Read the transcript:

Cora:

Have you talked about death with your family?

I’m Cora Naylor – Certified Co-Active Coach and Emotion Code Practitioner.

A couple of things that Empty Nesters tend to put off is doing a will and talking openly about their death wishes – whether it’s for themselves or their family. So today I’ve invited Karen Hendrickson to join us.

Karen is a Coach, End of Life Doula, and End of Life Planning and Death Education Facilitator. She helps clients get comfortable with the uncomfortable specifically with their own inevitable mortality. she removes the fear, confusion and uncertainty that can come with accepting and planning our own death and she provides the holistic support for end of life patients, families and caregivers. Giving them a sense of compassion, understanding and control over the end of life journey, the challenges and the emotions that are inevitable. The greatest gift we can give ourselves is a life well lived. The greatest gift we can give our loved ones, is a death well planned for. Welcome Karen

Karen:
Thank you, Cora I'm so glad to be here today.

Cora:
Yeah, I think a lot of people are interested to hear what you've got to say because it's not something that's really common.

Karen:
The whole reason I do this work is that we all want to talk about it and we all want to be comfortable with it but we're afraid.

Cora:
Yeah. I think it's like a will. I mean it's interesting to me. How many friends that I've known over the years, with kids who didn't have a will. And it sounds morbid to talk about it but at the same time once it's done. You don't have to talk about it or think about it anymore.

Karen:
Right. Just like sex right if you talk about sex, it doesn't mean that you're going to get pregnant. If you talk about death and dying, it doesn't mean that you're going to die today or tomorrow. but the reality is we're all going to die. I sort of look at it from the perspective of you know all of us in our life are writing a story. if you consider a book that you read the best part of the book always was a fantastic end. And so why wouldn't we want to create a fantastic ending for our own story our own life story.

Cora:
Yeah, and I think the idea is if you talk about it while you're alive and healthy, so everybody knows what your wishes are, if something tragic comes along. It takes the pressure off. because that's such an emotional time. if you actually know what everybody's wishes are, then you don't have to try and think of that while you're going through all those emotions.

Karen:
Yeah, for sure right. so you definitely number one remove the burden of those that you love for those that might be held are asked to make decisions for you.  Those individuals if you establish your plan. if you get really clear about what matters most to you when you are healthy, and you can identify what you want in the way of care - even after death care and cremation, burial, all of those.

when you get clear on all that stuff when you're healthy. you enter into it in a way that is much more positive and heartful versus fearful and scared, which happens when we've been given diagnosis or something's occurred in that way. when you are healthy, you can actually have more productive and honest conversations with your people as well. because they aren't with the emotion of your illness and fear of what's going to happen when it occurs. 

So you come from a healthier place to start with right. then when you create that plan, and you give that gift to your people who may have to act on your behalf. What they're doing is they're coming from a place of love and acting and honor and respect for you in fulfilling the wishes that you've already laid out. versus making a decision about, you know, maybe stopping some machines, or medical machines work for you. and then always wonder for certain was that the right decision I should have made for my mom. So that was a burden and a guilt that goes along that feeds into how they manifest and travel with their guilt or  their grief afterwards. so it makes the whole process a little lighter. it's always going to be challenging. illness is always going to be challenging. the death of a loved one is always going to be hard from a grief and loss perspective but there's ways that we can do it so that it's a little bit lighter and a little bit easier for all of us right.

Cora:
I think if people can just get focused on that part, and knowing it's just making the plan so that if and when the time comes, you have different scenarios and you'll have a better idea what to do while you go through the emotions. So maybe you can tell us a little bit more than about exactly what is an End of Life Doula. I know a lot of people have heard of a birth doula, but an Ed of Life Doula is a little bit different term.

Karen:
So, we all are very familiar with the birth doula. that's the individual that's a non medical professional that provides holistic support to a mom and family when they're bringing a new life into the world. it is a sacred event that occurs in our life. And so a death doula or an end of life doula is almost exactly the same except on the other end of the spectrum. And again, helping to support, family, and individuals in that end of life journey and honor that sacred aspect of life. it's sacred as well too. 

oftentimes what can happen is that someone will receive a terminal diagnosis and they'll go on for a period of time with treatment, then the treatment will stop for whatever reason personal choice, or there's nothing else that is beneficial to that patient and eventually maybe ends up in hospice. either in the bricks and mortar hospice like McKinney Creek here and Maple Ridge, or they receive hospice care at home right. but oftentimes what families will say to me is okay my mom's just going into hospice and so like now how long do we have to wait for her to die because she's dying now.  with the doula support and that sort of sits a spiritual sacred it's kind of a very fluid kind of support that we provide. it creates opportunity for people to see that, in fact, someone with a terminal illness is living. they're living with terminal illness, until they die.  so how can we find ways to help people adjust that camera lens for themselves a little bit, to see things a little bit differently, to change the face of hope. 

you know there's a lot of grief and loss it's all experienced already on the journey around my person's dying, mom's dying, my gosh I'm gonna lose my mom. And so we try to change the hope that my mom will live into hope that my mom has a fulfilling quality of life, as much as possible. we can create really rich magical moments, even though she's living with illness. Iso we just helped to adjust the lens. It can be advocating for patient and family, who are receiving maybe home health care and there's always challenges that come into that.  we're talking about individuals personal emotions, deep grief, fear, and oftentimes communication is confusing or there are gaps. our systems do have gaps, our medical system has gaps our professionals are taxed in resources and time. And don't necessarily have the opportunity to actually sit and be present with patients and family to support them and acknowledge their fear and their concerns and find answers for them. find things that they can focus on, that can help the journey.

so often we feel powerless, they have no control. So on the front end, if we do the educational work and we help to open up our minds to have the conversations and create good plans, then when we're in the thick of it, it's a little bit easier for us to focus on those things that can still bring us some joy and honor our person. And so you know that can look like all kinds of things.

sometimes it looks like music therapy. we do encourage sometimes. So, as  a death doula we have a lot of other resources and a lot of different forms of practitioners that we can bring in to support our person. you know the person in the family that we are supporting. they might be Reiki specialists, they might be massage therapists, it could be music therapists any kind of thing. so we can bring those and if those things are valuable for the person, and stuff that's enjoyable then we try to create as much joy. we try to fill the experience with as much love and compassion as we can. So ensuring that we're sharing the things we need to share saying the things we need to say.  

so in my work oftentimes what I find is, first off, number one what can happen is the family doesn't want to acknowledge with the patient, that the patient is dying. and the patient doesn't want to scare the family, and let the family know they're dying. And the truth is, everybody knows it's happening. And so, let's just talk about that. let's just bring ourselves together in our fear together. and that because that's how it becomes more sacred and honorable, and we're actually being authentic in the experience and not being afraid of that and we turn it into beautiful experiences by doing this right.

Cora:
Yeah. 

Karen:
On the one side I love you. Here's what I'm so grateful for. here's what I am so grateful for what you brought to my life. what you've shared with me ,what you've taught me, and vice versa. and even in difficult relationships sometimes, or estranged relationships we can bring help to set the stage so people get comfortable in coming back together. they don't resolve the issue but they resolve themselves to the state of their relationship and have the ability to at least say, I'm sorry. Please forgive me r and I forgive me. 

Cora:
Yeah, I think that's really important.

Karen:
The other thing about us learning how to love and live fully, and that's the ultimate for me.  that brings tears to my eyes when I think about it because it's the most honorable moment and experience on that deep reach level that we can allow ourselves to have, if we open ourselves up to the conversations early and exploring and really great.
Cora:
Yeah. it's really important. Probably difficult for some families because some families don't want to have conversations about sort of normal things before they even get there. but you also don't want to have any regrets after because  after the fact there's no going back. So if there's something that you did want to say and you didn't get a chance to now you have to live with that if you don't get it cleared beforehand.

Karen:
Yeah. so often to what we find is that - number one people aren't really aware of what their options are, and what is available to them. More often than not.  there's stats that show that you know 80% of us would, if we had a choice, with die at home, less than 30% of us do. 80% of us want to have the conversations with our doctors around End of Life planning and advanced care planning and being less than 30% of us do. 100% of us die. R

In the majority of families and clients that I've worked with more often than not, I would say probably at least 90% of the time. That experience is one of theirs diagnosis or there's been an event, a health event or there's a diagnosis or, you know, we can sort of see the timeline on death, and now all of a sudden, the patient, if they have the capacity, is wanting to do all of this catch up on their life. 

all of this catch up on their relationships with each other. All of this catch up on the bucket list things I never did. i mean that's something to that as a doula we sometimes do use virtual reality to help bring experiences to patients. Bring virtual reality even to just help with meditative practice and calming practice. to bring peace and release anxiety. so there's lots of things creative things that we can do right but how unfortunate that we wait until we can see the exit door. While we live the way we truly wish we would live.


Cora:
Yeah, I mean that's one of the things that why we both got into coaching to try and help people before we get to your conversation. But, better late than never. Let's at least have the conversation. So, we just as the last few minutes here. What are like what are the differences or, you know, how does someone know when they need your service as opposed to what they getting through the medical system.

Karen:
you know, that can come at any point in time. so I do some work with healthy individuals around advance care planning and and representation agreements and what's most important to them for their long term - choices around end of life. I help facilitate conversations with their people, sometimes it feels uncomfortable, so I help to facilitate that. Other times it could be in the last weeks, you know, all of a sudden, caregiver or family's  just sort of feeling like they're just collapsing under everything that's happening. And just need a resource and reach out right. 

The unfortunate thing today is that our health care professionals in palliative care as an example. they may know or have heard of a death doula or an end of life doula, but there is no clear understanding as to how we can add value, and in fact we actually by supporting a patient and their family we actually can add value to the health professionals as well. because it can help to make that integration easier and smoother. because we're providing a support that they just don't have the time and resource to provide.

 they do great work. but this there's a gap and patients and families will always tell you there's a gap. oftentimes they've said to me I never even knew the value of this until you stepped into our life. I become part of their care team and I become a part of their unit of family. it's so honorable for me to do the work because it's so sacred. 

Cora:
Yeah. it must be very special and they can definitely feel your emotion in it because you become part of their family as you go through that process, I'm sure. 

Karen:
Yeah, it's cool when they choose you.

Cora:
yeah. That's beautiful. And so I'm so glad that you got to come on here and fill in everybody a little bit more about how the End of Life Doula works, and if it's something that they know about now. they can go forward with that, if they need it. We also have your website running along the bottom so that's karenhendrickson.ca, is there any information that they can get there if they go to your website Karen.

Karen:
Absolutely they . so you'll see on my website that there's a coaching page and there is a page specific for end of life doula and all the services that are available through them. It is sort of a personal package service that we do because the needs are unique to the individuals and the people that are seeking to help. but there's some good information there around my work. 

Then there's also information there around education programs, and webinars and those types of things that we do ongoing. taking the month of July off you'll see on my website and come August are some actually some new and exciting things coming up for us around online training and webinars. that's an ongoing practice. the more people we can engage in conversation and bring to the table. The better we will all be, because then we will all die better. 

Cora:
Awesome.Yes. Awesome, thank you so much again thanks for having coming on today, Karen. And if anybody wants to go ahead and get in touch with Karen if you have any questions.

if you're an empty nester and you're not a part of my empty nester group, we'd love to have you so just comment below with the Yes, and we'll get you added in so you can get the support of other women going through the empty nest journey together. And also, you'll get notified of interviews that we've got coming up. So thanks again Karen for joining us and we'll see everybody next time.


Contact Karen: https://karenhendrickson.ca

Join Cora's Empty Nest Facebook Group:  http://bit.ly/you-beyond-the-empty-nest

Work with Cora: https://coranaylor.com/emptynestcoach/