You will have read in the services section of the Mettamorphosis website about the end-of-life services and coaching offered. These include compassionate listening, difficult conversations, end-of-life planning, life reviews and legacy projects.
In compassionate listening sessions, you can expect a safe space to share your story and unpack your experiences. This is like life-coaching but with a focus on issues most apparent at end-of-life. Many aspects related to end-of-life can be isolating and difficult. People mention their struggle to start talking about topics that are sensitive, personal and profound. Sometimes, someone is ready to thank, talk and plan but they are not sure who they can turn to. Being able to talk to an end-of-life coach or a death doula is one option. Together we successfully and calmly work out what’s happening for you and how to communicate your needs and wants to your doctors, caregivers and family. We can talk about what you understand, what you need more information on and about what priorities, concerns, hopes and dreams are surfacing. After the conversations, we can document and share your preferences with the people that make up your circle of support.
This can include communicating what you would like to happen in the event of your death or illness. I recently attended an online funeral and memorial. My husband insisted that our whole family wear black because it was ‘cultural’ and ‘respectful’. I feel very differently. I want my children, family and friends to be free to wear what expresses who they are and how they feel (even if that includes black). I’m committed to putting into practice my preachings, so I’ve updated my documents with ‘permission’ to wear something beautiful and bright and a joke about me haunting them if they are pressured into wearing something sombre.
Some people will live with the knowledge of their life-limiting illness for a time before they die. This was the case for my own mom. For some people, this knowledge can prompt a desire to review one’s life, to make sense of one’s life experiences, to work on addressing regrets and forgiveness, or even to plan letters and gifts for your loved ones. Sometimes we already know that we are going to miss big milestones in the future like watching children grow up, marry, graduate or gather on a celebrated holiday. We can prepare a letter or a gift for your loved ones on those future occasions. As Prof. Randy Pausch’s parting gift and with full understanding of the terminal nature of his pancreatic cancer, Rondy gave a so-called last lecture at his Pennsylvania university. He co-authored the book that captured his thoughts and the essence of his lecture in the 2008 New York Times best selling book called The Last Lecture. I was really touched by this act then, and remain inspired by it now.
A project like this is where you might employ the services of an end-of-life coach. We work together on a life review or a legacy project. A life review is a series of conversations, which can (but don’t have to) be documented. These conversations can remain private or be shared. Within the conversations, you are afforded space for a personal review of your life experiences. A life review helps you make sense of your life experiences and reach your own peace.
A legacy project is also a series of conversations but these aim to generate a physical remembrance of your life. A legacy project can include setting up an ethical will, laying down a record of your family history, creating a personal scrapbook, writing a series of gratitude letters or deciding on bequests for others.
Some of us are born planners, others like to live life a bit more loosely. Some of us have been shaped by experiences around illness or death that inform our personal or ethical positions on matters like choices at end of life, resuscitation or palliative care. We like to say well there’s a plan for that and there is. These plans are called Advanced Care Plans and End-of-life Care Plans. Advanced care plans typically include an ‘Advanced Statement of Wishes’, a ‘Lasting Power of Attorney’ and an ‘Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment’. Some portions of this document are legal documents and have rules around how they are completed, signed, witnessed and recorded.
End-of-life care plans deal with issues specific to end-of-life. What the plans represent is a summary of the conversations about your end of life wishes and information about how you would like to live in the final weeks and days. They summarise and transparently document your wishes. The documents are intended to be shared, because they capture your preferences and speak for you in the event that you cannot do so yourself. The documents can be changed at any time. My mom didn’t write too much down but she was sure to tell us that she didn’t want to talk about her ill health when there was a cricket test on – we had to bring mom news from the outside world. That’s perfectly fitting. She was very good at living.
As you might have read in a previous blog, doula’s offer a wide range of services. If you would like help conducting a living funeral, companion care, planning and conducting a vigil, mourning and bereavement support, post death home organisation, or pet death doula rituals and ceremonies – then you will need to look for a doula that offers those services currently. You can search for end-of-life doulas in the directories found on organisations like Inelda or Neda. It can be useful to specify a geographical area in your search criterion.