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. 

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