I have a healthy understanding and respect for death. Part of what has helped define my relationship with death comes from first hand experience. My spirituality also informs my attitude about dying.
I gained first-hand experience with death when I lost my mother to cancer while still in high school (1992). Five years later, I lost my younger brother in a car accident. I was confused and angry and didn't understand my own feelings about what was happening. Part of my motivation is to be the guide that I needed in my time of crisis.
My mother’s multi-year battle with cancer made organized religion difficult for me. I struggled with the difference between religion and spirituality. I wasn’t able to understand what spirituality was or what it might mean to me and eventually became a staunch atheist and materialist.
I said goodbye to my mother and my brother and pushed down the pain. Not surprisingly, I became ill. My illness didn't overtake me all at once. Instead, it wore me down over the next two decades and brought me close to death more than once.
Through a commitment to therapy and spiritual practices, I was able to acknowledge, accept, and act on beliefs that I’ve had my entire life that I had pushed down and repressed. My real beliefs about death are positive, warm and compassionate. Death is a natural part of life and, while loss is a huge component of dying, the process is a transition rather than an end.
Most people are scared of dying. That’s understandable. It is a very big unknown that every one of us will experience. The difficulty, at least in our society, is that people are often reluctant to discuss it. As a result, when death does arrive, people are unprepared and the dying process becomes more of a crisis than it needs to be. I research, meditate on, and talk about death.
I want people who are nearing death, and their friends and families, to bring me into their homes and hospice, where I will help them plan their death. I will answer their questions about death and help them through this challenging event. I will have frank and open conversations and help the client achieve a personal understanding and relationship with death that will help to ease the entire process. I will also help in more domestic ways, if a meal needs to be cooked or a room vacuumed.
As a death doula, I also act as an advocate for the dying. I help them navigate the sometimes confusing and unfamiliar landscape of their final months. I will act in their best interests as they put their death plan into effect, making sure they get what they want and need from hospice workers, nurses, funeral directors or anyone else involved in making their death plan into a reality.
I look back at my mother’s death and at all the information (and compassion) I didn’t receive when it was happening. I can’t change my experience but I can aid others in ways that no one was able to do for me. I can help anyone who is dying or knows someone who is dying to transform the process of dying from a frightening and stressful event into an experience centered around love and growth.