Archive for April 3rd, 2012

I enjoyed Levine’s work on trauma when I read it many years ago as a grief counselor with hospice. This is a field that we’re really advancing in and I wish I had more time to read up on. Thank you so much for this post!

Update 2015 – From the archives. This is something I can again do now if and when appropriate. Our body/mind/spirit changes as it heals. I also found that the neurogenic tremors arose spontaneously in my yoga practicequite often when I simply relaxed in savasana at the end of a yoga session. I took to letting them come. Our bodies know this stuff. It is not new, it is ancient knowledge that our bodies know. How silly that we need a trademarked version to make us remember. But alas, most of us do. This is a good system. Go easy and listen to the body. If it’s not the right time for this it’s not the right time. Those of us with severely impacted nervous systems from psychiatric drug withdrawal need to become highly adept at respecting the body’s timing. It always knows best. 

trauma release - 1 I do various sorts of trauma release…

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Really good post!

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Again, I love first hand accounts from people and how they have come to honor their own journey. Our stories are powerful. They not only help us make sense out of our lives but they help others along the journey. What an honor it is for all of us to follow Bill’s journey and really been given the opportunity to meditate along side him as he makes his ways through the valleys and mountains that come with living with a life-altering illness. I have such great respect for him and for his sharing. I hope he knows what a difference he makes in everyone’s life.

Dying mans daily journal

Thinking is the one thing I do have a lot of time to do plus usually the energy to o it.

This whole death, dying, my own mortality are thoughts usually not too far from my mind. Especially, I suppose my own mortality,  it sucks when my thinking heads in that direction. A terminal patient goes through what I think is their own form of grieving process. Grieving the pending loss of your own life, something we are all entitled to do. When I first heard those you are dying words I spent a lot of time grieving. I think it even monopolized my entire thinking process there for a while. I went through all of the phases of grief: denial, anger…… For reasons known only to the Good Lord, I have been given extra time on this earth. With this time I have been able to largely come to…

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I’ve Been There Too.

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
Mary Oliver

This quote was given to me by a very dear friend who also works in the bereavement field. I don’t think she grasped just how true to my life it was.

My name is Elizabeth Hendrickson, I am 23 years old and work as a case manager in Madison, Wisconsin. I recently received my Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois and have had a passion for working with grieving children since I was 18 years old.

My father died of lung cancer when I was eight years old, this was the box full of darkness that he gave me. I am the youngest of five and am 14 years younger than my nearest sibling in age, she moved out shortly after my father’s death. I spent ten years lost, alone, and terrified, I had few friends and, looking back I can now say that it was a struggle to get through daily life. My life seemed like a box full of darkness.

When I was eighteen years old I read an article in a magazine about a grief center started by a football player whose mother died when he was young. A grief center, I finally had a name for what I needed, a place where I could find other friends who had experienced a loss. I googled “Grief Center, Rockford Illinois” and came up with a place, I immediately called and started volunteering, where I met Jen.

I went to college and obtained my BSW and continued to volunteer and work in the children’s bereavement field, and now live in Madison Wisconsin where I hope to start working on my MSW next year.

If someone would have read the quote by Mary Oliver to me five years ago I wouldn’t’ have understood it. But now, after five years of personal growth and finding a passion in life I can truly say that I recognize the gift in my box full of darkness.

Jen has been gracious enough to let me take over he blog for a week. I am thrilled with the opportunity to share both my personal and professional experiences with you in the hopes of helping children that you love that are grieving the loss of a parent, sibling, or friend.

-Liz Hendrickson

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Ive Been There A Discussion With a Young Professional 04/03 by Jennifer R Stevens MA CT | Blog Talk Radio#.T3pSR9JK1t0.wordpress.

Come Join us at 6:30 pm CT.

It’s not too late… if you can’t make the live show, leave us a question on the Ask Here tab of our blog at http://www.namasteconsultinginc.com and we will try to get to it on the show!


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“If a patient is allowed to terminate his life in the familiar and beloved environment, it requires less adjustment for him.  His own family knows him well enough to replace a sedative with a glass of his favorite wine; or the smell of a home-cooked soup may give him the appetite to sip a few spoons of fluid, which, I think, is still more enjoyable than an infusion.  I will not minimize the need for sedatives or infusions and realize full well from my own experience as a country doctor that they are sometimes life-saving and often unavoidable.”

~~Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying, 1969

Now, before anyone takes it out of context, when she says “is allowed to terminate his life…” she did not mean physician-assisted suicide or mercy killing as it’s called.

She was talking about a patient going home, where she is comfortable, around familiar things, with people who know what kind of care she might need…

And I have to say, I have been in many homes where it was Jack Daniels that a patient was sipping off, not a nice Merlot.  And we were helping them out to the front porch for a cigarette so that the O2 tank wouldn’t explode.

But this is the messiness of real life. . . not visiting hours and sleeping curled up in a waiting room.

Dr. Kubler-Ross paints us a picture that was soon to become the portrait of what home care with hospice was going to look like.  Fixing the patient one last taste of stew, having the dog crawl into bed, having the grand-kids play noisily outside.

She goes on to say that when a patient is at home, the children in a family feel a “comfort of shared responsibility and shared mourning.  It prepares them gradually and helps them view death as a part of life, an experience which may help them grow and mature.”   She does not advocate for shipping the kids off to relatives house or keeping them so busy with soccer, debate club, babysitters, and sleep overs that they aren’t home.  Instead, she advocates for children to be present, to help them understand what’s going on, to be a part of things, and to have an idea of what is to come.

It’s in passages like this that I remember my days of home visits with families and I will admit, I took them for granted.  It’s how I was brought up and I just assumed that’s what families did.  Thanks to Elisabeth’s pioneering work, these images were added to our collective unconscious.

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I got on youtube this morning and searched for “grief”.  I was pretty sad with what I found.  After a few pages of scrolling through a lot of oddities, I simply closed the window, my head shaking from side to side.

I’ve decided that the only good stage is the one that people perform on… like my young friends here, my favorite hams…

My favorite Harry Potter impersonator putting a hex on his sister!

“It is not meant to be a textbook on how to manage dying patients, nor is it intended as a complete study of the psychology of the dying. It is simply an account of a new and challenging opportunity to refocus on the patient as a human being, to include him in dialogues, to learn from him the strengths and weaknesses of our hospital management of the patient.”

~~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying.

I’ve re-read Elisabeth’s book for an essay I am writing for my qualifying essays at school on current grief theory.  What I am wondering is if anyone in the field has read it lately?


I had no idea that people felt very passionate about Elisabeth’s work.  I know that everyone has co-opted it and turned it into a cartoon about the stages of grieving something or another… but there is almost down right hatred out there.  One journal article I read suggested that EKR (I’m just going to refer to her as EKR for short hand) had unfinished business with her father’s death and imposed her pathology on us.

I have read some articles that suggest she was a charlatan.  But in all actuality, they thought that the entire field of thanatology and end-of-life work was a get rich scheme for pathologizing people and making a dime off their pain.    I’d like to see who they think has made loads of money doing grief work.

I don’t like what we did with her work and we should slap our own hands that we have taken exactly what she said and done the exact opposite.  But I don’t know if people have read just what they wanted to or they haven’t gone back to her work.

I feel bad at some of the choices in language that EKR used… like the stages…

Some of my training has been in existential phenomenological psychology and research.  We are interested in qualitative research, like EKR’s but we frame it that are inquiry is to help illuminate the phenomenon that we are researching.

And in some ways, I think she did this.  If she had said, I’m interested in the dying, I’m going to do some interviews and take some “snapshots” of what their inner world is like and share them with the world, then we wouldn’t be having this ongoing debate.  If she had only stopped at what goes on, the interviews, and what we can learn from patients in order to help them.

Maybe it was because her first language wasn’t English?  Maybe it’s because it was 1969?  Maybe it’s because our country has a fascination with steps… quick steps to losing weight, making your man go crazy in bed, finding bliss consciousness, starting a business, recovering from 100 different things…. all I know is that despite some flaws, we can’t overlook what she did give us.

When was the last time a doctor looked into your eyes? Put a hand on your arm, not to take a pulse? This is being present!

And what was that?  She helped us all to see that dying patients were in the rooms at the end of the hall, far away from the nurses station.

We learned that doctor’s didn’t tell patients they were dying, they told their families.

We learned that patient’s knew they were dying before anyone had to tell them (I cannot believe that this was ever in question).

We learned that when doctors, nurses, chaplains, and social workers weren’t being honest with patients and listening to them, they would find it elsewhere, like in fellow patients or the cleaning woman if it meant that they might be seen and heard.

We learned that when a person has it in the forefront of their consciousness that they have a life-limiting illness that will most likely kill them, and they are in the hospital for treatment, there are some similar things that these individuals go through.  There were 5 themes that EKR focused on in her writing.

But look at the quote from her book… she wasn’t going to write a Magnum Opus on the life-world of the dying patient.  She didn’t want to write a handbook for people to quote and take step by step, literally, on how to manage people.


She wanted us to be in dialogue with people who are dying.  She wanted us to listen deeply and speak compassionately with them like she did.

And what did she find when people did that, patients changed, softened, opened up, shared, had less stress, and found some peace.


There are many theories as to how the “stages” went from an understanding of a group of patients and what some of their experiences were when they knew they were going to die to the “stages of grief“.  Some suggest that EKR was studying the grief that a dying patient goes through and if they did it, wouldn’t everyone who was grieving go through similar things was the thinking…

Stages???? That's what you face while you eat pop corn and watch a performance!

Hmmmm…. that’s like Bobby Flay grilling anything piece of food that comes his way… he’s a grill guy and that’s what he does.  That doesn’t mean that the only way you can serve pineapple, pork chops, or porcini mushrooms is to grill them.

Over the next several months, I will be using Dr. Kubler-Ross’ own words from her book On Death and Dying to show you that we really had a lot to learn from her as we moved into the 1970s and well, there are a lot of people who could still benefit from reading her today — most doctors out there!

It’s hard to believe that 40 years ago it was a novel ideas to sit and talk to patients.

Well, not really.

The last time I knew anyone who went for a doctor’s visit and they had a 7 minute session and got charged hundreds of dollars.

Doctor’s listened for keywords while they were going through taxonomy trees in their heads rather than compassionately listening to the person before them.

They looked at what was wrong, rather than what was right and they looked at where the disease was rather than at the whole person as a whole being.

Cover of "On Death and Dying"

Have you actually read it?

So, before everyone burns a copy of On Death and Dying, maybe they should take another look — or a first look.  If she taught us nothing else 40 years ago, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross taught us the most valuable and healing thing… the healing power in being present to the person before us.

Expect to see more from Elisabeth. . . maybe we can honor what she did teach us rather than deciding everything she did in her career was wrong.

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