Deathwalker

Wow, I know it’s been a while. (Interesting title, right?) I bring tidings and good cheer for the New Year. By the way, this site is about to undergo some reconstruction at the beginning of 2020. The last couple of months have been some hum-dingers (as my mom sometimes says). Life happened, so did death, we lost a few friends and family this fall. I had my own rather dramatic 10-day soiree involving my heart and ICU (not a heart attack) wedged in neatly between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And…as if life is not complicated enough, my daughter, dear friend, Barbara, and I tackled the certification process to become End of Life Specialists.

End of Life Specialists are called by many names (Bring on the cool names!): death doulas, mourning doulas, death care advocates, death midwives, thanadoulas, and deathwalkers among them. (Seriously, who doesn’t like the name Deathwalker? C-o-o-l-e-s-t title ever!)

Kidding aside, whatever we are called, we provide emotional, spiritual, and physical support at an intensely personal and critical time. We assist in planning and preparing for how the last days of the dying will unfold. Beyond comfort and companionship, Death Doulas may provide other services like facilitating reconciliation, assisting in the gathering of end of life documents, coordinating vigil schedules, help the family plan a legacy project, or guide the family through the death process, including the care of the body immediately after.

End of Life Doulas work with individuals, families, hospitals, and hospice to empower people to have a good death by ”walking beside the dying to their death. ” I’m not gonna lie, it’s taking some time to wrap my head around what it means to have a good death. I’m just getting started in all this and as unexpected as it has been, I think I might be on to something….personally. Potentially life-changing– for me, and I am fascinated to see how it all unfolds.

In walking this path together, Barbara, Birdie, and I are learning things about ourselves, our families, our culture as westerners and our places as spiritual beings having a human experience. We are discovering our passions, our specific interests, and talents in the many facets of death work. We are learning what it means to hold space.

I both feel the slow push to advocacy, guiding, empowering, and encouraging the living to take control of their deaths. I want to give the death experience, all of the rights and privileges one has coming into the world. I want to destigmatize death and look mortality full on in the eye, not just peak at it through laced fingers. I have come to realize the importance of the process of respecting passing in a world that seeks to dehumanize and disconnect us from any personal experience with death. 

Barbara feels a pull to the rituals and ceremonies that surround the dying in those final moments before and after death. She also is igniting as a passionate educator in the field of death work. I’m excited to see how she develops her practice and her many talents!

Birdie, on the other hand, has exceptional empathy for those losing their beloved pets. The loss of a pet can be a deeply personal experience. Sometimes we feel guilty about how profound the loss of a pet can be. Bird has decided she might be able to offer help to families about to lose their pet and that painful trauma.

Each of us is a strand on a braid about to weave together into this really cool tapestry. I’m perched to see where it goes.

So yeah, there’s that. A weird left turn from travel writing. (Although there will still be some of that. I am going to Costa Rica on a mission trip with my mom in January.)

We are about to steer this ship in another direction. Buckle up buttercups, it’s going to be an interesting ride. (And I am DEFINATELY using Deathwalker on my business cards!)

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