Monday, April 11, 2022

Interview with Jan Sikes

I am pleased to have a new author visit my blog today with a non-fiction self-help book on death and dying. While it’s not a subject we like to talk about, it’s an unavoidable reality and her book offers some insight. Welcome, Becky!

PURCHASE LINK

Thank you, Jan, for inviting me here to talk about my new book. I appreciate your generosity.

I spent my pandemic writing about all things death.

Although I had interfaced with death throughout my personal and professional life, everything changed when my dear soul-connect brother died of brain cancer in January of 2017. At that time my 94-year-old mother lived with us and was on her end-of-life trajectory, experiencing a truly magical, mindful death nine months later in our home in New Zealand.

Always one to tell me the stories of how things were done in the “olden days,” my mother had repeated throughout my life that she felt an unease with how death had become such a business in the US. When my father died in 1983, she had been aghast at the price tag involved. Just bury me in a cardboard box became my mother’s mantra when conversations surrounding death arose.

Throughout his life, my brother had an affinity for simple practicalities: growing his own food, following his heart rather than trends, a pull to the simple ways of our ancestors. The youngest of my three older brothers, he was seven years older than me. Growing up in a violent household, he’d been my anchor and when I finally fled, into my own young adult life, he was my savior. We knew each other in a way only foxhole companions with a loving, protective bond could ...

Read the rest HERE


Friday, March 4, 2022

Taking Ownership of Death




An honest conversation about death is not something many people like to have. But Becky Aud-Jennison of The Death Dialogues Project hopes to change that perspective and “further these conversations globally.”  Part of that mission has turned into a book, Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons: Field Notes from the Death Dialogues Project, which released on February 22 by Motina Books. Laura Davis calls the book “luminous” and “filled with hard and tender truths,” while Karen Wyatt, MD, says the book is “transformative” and “shows us that the awe-full journey of grief is unique to each person but is ultimately traveled by everyone.” Becky is hard at work producing more podcast episodes, writing, and living her very full life, so I’m especially grateful that she took the time to answer my questions so thoughtfully.


Christina: Congrats on your book Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons: Field Notes from the Death Dialogues Project, which released in February. The Death Dialogues Project is four years old. What made you say, I think it’s time for a book?


Becky: Thank you! I’m thrilled to have this book out into the world. Throughout my life I felt called to encourage a more open dialogue surrounding all things death and during my career advocated for improving death literacy.


While working in clinical settings, the correlation between the less than optimal bedside manner and the “helper’s” inability to deal with death well in any context, especially their own, was obvious to me. I found it disconcerting and not fair to the people who were being cared for, or the helpers who might be avoiding much of what a person is going through because of their own discomfort surrounding death or viewing death as a loss within a win/lose context. There’s a difficulty in shifting from the only “win” being saving someone’s life to understanding that compassionate end of life care is also a “win.”


Understanding emotional and psychological contexts, it was clear to me that exposure to these topics and conversations is required for a societal shift away from death-denial. Thankfully, even since the formation of this project, there has been a wave building of death workers, death talkers, openly grieving people and advocates that I believe is instrumental in some very positive movement. One of the caveats of this book is that the reader is pointed to resources for further exploration. Our project is about celebrating everyone out there who is doing good work in promoting better end of life care, death work, showing up in the aftermath of death and improving literacy surrounding it all.


Originally what is now two books was going to be one. Firstly, I was responding to the repeat inquiry about my own story and how someone can be so mired in death all the time. Then I was going to do discuss common themes surrounding death observed, shared with me, and experienced throughout my career where I’d sat at the bedside of dying folks, experienced personal deaths, and conducted Dignity Therapy with dying individuals, as well as, providing therapy to the grieving. Per my publisher’s request, this has turned into two books. This book is the field notes from my decades of work and hundreds of stories shared with me through The Death Dialogues Project. My next book and then the stars spoke is my memoir through the lens of death and that will be out May 10, 2022.


Read the rest HERE. 

Thursday, March 3, 2022

it's a bouncing baby ...

OHMYGOODNESS–

It has happened: Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons has been released and is now available for purchase.

Based on the feedback from the early readers, I’m very excited for this to land in the hands of those it will benefit. 

Who is that? The bigger question is given that we all will interface intimately with death– who wouldn’t benefit from it?

This book is a gentle exploration of all things death and how we can reimagine what we want for ourselves and our loved ones. This read takes you behind the doors of conversations surrounding death and grief that aren’t always spoken out loud. 

This book is not a professional’s oration based on scientific study. Within these pages you will find lessons from the common threads people have shared and professional and personal experience over the past 40 years.

Here is one of the Goodreads reviews:

I've lived, breathed, and written extensively about grief and bereavement for more than five years and was blown away by Becky Aud-Jennison's new release. In the same raw yet gentle approach of her podcast, Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons gives the reader a safe place to sit with the reality that confronts us all.

One of the "truths" about life in The AfterLoss is that not everyone gets it. We learn quickly that the solidarity and compassion from our fellow bereaved are invaluable. Aud-Jennison doesn't shy away from the harsh reality but serves it up with a hot cuppa tea, a hug, and a cozy blanket. Field Notes is my new go-to resource to gift to the newly bereaved and those who love them.

The book begins by looking at society’s treatment of death and explores alternative choices surrounding end of life and death. Not only does this book take you on a walk through the many shadows of grief, but also the ensuing transformation that frequently occurs. 

Understanding the trauma responses we experience surrounding death, and that are especially lurking throughout this pandemic time, there are research-based simple trauma mitigation techniques sprinkled throughout the book as well. Techniques that I have seen work miracles for those greatly suffering. 

Where is the book available? 

Almost everywhere you buy your books. 

If your favorite local bookshop doesn’t have it on the shelves you can still order through them to support local. Of course it’s on the many typical online booksellers including Amazon, Walmart, Barnes and Noble bookshop.org is an indie online resource in the US. Down under they can be ordered through the Book Depository, biblio.co.nz, Mighty Ape, Fishpond, Booktopia, Amazon.au, and more. 

For some reason the audio book hasn’t shown up on Audible yet, but you can get a copy of the audio book HERE. Read by yours truly. Below is a link to the first chapter of the book that I shared on the podcast.

If you’ve shared a story, this is your book. 

If you’ve experienced death, are afraid of death, are interfacing with people in this terrain, have found yourself not knowing what to say or how to show up in the throes of death, are needing a death and grief ice-breaker … you’ve found a safe haven in these pages. It’s a beautiful gift for when there are no words …

In the previous post will find a link to a short chat between my podcast co-host where we had a “behind the book” discussion.

You will also find a link to the previous podcast episode. 

We are in the midst of an Omicron wave which has NZ, for the first time, experiencing thousands of cases a day. Unfortunately that has us postponing any type of release gathering, but we hope to reconvene for that when and then the stars spoke: a memoir through the lens of death is out May 10th.

In the meantime, please raise a glass or light a candle and help send intentions into the world that this book lands in the hands of those who need it.

Oh, and leaving a review wherever you buy your book is a lovely way to support the book, and in turn, the project.

Thank you deeply for your support. 

All love,

Becky.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Behind the Book

Here is a short chat between Becky, creator of the project and author of Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons: field notes from The Death Dialogues Project and her co-host Kate Burns discussing some of the behind the book insights.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

gone rogue, indeed

 


Greetings,

There are 16 days until our first book comes out Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons: field notes from The Death Dialogues Project.

Yes, I wrote the book, but I can't help but say "ours" because it holds so much of what people have shared with me throughout my life, be it my mother who was born in 1922, or people I've seen as clients throughout the years, or the many interviews for this project. 

Relationships have blossomed through those conversations because we cannot sit with others' stories in such a deep manner without becoming a bit entangled in our love and loss.

Part of the reason I use the term "therapist gone rogue" to describe myself is because of those relationships. 

After a 40 year career in human services, much of it in "mental health" where I was programmed and had standards that rightly insisted on professional boundaries and not overly disclosing your own story, all of that has changed with this project. 

Also in staging our productions and then the podcast and all-things-this-project and hearing the consistent feedback, I quickly saw how this was an alternative way of profoundly reaching more people than I probably had throughout my entire career, in less than five years. 

So yeah, therapist gone rogue makes sense to me. I have the training and professional and life experience to hold those stories, even if they are very raw and filled with trauma. It's a privileged place I now find myself in, to be of service in this way on this alternative platform. 

And I love the inclusiveness of it. No us and them. 

It's that attitude of segregation that has kept people in the helping professions from being less than effective, because everyone's experience with death is unique so it's almost impossible to teach anything beyond presence. But once you've experience your own deep/traumatic loss, you suddenly see the people you are speaking with from a whole new vantage point. 

Your grief sees their grief. Your trauma enables you to better relate to their trauma.

As I write about in the book, there was one trip back to the US where I had lunch with a previous colleague who had experienced multiple deaths and deep grief since we had seen each other last. 

She leaned across the table and whispered, "What were we doing before we'd gone through this ourselves? I want to contact all the grieving people I've sat with and say, 'I'm so very sorry, I just didn't know ... ' "

This weekend I'm recording a bonus podcast episode with Kate Burns who is our new podcast co-host which will be our next episode release towards the end of next week. Kate's been busy recording episodes while I've been attending to the other project business and birthing these books. 

What a blessing it was for her to come forward and volunteer to help in any way possible. Quite capable, experienced and trained in trauma interviewing, she has blown me away. You can hear the episode that brought us together, where I interviewed her for the podcast, here:


Her episodes will begin airing end of March/early April.

As always, thank you for your support. We are a grassroots project (read: zero budget) so any sharing is deeply appreciated. We simply want to see that the people who could benefit from our content are led to it, so please feel free to share with anyone or any organization you think this work would benefit.

All things good,
Becky

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Five Years: A Tiny Death Story


1,824 days
on your final dawn breath
on that Friday the 13th
could that smiling orb
hear the wails
begging death to be a lie
every full moon since 
an anniversary
disbelief lives on
that split second
reaching for the phone 
expecting you to walk 
out of the photo …
and you do 
directly into our hearts
your essence
echoes on
here, yet gone 
dead, yet alive 
intermingled within 
the love 
you so carefully 
planted
nurtured
grew 
wildly alive
in those
who adored you

🖤 wwmd 🖤

— Becky 
@deathdialoguesproject

Marking the fifth year of my dear brother’s death. He was largely responsible for the creation of this project— a “what would Max do”production. His wife’s tiny death story is on our Instagram and Facebook. 🖤

Friday, November 12, 2021

if death could talk


There's a lot of excitement at The Death Dialogues Project. The most  fulfilling part of our offerings is hearing from folks about how deeply our content is touching them. Thank you for all of the lovely feedback.


BOOK #1: DEATH AND ITS TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BEAUTIFUL LESSONS: FIELD NOTES FROM THE DEATH DIALOGUES PROJECT

The book is in the hands of our advanced reading team and we've been getting lovely feedback from early readers. The above photo is the gorgeous cover created by artist Felicia Olin.

You can see the listing on Amazon and pre-order the e-book HERE.

I've completed the audio recording of the book and will be listening to it for the final time when it returns from be mastered.

The publication date is 2/22/22.


TINY DEATH STORIES

Our tiny death stories initiative has been very well received. I've been getting lovely feedback from the writers and the readers about how the process and stories have touched them. 

We want to hear your tiny death story. This project is a place to share stories from people of all walks of life. Riffing off of the “flash fiction” concept, we post these to our Instagram and Facebook. Your story must be true, personal, and 100 words or less. Send your story, a photo, and how you’d like your name to appear to tinydeathstory@gmail.com

We reserve the right to choose appropriate stories, edit as needed, and by submitting your story you agree for it to be a part of this project.

This week's guest on The Death Dialogues Project Podcast had submitted a tiny death story. You can find these on our Instagram and Facebook pages.


NEWSLETTER

In our current newsletter you can read that and listen to our most recent podcast at the quick link. You can access that newsletter at HERE. Do sign up if you'd like to get these updates in your email inbox.


SUPPORT 

The most helpful thing you can do for us is point folks towards our project. This has been an organic grassroots project and we've never asked for any financial support. It's been our family's tithe of energy and money, if you will. That said, I truly hope the sales of the books will be substantial enough to help fund this project as we move forward. More than anything, I just want to see offerings land with the right people at the time they need it. Receiving feedback from folks who say they've been forever changed by this work is the fuel that keeps us rolling.

Please, if you could take a moment to share our project with an organization or individual you feel would appreciate the content, that would mean the world to us. (((Thank you.)))