• End-of-Life Decision-Making Is a Peace-Finding Mission

    December 14, 2014

    Be present. Be prepared. Be clear. Since publishing a memoir about my dad’s end of life, I received an outpouring of support from others who experienced the loss of loved ones in their own lives. Many sent heart-felt comments and poignantly precious memories. Some sent books they wrote as part of their own journey with […]

  • She Called Me Sweetie

    November 17, 2014

    There wasn’t one definitive phone call that I could point to and say that this was the moment when I knew to I had to go home and visit her. There were a few conversations with various people, my mother, brother, my Uncle Charles* (not by blood, nor was She, just my parents dear friend’s. […]

  • Joan Rivers’ Death Highlights Value of Advance Directives

    September 6, 2014

    Joan Rivers’ recent, and sudden, death highlights the value of completing Advance Directives. Hopefully, her family knew her wishes for any time she was not able to speak for herself. Their end-of-life decisions, then, would be directed by Joan’s values instead of their own fears and feelings. Advance Directives (AD) is the “umbrella” document that […]

  • Creating Sacred Space: Interview with Rev. Ian Smith

    May 17, 2014

    This was a brief interview done with Dr. Gloria Horsley on April 24, 2014 at the 36th Annual Conference of the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) from April 23-26 in Baltimore, MD. The speaker is Rev. Ian Smith. I am an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada and working as a […]

  • New Year’s Resolutions for the Caregiver

    January 2, 2014

    By Carol O’Dell –

  • The Magic of a Love Letter to the Dying

    February 6, 2013

    I got a wonderful lesson in the value of writing love letters to the dying on my last visit to M, my friend of forty years plus, who had, at that time, only a few days to live despite every evidence that she would live to be one hundred and twenty. She was a politically […]

  • The Other Woman

    January 17, 2013

    One day just before Thanksgiving my husband informed me that he was in love with another woman, just what I wanted to hear when my days and nights for more than 18 months had been in devoted service to him. And then, with a little smile on his parched lips, he identified the “other woman”. […]

  • Italian Foundation Brings Nature Art into Hospital Rooms

    July 22, 2012

      If you’ve ever been to Florence, Italy, you may have seen l’Ospedale degli Innocenti, a striking Renaissance building. Over the years, the hospital has housed the work of many Florentine Renaissance masters and was one of the earliest instances of artistic decoration in a hospital setting. Today, continuing the intertwining of healthcare and art, […]

  • 20 Questions to Ask Your Terminally Ill Loved One

    October 12, 2011

    What is Palliative Care and Hospice? If you have been told that your loved one is terminally ill, this article will help you identify palliative care, hospice, advanced care planning, Five Wishes, and questions to ask during this difficult time. Let’s first look at palliative care,which helps individuals improve their quality of life by providing […]

  • With Her Father in the Final Days

    September 21, 2011

    “All the leaves are brown; and the sky is grey …” The Mamas and Papas The verbs and functions began to fall away like the September leaves. Some faster than others, the “helicopters” spiraled to their demise and others quietly and unhurriedly floated to the ground. One thing was undeniable – they were never to […]

  • Hospice Volunteer Never Felt ‘So Close to God’ Before

    August 19, 2011

    I don’t think there is anything more gratifying then working with hospice. A few years after my son’s death, I decided to sign up for the training sessions, which surprisingly many people after they lose a loved one. I had started to write about my son and felt that working with hospice would be a […]

  • First Steps: What to Do When Cancer is the Diagnosis

    August 16, 2011

    “Oh, Ruth, I think this is a cancer.” These were the words uttered by Dr. Hiram Cody, a breast cancer surgeon, after an initial physical examination of the wife of a fellow physician, Dr. Peter Bach. And with that simple statement, Dr. Bach wrote, “Down into the tunnel Ruth and I stumbled, into the strange, […]

  • Does Jesus Like Chocolate?

    July 18, 2011

    She was staring at the glass of chocolate Ensure.  “Annie” didn’t like chocolate but was so devout in her Catholicism that she did not want to offend Jesus.  She looked up at me and asked, “Does Jesus like chocolate?”  It was such a funny question and I stifled a laugh, because I knew she was […]

  • Negotiating with God, Dreaming of Chocolate Cake

    July 6, 2011

    The first time I met “Gary,” we ended up talking for over two hours.  He was in his late 60s and had throat cancer, evidenced by a protruding plum-sized tumor on his neck which he covered with turtlenecks.  He explained his spiritual beliefs and told me he wasn’t afraid to die.  In fact, when he […]

  • Woman Finds it Hard to Trust after Sister’s Murder

    March 26, 2011

    “A normal reaction to a very abnormal situation.” My psychologist spoke those words to me so often in the months following my sister’s murder. Choosing to seek the help of psychologist was one of the most important decisions I made.  I discussed so many emotions and feelings with her.  Emotions and feelings I would have […]

  • I Miss My Kaila

    March 23, 2011

    My daugher passed away 7 mos ago. A poorly performed homicide investigation was done and closed. Kaila, a beautiful, energetic, strong, caring, dedicated 1st time mom,decided to go chill with a few friends. She kissed me wednesday on her way out. We spoke several times that day. At 18 she was very responsible and since […]

  • Mom Opens to Forgiveness After Son’s Murder

    March 12, 2011

    I don’t find forgiveness a very easy concept to deal with after the murder of my son. My 24-year-old son Peter was kicked to death by bouncers in Atlantic City, NJ, in July 2001 during a bachelor party. For reasons that remain unclear, one bouncer took Peter out of the club about 4:00 AM, roughed […]

  • ‘How Long Will It Take?’

    March 11, 2011

    Grieving people, their friends and family frequently ask me the  question: “How Long Will It Take?” So many of their friends have their own ideas about the right length of time for grief and mourning. Those friends freely make their opinions known to those who are bereaved or suffering from other life losses. Clients will […]

  • ‘Stumbling in the Darkness’ After Loss of Daughter

    February 26, 2011

    As I sat there in the waiting room of the oily garage just outside of Sevierville, TN, anticipating the very long drive home to Florida, my 18-year-old daughter was flipping through racing magazines and telling me all about her new friend.  Emily had only one real date with him, and I knew that they were […]

  • How to Listen to Someone Who’s Grieving

    February 17, 2011

    We had just gone to bed when the phone rang. The call was from a member of the ambulance team. She called to tell us our daughter had been injured in a car crash. “It’s really bad,” she concluded. I can still hear her words in my mind and, painful as they were, they helped […]

  • First Responder Learned Calm from Grandmother

    January 19, 2011

    I was born in the mountains of North Carolina and grew up on a small farm with my grandparents. All of my family were members of the local Baptist Church.  My grandfather passed away when I was five. His passing was sudden and extremely painful for me. During the funeral, the entire family was eerily […]

  • Before and After

    January 10, 2011

    Have you ever noticed how when we lose a loved one, over time we measure events and time by before and after.    My son graduated from college before Dad died. My daughter graduated from college after Dad died.  I often think how my life has changed, what is different now, after Dad died.   Before […]

  • Why One Person’s Grief Affects All of Us

    December 12, 2010

    If anyone believes that losses experienced by others is not their concern, I’d ask them to think again. The cost, both individually and collectively, to our society of those experiencing complications from mourning is astronomical and all encompassing. Complex or complicated mourning can be the result of multiple deaths, the death of a child, death […]

  • My Sister’s Murder: The Questions Continue

    October 27, 2010

    On September 18th, my sister, Sandra, was found dead in her home. It was ruled a homicide later that day. Within a few days we had received the answers to two of our questions. When and How. The time of death was recorded as shortly after 9 am, when she was pronounced dead in her […]

  • Following Sister’s Murder, Questions Abound

    July 5, 2010

    How many of us have watched the news, listened to the terrible details of a homicide and thought to ourselves “that poor family”? I would venture to say most of us have had that thought. I did. I would hear news like that think to myself or say to my husband, “that poor family,” and […]

  • First Hours After a Sister’s Murder: Big Questions

    June 12, 2010

    Many people have suffered some kind of loss of a loved one through death.  Personally, I’ve lost both sets of grandparents, my father, two uncles and four aunts, not to mention family friends. But nothing prepared me for the questions — and complications — that followed my sister’s death. My sister died on September 18, […]

  • Dying Stands Logic on its Head

    January 26, 2010

    We often harshly judge behaviors we don’t understand. They can involve someone’s ingratitude or anger, or actions we label as foolish. I recently was guilty of the same thing here in the San Francisco Bay area with one of my hospice patients. Her ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, left her […]

  • Do the Holidays Feel Like Too Much? How Caregivers and Families Find Joy in the Season

    December 27, 2009

    Do you feel like there’s just too much to do during the holiday season? If you’re caregiving, I’d be willing to bet that your stress levels are ramping on up there about now. It’s not that it’s not all good – the tree, the gifts, the home baked cookies, the parties, the family gatherings, the lights.  Every one […]

  • The Yin and Yang of Caring for Terminally Ill Child

    December 14, 2009

    Alternative therapies weren’t the first line of defense when our five-and-a-half month old was diagnosed with cancer. We opted for what was proven; we put Madison’s life in the hands of exceptional pediatric oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, nurses and anesthesiologists. If untreated, the cancer was sure to kill her, but so could the treatment. We threw every recommended […]

  • ’60 Minutes’ Deserves Praise for Challenging Culture’s Denial of Death

    November 30, 2009

    The 60 Minutes segment on end of life expenses did more than highlight inappropriate medical costs. It spoke to the role of medical technology in our cultural denial of death. As medical technology becomes more sophisticated in forestalling our inevitable end, we mistake “prolonging life” for “immortality.” Instead of treating death as a necessary price […]

  • Helping the Grieving Child in School

    November 23, 2009

    Children’s grief should be seen as an ongoing life process that is approachable through words, activities and non-verbal communication. Educators can use this understanding to create a safe environment for parents, teachers and children to acknowledge and process difficult feelings. So often adults rely on the prevailing myth that children are too young too grieve. […]

  • Six Things to Do for An Easier Death

    October 30, 2009

    People who were dying in the Middle Ages said their goodbyes, gave away the furniture, and just stopped breathing. The non-event was witnessed by friends and family, who, at the moment of death, absconded with anything of value. Later, they might gather to either celebrate or deride the person’s life. Today, although we rarely fight […]

  • The Unlikely Caregiver: Black Sheep of the Family

    October 25, 2009

    Life is funny. Sometimes the most rebellious of us, the teen gone bad, the unwed mother of three, the Harley brother in leather and bandanas and lots of tattoos becomes the best caregiver, the most thoughtful son–or daughter. Why? Sometimes those who travel counter to society have the most tender souls. Sometimes the battle with their […]

  • Grief Reminders: September, October, November

    September 29, 2009

    The first few days in the hospital I was told by my father’s doctor that he had experienced several more strokes. One of the strokes required 4-5 nurses to hold him down. He became very physical during these episodes and on this particular one he managed to break one of the nurse’s glasses. They had […]

  • Take Care of Yourself

    September 21, 2009

    As I reflect back on the past when I was taking care of my parents, whom were both diagnosed at the same time with Alzheimer’s, I often found that it was very easy due to the stress of caring for them to neglect my own needs. I encourage every caregiver to take time for yourself, […]

  • When Behaviors Don’t Make Sense

    September 15, 2009

    More than 10 years ago, I saw a black and white photograph by Richard Avedon that I still vividly remember. It was taken of a young boy in 1947 in Sicily. He was in the foreground smiling broadly and wearing a suit that was too short in the arms and too tight in the waist. […]

  • Let Your Last Wishes Be Known

    September 12, 2009

    Evelyn Rose was my mother.  She was a devout Catholic born at the turn of the twentieth-century. She never questioned dogma, doctrine or the infallibility of the pope.  She believed we were put here on earth by God for a short time and that our life was a test of our choices about good and […]

  • Brother Struggles to Say Something as Sister is Dying

    September 8, 2009

    Michael writes in: My sister is dying of breast cancer. I don’t know how to be with her. I want to say something but so far I only speak to myself. John Pete resonds: Hi Michael. It can be very difficult to be with someone who is dying and we often try too hard to […]

  • Parental Grief in the Wake of Homicide

    September 2, 2009

    Question from a reader: I’m writing this letter in hopes of finding some peace. It will be three years next month that my son was murdered. He was only 18. His mother and I were divorced when he was very young. At that time it was heart- breaking, knowing I would only see my son […]

  • Husband’s Cancer Reminds Wife of Previous Losses

    September 1, 2009

    Today, I find myself crying at the drop of a hat.  The tears are back, and they remind me of the tears I cried in my parents’ backyard when I realized my mom and dad were no longer there for me.  They were no longer the mom and dad I knew.  They were no longer […]

  • Emotions of a Diagnosis

    September 1, 2009

    by Lisa Buell We sat in a room that no parent wanted to be in. The lighting was low; the walls were painted a soft mauve color, a weak attempt to calm our nerves.  The gesture felt irritating, as if the color of the room could magically erase the image of our five- and- a […]

  • Caretakers: Dealing With Our Own Needs

    August 31, 2009

    I’ve been a bedside volunteer for more than five years, sitting with dying patients and their families once or twice a week for up to four continuous hours. Sometimes I stay with patients overnight. Regardless of how demanding my responsibilities are, I know that when I leave the bedside, I’ll have to take three to […]

  • What a Hospice End-of-Life Consultation Meant To Us

    August 29, 2009

    When my husband was in the last stage of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, with no hope for a cure, we settled him in our den, next to the TV where he could watch his beloved Cubbies play ball, in the company of his loved ones and devoted Black Lab. During those final weeks, as he became […]

  • When the Ground Shakes: Why Many Ill Patients Need Structure

    August 21, 2009

    I was concerned when I came home and couldn’t find my mother. The back of the house has a steep incline off the deck that leads to a forested area. When I saw that the gate leading down the stairs was open, concern turned to panic. At that time, she was in her mid-sixties and […]

  • Caregivers Struggle When Parents Age

    August 21, 2009

    Most families of our generation don’t talk much about feelings, but when our parent is aging or ill, many emotional issues arise for both the primary caregiver and for other family members. It can be a very challenging time for everyone. My neighbor recently experienced this when her mother in New York state broke her […]

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  • Nate Hinerman Ph.D.: Ending Suffering

    June 20, 2013

    Dr. Nate Hinerman is a faculty member at the University of San Francisco and Golden Gate University, where he teaches classes in death, dying, and bereavement. He also serves as a hospice psychotherapist, and chairs the San Francisco End of Life Coalition.

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