The work of death
It's different for everybody, and I love all of it.
What makes you feel most alive? Most on fire? Fully invigorated — and yet fully at peace at the same time? What is that work, hobby, passion, calling?
My answer? Death.
I delight most in the flow of life while doing the work of death. And the more of this that I do, the clearer it is to me that humanity does not do this work — like, at all. And we should. We very much should — all the time, with each other, freely, and with love. The world would be a much better place to live, I just know it.
Those of you who have navigated the dying and death of a loved one know that we don’t know how to talk about it, deal with it, feel about it, feel our way through it, support each other along the way. We don’t understand what decisions need to be made — or don’t need to be made. What power we have in the process — and that we don’t need to give that power away (ever, to anyone or anything). What beauty there is available to us at all times, even the most tragic. That we don’t have to experience it through the lens of fear.
So many layers of lessons in dying and death, all for our benefit, our growth. And yet…
From the practical to the philosophical, we are lost. We weren’t always. At one point, we knew all of this. Then we forgot.
It is time to rise and remember what death is, how to do it, what to take from it, what to release with it, how to grow out of it and thanks to it.
That’s the work I do — the work of death. And I love it.
The beauty of ambiguity
But what is it, exactly, this work I do? I’ve been told a few times lately, “I need help, but I don’t know what working with you looks like.” Of course you don’t. How could you?
The former marketer in me would have been horrified hearing this. But the death doula I am now revels in this ambiguity because it speaks to possibility — the infinite possibilities for how we can better navigate and heal through dying and death.
That it is impossible to put a finger on the death doula role is both a blessing and curse. Our work is not widely understood because, to my point above, our culture is disconnected from death. In addition, our work is not understood because there are not many of us — again, because our culture is disconnected from death.
Reconnecting with death
You can connect (reconnect, really) with death, and I am here to help you do that. And the blessing, then, is this: My work looks like whatever you need it to be, whatever you want it to look like, whenever you decide the time is right for it.
My work is about YOU and dying and death — your own or a loved one’s — and not about me as a practitioner. As such, there isn’t one definition, one tagline, one marketable “job” or benefit statement I can push out in front of you. And thank God for that, for what we do together is not a business. It’s a calling and an answering of that calling. It’s the work of life.
I must add here that the humans called to work in death are a special breed. We care about you so so so much. We love you, and we want nothing more than to honor you and help you remember peace. We lead with love; we are the helpers. And when we can’t help you, we are the kind of people who say so and then add, “But I know someone else who can” or “I have a death doula friend who specializes in what you need.” We will always help you land in love. That’s why we are on the planet.
So yes, our work together looks like what you need it to look like. That’s the beauty in my role’s ambiguity. But let’s get real. What do I do, really?
In the past year, my work has taken the shape of…
This blog. I am a writer; I love to write. I used to send a more conventional “newsletter,” but that felt really stale and forced to me — too much like marketing. (Yuck.) This blog is my writing home now; please subscribe if you haven’t yet, and please share it with others who might like it, too.
Emailing back and forth to share resources, from favorite books on dying to referrals to funeral homes that specialize in (truly) green burials… There are so many resources to share.
Texting back and forth about everything from creating memento mori jewelry to pondering nature of the universe… No topic is off the table.
Arranging Last Rites in the Catholic tradition for a dying matriarch because it was “off hours” for the parish church and the family was overwhelmed and exhausted
Planning memorial services, writing obits, establishing memorial funds
Sitting vigil with the dying and coaching others on vigil sitting
Leading classes at Joy of Yoga in Brentwood, Mo. We told stories, asked questions, talked, listened, immersed ourselves in the foundational and revolutionary work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, brought the death doula role to life, learned about green burial choices, and so much more. Most importantly (and beautifully), we built community. These gatherings are magical; I can’t wait to get more on the calendar.
Sharing and helping others complete “Five Wishes,” a very useful tool for articulating one’s desires for their end of life. (This can be done at any time of life, and it benefits everyone involved! I highly recommend Five Wishes or some version of it.)
Coaching through the final hours of a loved one’s human life — in person, via email and/or text, and over the phone
Telling and showing others, as they navigate their own death or others’ deaths, that they are okay, enough, at peace, supported, and loved beyond measure
Channeling Reiki for the dying, which facilitates the movement of energy through the human form and therefore enables the body to release from pain and suffering with greater ease. After channeling Reiki for one woman, her daughter remarked, “You called my mom to Peace.” This is the most beautiful way to describe this service; it brought tears to my eyes and still does every time I recall it. What an honor. Truly humbling.
Mediumship. I communicate on behalf of dying patients unable to otherwise communicate with their loved ones due to intubation, coma, brain death. I deliver their messages for them. I also do this on behalf of the dead who have messages to deliver to the living.
And coming soon, a few new efforts that I trust will help others connect with the work of death in even more meaningful ways. Stay tuned… 2022 will NOT be boring — for me or any of us!
I pray to help
Humans pray for any number of things, blessings, intentions. I pray that I am guided to people I can help and that people who need my help are guided to me. So to contact me and engage my work in any way, shape, or form is to answer a prayer. In this way especially, you are divine to me — because you are divine. We all are. We just need to be reminded of this, in both life and death. At its core, that’s the work of death, and I am humbled and honored to serve you this way. It’s my life.