In January of 2019, I embarked upon a Journey of understanding and honoring death, the dying process and our end of life transition. I felt called to this EOL Doula service years ago when at the bedside of a friend, I experienced an enlightening and deep remembrance of transitioning souls into the higher realms. My soul was calling loudly. During the Conscious Dying End of Life Doula Certification Program, I committed to myself that I would write and submit an article to our local E.P.I.C Magazine and it was published in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue (see HERE).
I wish to thank Lisa, Laurie and Amanda at EPIC for acknowledging and deeply appreciating the value of this sacred work. Please find below a copy of the published article and the direct link to the published copy on the EPIC Magazine website:
Dying with Grace: A Sacred Transition
Recently, an extended family member dealing with terminal cancer ended his life in a most violent way. When I heard the story, deep sorrow and grief arose from the depth of my core, not only for my family, but for all of humanity. In the aftermath, I was profoundly shaken and filled with unanswered questions.
In moments of self-inquiry I asked, “How does this happen? Where was his support? Was there a health care team in place for this precious being suffering with cancer? How unbearable the loneliness, mental strife, and sense of helplessness must have been; and the pain he must have endured to contemplate and follow through with such a drastic measure. How many other dying people are in such a state of despair that they would rather take their own lives? Did he know that there were options to die consciously?”
Dying with grace needs to be recognized and honored as a basic human right. “No One Dies Alone” is the number one conscious dying principle.
WHAT ARE YOUR BELIEFS AROUND DYING? What are the beliefs you hold around death and dying? What events in your life shaped those points of view? Have you ever contemplated notions (conscious and/or subconscious) of what your death experience will be like?
In my youth, after visiting my grandmother on several occasions in the “old folks home” (as we fondly referred to the nursing home), I recall wondering why she was living there. She was walking around fine, she was happy and seemed to be able to care for herself nicely. I was curious as to why Grandma would choose to live there. I resolved myself to believing that was where old people lived, and ultimately died.
Have you ever visited a relative or friend who was alone in a nursing home, and thought, or even silently whispered to yourself, “I don’t want to die like this”? I know I have. If we are limited by subconscious beliefs, our attitudes toward dying can be fearful and constricting. It is practically impossible to comfort our dying loved ones when we ourselves are feeling fear. Conversely, we can cultivate attitudes that are liberating, expansive, and allow us to live with a sense of freedom in our daily lives; especially once we understand there is more choice around this rite of passage than we may have realized.
CREATING A VISION FOR YOUR DEATH It may seem unnatural and even awkward to talk of death and dying, especially your own. Maybe you have thought of some of the practical aspects, such as what personal affairs need to be in order; perhaps you even have that piece taken care of. But most of us have never considered what care and support we would like to receive in the dying process. Take a moment and try to imagine that everything surrounding your death was exactly the way you wanted it, what might that look like?
Envision your last days or months. Do you imagine your physical body being safe and comfortable? Do you visualize loving family and friends taking an active part in the dying process? How do you foresee your beliefs and practices being upheld? In what ways do you want your feelings honored? What sacred moments do you envision for end of life? Are there grief rituals for you and your family? Do you picture your life/legacy being reviewed? How do you foresee healing relationships and creating completions?
Now hold your vision in one hand and your current reality in the other. End of Life Doulas support your vision; together we create steppingstones from your present moment reality to your perfect picture. Planning ahead provides a voice for active participation in creating a natural, graceful and tranquil passing.
EOL Doulas are honored and humbled to be present and lovingly support a beautiful, peaceful and sacred transition. They are the stewards of conscious death. Trained in conscious dying principles, they are mentors who can demystify the stages of the dying process, providing people with information and options for a planned and peaceful end. They are educators using tools such as vision planning for the Best Three Months of Life, to ensure that people die the way they want to, with grace.
Doulas are frontline caregivers; they do not take the place of hospice or its personnel in any regard, rather they work within existing systems to fill the care gap, benefitting all involved: individuals, family members and medical teams. Doulas are advocates whose compassionate presence ultimately cultivates quality-of-life-moments for all involved. Doulas are a resource; they help fulfill plans for sacred end of life passage, including such support as creating ceremony or ritual, or sitting vigil assuring that no one dies alone.
PRACTICE FOR DEATH I was introduced to this “Practice for Death” (which is sometimes called a meditation or a poem) by Tarron Estes, the Founder of the Conscious Dying Institute. I learned this tradition as part of my doula training and I find the practice to be heart opening, healing and spiritually awakening. Each pith or line presents a kernel of truth with its own energetic vibration; various parts may resonate differently within you. We are each on our own restorative inner journey. With regular practice we come to know each phrase and its importance for healing, surrender, rest and release, for others and ourselves.
PRACTICE FOR DEATH©
I RETURN TO GOD
I RELEASE MY BODY TO THE EARTH
I RETRIEVE MY ENERGY FROM ALL WORLDLY THINGS
I RELAX INTO THE SOURCE OF MY BEING
DEATH IS MY TEACHER
I HAVE PREPARED FOR THIS MOMENT ALL OF MY LIFE
ALL TEACHINGS CONVERGE FOR THIS DEPARTURE
THE TRUTH OF IMPERMANENCE ENVELOPS ME
I AM FREE FROM SUFFERING
I RELEASE MY SPIRIT TO THE LIGHT
I AM FORGIVEN
MY WORK IS DONE I RETURN TO THE LIGHT
~ Tarron Estes
Christine Pollock is a Certified End of Life Doula recognized by the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization and an End of Life Doula with the Colorado End Of Life Collaborative. She embraces her Soul’s calling to honor and support sacred passage transitions through compassionate care and holding sacred space. Combining an array of healing approaches and spiritual resources, she has been developing and leading personal retreats in CO for over 15 years. She currently volunteers with Mercy Hospital Hospice in Durango, CO and LifeSpark Cancer Resources in Denver, CO.