"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, keep listeners up-to-date with the latest national initiatives being put in place and share first hand Doulagiver experiences from patients, families and practicing Death doulas. This is a historic time for the Death Doula movement. Ask a Death Doula will spotlight the many incredible people taking part in this movement from around the world.
How Studies of Magic Mushrooms are Proving Consciousness
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 growin
Do You Want to Die Like Patty and Greg?
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.
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.
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.
Time Magazine Article [30:28] – Last yea
Your Legacy Captured in Moments and Timelines
1.Bringing Back the Awareness of Death Being a Natural Part of Life. [2:55] – l – there were two things I’ve learned over the course of my career as a Hospice and Oncology nurse that made it go 80 to 90% better for people: The first thing is planning ahead with Advanced Directives and thinking about what you do or don’t want at the end of life. The second thing is knowing the basic skills for how to care for somebody at the end of life in order to facilitate a good death.
2. The Five P’s [5:00] – Darren is a veteran and there is an acronym they used in the armed forces that is referred to as “The Five P’s”. It stands for Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. This can equally be applied to the end of life and death care. If you don’t plan for it, nine out of ten times the end of life will not go well. If you do plan for it, people know where they stand, and the end of life can be a pleasant and enlightening experience. If we don’t plan, everything falls on our family to make decisions and very rarely do families agree on big decisions about medical care at this stressful time. When we empower people to choose their wishes before the end of life, it makes us subconsciously want to live our lives each day the way we really want to. To live with as much joy each day as we possibly can.
3.The Inspiration Behind Darren’s Work [10:30] – Darren has worked in Health and Social care providing technology services for over 25 years. He had no work-relation to end of life at the time or with end-user applications like the ones he develops now. Two and a half years ago, Darren’s wife and sister-in-law became the primary caregivers for his mother-in-law who was suffering from aggressive Lewy body dementia. After his mother-in-law’s funeral, he and his family were going through photo albums and discovered that they did not know many of the people in the photos and now that his mother-in-law had passed, that part of their family history was effectively lost. This led to Darren thinking of a way to incorporate technology to help individuals keep track of their family legacy. He created a “memory box” to use in hospice and palliative care for this purpose. Doulagivers are also trained in conducting life reviews with their patients for the purpose of legacy creation and retention as the end of life nears. It is an incredibly important, powerful, and healing exercise for them.
4.How the After Cloud App Works [16:05] – Darren’s After Cloud app has been utilized in real world environments such as hospice to enable patients to create content based on four main focal points: Letters, Images, Videos, and Audio. Patients can use these all at once to create really valuable and meaningful moments and record things they want to share and celebrate into the future. A lot of people within Hospice wanted to see a chronological account of their life stories in addition to the content they had created. Darren got to work on making a timeline feature that anyone can use to create a legacy and have a highlight reel of their life to look back on forever. At Doulagivers, we talk about the importance of using techniques that allow the end-of-life patient to take control. This app is a beautiful example of this because it lets these patients choose the highlights of their life they want to leave behind for others to see. You also don’t have to be at the end of life to use this app!
5.Memorials [21:11] – When end of life shows up in people’s lives, it is often a crisis. This extends to when we hold remembrances for people – there tends to be a scrambling to put together a service and memorial and the rush of it all leads to things not going well in this regard either. When things are moving very quickly, and everyone is experiencing the trauma of loss, it becomes a difficult and unfortunate situation for the loved ones to navigate. There is usually a lot of complicated grief and bere
Annoucing Doulagivers Level 1 End of Life Doula Training Veterans Edition
1.We Have to Start Being Guided by Our Hearts [6:32] – We have to break the cycle of living from a place that is guided by our ego. A place that leads to pointing fingers and creates hate and division and that comes from a place of fear, shame, and guilt. We must instead allow our heart guidance system to show us the way forward so that we can change our world for the better. We have really lost our way in nearly every category imaginable – the way we treat each other, the way we treat our planet, the way we treat animals. If we live only through our egos, we will continue down a path of destruction. So, remember that we all have a choice to allow our heart guidance to show us the way and we should allow it to do just that.
2.Sobering Veteran Statistics [10:56] – Our veterans have always been an area of so much pain and suffering. They are asked to stand up for their country – to fight for and protect the freedoms that the rest of us enjoy. We applaud them and celebrate them for their heroism during their active duty – but what happens on the other side of their service? They usually fall through the cracks after they have experienced life-changing trauma from combat situations. In my experience, veterans have been some of the most challenging end of life patients to work with because they have such complicated grief and past experiences that heavily burden them. The depths of trauma they go through are almost impossible to reach. Only another veteran knows what that feels like, so Doulagivers is excited to announce that we have partnered with a veteran expert to create a Veteran’s Edition of our world-renowned Doulagivers 90-Minute Level 1 End of Life Doula Live Webinar Training. This is so important and needed when we look at veteran statistics – I want to share some eye-opening facts with you. There are more than 19 million veterans currently living in the United States – approximately 1,800 veterans die each day. There are over 9 million veterans over the age of 65 in the United States. The more specific eldercare and end of life care services we can put in place for this population, the better. Vietnam veterans make up the largest share of elder veterans. An average of 20 veterans die by suicide each and every day. What can we do right now to show up for an expand support for our veterans?
3.Bringing in a Veteran Expert [21:05] – Dr. Qwynn Galloway-Salazar is a U.S. Army veteran and the spouse of a combat veteran. She is the founder of In Their Honor LLC and her life’s work is dedicating her end-of-life education to veterans their families. She is an end-of-life doula and educator. She has collaborated with us at Doulagivers to bring in veteran-specific knowledge to our Level 1 End of Life Doula Training to properly support these veterans in one of their greatest times of need. We met each other through a mutual colleague, Dr. Karen Wyatt, and her End-of-Life University Podcast. I saw her interview on the podcast and I fell in love with her passion for caring for veterans at end of life. I reached out to her shortly after and it led us to working together to create the Doulagivers Level 1 End of Life Doula Training Veteran’s Edition.
4.Dedication to Clinton Wyatt [24:20] – Dr. Karen Wyatt is a dear friend of mine and her End-of-Life University Podcast is a beautiful platform where she shares so much great information. Because of that podcast, I was able to connect with Dr. Qwynn Galloway-Salazar and we were able to create this wonderful offering to veterans that I believe is going to have a big impact on their lives. I am eternally grateful to Dr. Wyatt for making this connection possible and all the work she does - particularly with helping to educate people on how to deal with death by suicide. She shares the beautiful story of her father, Clinton Wyatt, who was a WWII veteran. He was a wonderful soul, and he had a miraculous journey and faced many struggles as a veteran. Dr
In stressful times, focus on what you CAN control
Food and Stress [4:30] – Stress can come in many forms and one of them is environmental stressors. In our world today, most of our food sources are empty calories with a lack of nutrients and an abundance of chemicals and contaminants. This leads to an increase in inflammation and stress in the body which over time can develop into disease. Elyse says that she personally pays more attention to the ingredients listed on the foods she consumes rather than on the nutrient panel. She emphasizes understanding what she is putting into her body and as a rule of thumb she believes if you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it. Many chronic illnesses can not only be stopped but reversed through proper diet and exercise and lifestyle changes.
DNA Expression [9:12] – Within 90 days you can change your gene expression by changing what you put into your body because our cells replicate themselves. This process occurs every 90 days - so if you eat well, exercise, and take care of your body, that replication can take place in a healthy way. If you eat poorly and neglect your health, it will take place in an unhealthy way. You have the power to make that choice and it will make you feel well and give you a sense of clear mindedness. When Elyse was thirteen years old, she was overweight and struggling to feel good regularly. It was around this time that she developed a curiosity for the way certain foods made her feel and she began her journey towards a healthier lifestyle. She realized she had chronic inflammation and decided to make a change. She removed processed foods from her diet and lost 50 pounds as a result.
Pay Attention to How You Feel [13:25] – Elyse started her path to a healthier lifestyle as a weight loss journey, but she ended up sticking to it not because of how she looked, but because of how she felt. She felt good in her body and realized that there was a level of confidence exuding from her because of it. She identified that these results came from the nourishment she was giving her body. Elyse wants people to know that it’s not only what you’re eating, but also the environment you’re eating the food in that matters. There are a lot of different elements that impact our relationship with ourselves and our relationship with food. Our society as a whole has a dysfunctional relationship with food and most of what is available in our stores lacks nutrition and is high in calories, sugar, unhealthy fats, and disease-causing additives. Elyse wants people to feel empowered to make good choices for themselves and take a more critical approach to how they shop and view their dietary choices.
The Impact of Stress on the Nervous System [15:40] – Our bodies are bombarded with stress on so many levels daily that we essentially live in survival mode. When we are constantly in a state of fight or flight, it pushes the gas pedal down on our adrenal glands and pumps out cortisol. A certain level of stress is healthy to have, but when we reach a sustained level of distress it becomes unhealthy. We have to be intentional with how much outside stress we allow into our lives. It is empowering to realize that we can choose to regulate some of the things that cause us undue stress in our lives. If they go unchecked, it can wreak havoc on us and it permeates all aspects of our lives – the quality of our sleep, our relationships, and even the food we choose to eat. When we are highly stressed, we tend to make poor choices which compound into an unhealthy lifestyle. To live a healthy life, we have to reject unnecessary stressors in our lives - and we are the only one who can do that. You are the only person in the world who can truly heal yourself.
Tools for a Healthier Life [21:45] – Think of yourself as an instrument that needs to be tuned regularly. One of the best tools that you can start implementing today to achieve this is starting to work on understanding what you need. It is a
How do we reduce the fear of death? - by learning the truth about it. The Art of Doulagiving
How do we reduce the fear of death? - by learning the truth about it. In this episode of Ask a Death Doula, I have the great pleasure of sharing the Art of Doulagiving Graduate series with Certified Doulagiver Teri-Portugal Gooden.
Teri’s first experience of death was with her beloved Gaga. When alone in the room as Gaga with transition, she sat up and exclaimed with excitement to Teri “Not to be afraid because its beautiful!!!!! And showered Teri with red kisses all over her face just moments before she took her last breath.
In this episode, you will hear:
When Teri first knew she had the calling to be a Doulagiver [3:06] – Teri had always worked and volunteered with terminally ill patients and even wrote a paper about it in the fourth grade. She always felt strongly about holding space for elderly people. She was profoundly moved by sitting with them and hearing their stories and their conversations at the end of life. Teri had a gift of feeling comfortable in this space and it empowered her to become a Doulagiver. We always encourage anybody who has this innate ability to step forward and answer their calling because so many people out in the world need you and it is such a special way to put love back into the world.
The importance of talking honestly with children and bringing back the sacredness surrounding death [5:25] – At Doulagivers, we believe one of the best ways to bring back the awareness of death and its sacredness into the natural fold of life is to be honest with children. There are age-appropriate ways to engage with children in the truthfulness of end of life rather than shielding them from that inevitability. One of the greatest gifts you can give children is not removing death from their understanding of life but teach them that it is a natural part of the human life cycle instead.
Gaga and the gift of community taking care of community [6:36] – Teri’s grandmother that she refers to as “Gaga” came to the United States from Ukraine when she was a young girl. Teri’s mother had her when she was young and was divorced when Teri was only two years old – this led Teri to spend a lot of time with her grandmother as she was growing up and they would bond over stories from her grandmother’s journey to America. Part of these stories were about the importance of community – there was a network of immigrant women making sure their entire community was taken care of during that period of her grandmother’s life. They made sure people were fed, provided medical care, birth care, and death care, as well as about anything else that was needed. Not all of these people were Ukrainian either – it was a mixture of people who had immigrated from every corner of the world in search of a better life. The wisdom and the lessons of how giving back is so important from listening to those stories had a huge impact on Teri at a young age and shaped her desire to work with those at end of life.
Death teaches you that we are connected to something so much greater [11:44] – It is almost indescribable the peace, the serenity, the connection to something so much greater than what we normally think of when working with those at the end of life. It solidifies that there is an omnipresence of us all… and it is love. It’s dropping the physical, human part of us, and having that spiritual part that is so full of light and shine that exists forever. When you feel that and know that - you know the person is no longer with you, but it brings incredible peace to us when losing a loved one. We want people to know that death can be beautiful, that it is sacred, and that it is natural – and teach people the practical skills to be prepared for and to handle end of life well because we know we are all going to get there someday.
How becoming a Doulagiver has led Teri to live a “purposeful life” [18:08] – Teri had worked in a demanding business for thirty years and felt de
Educational, wholistic and grounded
From the first episode I listened to, through to my twentieth I’m appreciative of the depths this podcast takes us. As a non-medical professional I didn’t know if exploring the opportunity to be a Death / End of Life Doula is something I’d be welcomed to do…glad to hear and learn that the doors are open to one and all. I find myself smiling and nodding often at the content brought forth to share. So appreciate the balanced approach for self-care and caring for the dying. I look forward to participating in the trainings offered as well. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and deep passion for this part of our lives journey…and introducing us to a vast array of others who address/support grief, the dying and those around them.
I love listening to this death doulas podcast! It’s helping me personally to write my death plan so when it’s my time my adult kids will know what I would prefer in many situations. They will also have a “map” to guide them. I Wish I knew when my mom died of Alzheimer’s disease!
I love learning about the end of life care since we will all either be a caregiver or need a caregiver one day.
We need more information like this! Thank you Suzanne for bring more awareness to death and dying - and LIVING!