Reflecting back, turning inward, and planning ahead
As a doula, I have held space at both ends of life. Just as my own pregnancies and labors originally inspired my birth work, a series of personal losses inspired my interest in deathcare. Both thresholds beckon a similar presence—one that is centered, calming, and reassuring. When caring for clients or loved ones through these intense transitions, I offer emotional, informational, and spiritual support.
When I begin working with people as their doula, I first explain the scope of my role and potential services to see what appeals. In turn, my clients identify their initial goals and interests. From there, the process follows a distinct trajectory:
Exploration of their Personhood => Sharing of Themselves => Preparing and Planning
In my new book, The Death Doula’s Guide to Living Fully and Dying Prepared, I invite readers into a similar process of mortality awareness, and I gently guide them through the journey:
We’ll explore your present and past, likes and dislikes, greatest achievements, and biggest heartbreaks. The investigation will always be invitational, never forceful. You’re free to respond in as much or as little detail as you choose. These efforts will help illuminate your authentic identity, to yourself, in ways we don’t often get to do in regular life.
From there, we can start to map out how you might share yourself, your stories, and any messages you’d like to leave for your loved ones. This naturally transitions us into more formal planning as we consider end-of-life care options. Ultimately, it’s only once we have uncovered our inner workings that we can begin to envision how to honor them.
The main inspiration for the book is my own Death Journal—what I’ve named the remembrance gift I’ve been creating for my loved ones for many years. Working on my journal has added immeasurable value to my life. As I explore and plan for my own end of life (whenever it occurs), I clarify and document the wishes and preferences that feel most important. Within its pages, I offer ideas for my care, disposition, and memorialization. I draft loving messages of solace and encouragement, knowing that even in my absence, my beloveds will be able to access my voice…my essence…my enduring love.
My Death Journal is not a repository for secrets. I regularly and readily express what’s on my mind and in heart. But I also capture the most poignant, impactful sentiments for later use. When I take my final breath, I trust I’ll feel some relief in knowing my dearests can lean on this offering as a means to cope. Also, as I release the illusion of control over my eventual fate, I find I’m able to reclaim some agency over the moments I do have. I have this day. I have this chance. At any given time, this is all we actually do have.
Are you interested in discovering a sense of death wellness? Here’s one exercise of many from The Death Doula’s Guide to Living Fully and Dying Prepared to consider. It’s part of the “Core Self” segment where readers turn inward and discover what’s most central. As suggested throughout the book, “try and modify.” Make this your own.
First, gather a pen and some paper, find a favorite thinking spot, and take a cleansing breath.
Your beliefs can have roots in religion, spirituality, lived experience, or even hopeful dreams. They can be reverent in nature (“I believe that volunteerism is a virtue”), but they can also be light (“I believe in fairytales”).
What are your convictions? What is unshakable despite any situation and through all challenges? What do you know to be true or what do you wish to be true?
Before adding written responses to the next exercise, first contemplate your core beliefs and their value. What do they add to your life? How do they influence your choices and path?
Now, make a compilation list of personal beliefs by completing the following statements:
I believe in…
I believe that…
Take time to review your stated beliefs. Did any of your statements surprise you? Did you allow yourself leeway to include a variety of answers? Are any of them positive affirmations you repeat to alter your mindset? Are they sourced from magical or wishful thinking, or are they more practical, in other words, tested and proven?
Allow yourself to wonder about your beliefs while suspending any judgment. How would it feel to share this list with others? Are you open and vocal about any of these guideposts? Do you keep some private? Would you like to examine or question any in more depth? Would you like to strengthen any of them?
Our beliefs often mirror our thought patterns. What we think about ourselves, others, and the world informs our framework. When we seek to gain more clarity about our viewpoints, we develop more agency over our reactions and behaviors. Thus, we can make more thoughtful, purposeful choices. Given that, are your beliefs in alignment with who you feel you are and how you act?
Want more? Pre-order the new book now and enjoy an incredible THANK YOU bundle to hold you over until July 1st!