they are feeling suicidal. The very conditions that exist to create suicidal ideation are rooted in the foundation of isolation, shame and secrecy. It is truly the darkest time of an individual’s life and that does not make for the opportunity of change to suddenly ‘do something different’ and reach out.


YOU are going to have to be a better friend/relative than that. YOU are going to have to hear, “I need help” in other phrases like, “I feel overwhelmed”, “I’m at my wit’s end”, “I’m at the end of my rope”, “I don’t know what else to do”, “I can’t do this anymore”, “I feel hopeless”, “I feel helpless”, “I’m tired” and “I just can’t anymore.” And so so so many more.


YOU have to do your due diligence. Not saying you are responsible for the outcomes, but we can’t put MORE pressure on those who are already overwhelmed. Most of us can identify with the phrase “it is so hard for me to ask for help”, so we must understand that it would be 1000% more difficult to ask for help regarding suicidal feelings than say to borrow $1,000 or any other favor for that matter.


Sad to say, but I really just think all these ‘you can call me’ messages are attempts to make ourselves feel better about suicide and in some ways scapegoat the suicidal person by taking ourselves off the hook. “I did my part, I’m available.’


But are you? How do you respond when someone shares they are going through a hard time? Do you allow them space to share their deepest emotions and experiences? Or do you take the opportunity then to share your own current struggles and take the focus off them to yourself?
Do you offer support and empathy? Or do you tell them not to feel bad, because you have it worse?


Do you offer real help, like taking something off their to do list? Paying a bill for them? Watching their kids? Offering to accompany them to an appointment? Offering to take them to lunch? Offering any part of yourself that is not adding to their burdens????


While we each are ultimately responsible for our own actions, we cannot sit idly by as spectators with our eyes closed and hands over our ears posting “if you need me, I’m here.” Cuz you’re not.

We need to be better at being good human BEINGS.

I love you.

~Jade


Suicide: My Thoughts

While I have, in my book, referenced my suicidal history, I don’t go into much detail and never discuss it otherwise. I also have never discussed my half sister’s suicide, nor my sister’s attempt. However, today, a friend has lost her son to suicide (the latest in a string) and it seems, for me, to be the last straw of my silence.

I don’t know why I’m compelled this day to speak on this topic. Why not before? Every time I hear of another suicide I am beside myself with how to help. I have struggled over the last couple of years with how best to be available to those who feel suicidal. Despite offers, pleas and support no one has reached out in their time of need.

The problem being, of course, that when you are in that place, it is too dark to see where to turn the light on.

Energetically, now, I know what happens. The mindset vibration is so far off course from the Soul’s vibration that it feels hopeless in the separation. In short, feeling the pressure to be something not born to be.

I was suicidal in High School and College. I thought about it everyday. I made different plans and fantasized how ‘sorry’ everyone would be when I died. I made two clear attempts, yet no one ever knew that. The pills I took just made me sick, but not hospital sick and the second time I stood on a train track staring at the engine light, not remembering how I got off the track.

I would’ve told you a lot of different reasons why I did what I did, but today I will tell you they had one thing in common. Pressure to be what I wasn’t.

This pressure came from my family and from myself…and a bit from society, too I suppose.

Like many, I was given a Box I was meant to fit into. When I didn’t fit into it exactly, I felt pressure from my family, church and then myself. And by pressure I mean judgment, criticism and rejection.  The more I didn’t fit the worst I felt. I contorted myself to appease and the more I did, the more uncomfortable my Soul became. It is this dissonance that leads to suicidal thoughts.

See, when you have this idea of what you are supposed to be (the Box) but it is not your Truth, you either 1) rebel and follow your own path by creating your own Box (or maybe you prefer a Basket like me); or 2) you contort to contain yourself in the original Box, by denying your desires, passions and emotions.

Sometimes the Box is entirely of your own making. Perhaps you have wonderful supportive parents who do not impose a Box on you, but because you grew up in a society you were exposed to the dimensions of other Boxes and constructed your own imaginary Box from lessons learned from teachers, the government, television advertising etc… It doesn’t matter where your box came from it only matters that the Box doesn’t fit you.

Simply put, suicide comes into play when you feel that what is showing up in your reality isn’t changeable.

Suicide is being lost in the illusion. The illusion that nothing is changeable. The illusion that no one cares. The illusion that you must fight your own nature and inner guidance. The illusion that things should be different than they show up. The illusion that you have no control.

In a very real way, I have created this “Life Enhancement” business/mission, as the ultimate suicide prevention. In living an enhanced life, we find value in our difference, not suffering. Perhaps that is why I am so unnerved every time I hear of a suicide/attempt. Each time I think, “If only we’d worked together before it ever got this far.”

Looking back if I had had one person who told me I was under no obligation to live by the rules of others, I would’ve had a much easier time. I would’ve found myself a lot earlier. I would’ve loved myself better for more of my life. I would’ve stepped onto my Path a lot earlier.

So, here I am saying it to you.

You are under no obligation to fit into the Box you were given. No one has the right to create your Box. No one.

The reasons/situations people commit or attempt suicide are too vast, but they have one thing in common…not feeling like they fit. Whether it is sexual orientation, gender identity, addiction, chemical imbalance, financial loss or even an artistic soul trying to live a corporate life…somehow the message is that they are worth-less.

Life is a joy. At least it was meant to be so. Living a joy-less life path can only lead to this suicidal ideation destination. Where else can it deliver you? Can joy-less ever deliver you to joy? I think not. However, the manipulative tactics of humans in our lives can short circuit our joy, when we let them. Or when we’ve been conditioned to think we cannot survive without their approval.

As for the increase in suicide of teens and twenty-somethings, my belief is that we have a lot of millennial born Souls who are quite evolved (BIG BOX) but subscribing to the belief/rules of the less evolved society (little box). I cannot imagine how excruciating this would be.

As for me, my dream is to one day own a sanctuary space. A metaphysical type store where I can offer sanctuary and support to those who need in the midst of wonderful metaphysical healing place. I believe many who feel trapped in a small box, can find freedom in such a place. I also think it will be easier for those who might need my particular support, to find it, rather than just here on the internet. I don’t know. Maybe it won’t help that way at all, but I’m happy to die trying.

Teaching our children to love and accept themselves no matter what is imperative. While the actions and words of others provide trajectory, it is ultimately this self-judgement and self-rejection that leads one to suicide. If one believes deeply in their own Self, no amount of rejection or criticism will cause them to raise a hand against themselves. But the belief that “I am necessary” keeps us Alive. Literally.

It is this thought that I have determined differentiates suicidal from non-suicidal. “I am necessary.” It is the only thing to explain why two different people, under the same circumstances, make different choices. Or why one person, once suicidal, can make new choices. It is my thought that the lack of this thought is why they cannot feel it when they are surrounded with loving, accepting and supportive loved ones.

You are necessary. What you came to do, can be done by no other. Please allow it to unfold.

With all my heart, I love. You.

~Jade