I’ve had many deaths in my life beginning when I was 15 with a grandfather who died of lung cancer and an aunt who died in childbirth. So early on I experienced both a sudden, unexpected death and one that was drawn out. Over the last 30+ years, I have had many family and friends die as well as those with whom I worked with as a Hospice Volunteer. Looking back, two things stand out for me -– that my perspective on death and dying was always very different than those around me, and that for many years I had no idea the gifts that grief could provide.
Two important events in my life propelled me into this end-of-life work — the death of my mother-in-law in 1994, and the death of my beloved grandma in 1995.
My mother-in-law died very suddenly in her sleep at the age of 58 with no plan for her end of life wishes. Her husband had died 2 years prior and she was very close with her extended family in another part of the US. Any prior attempts to ask her about her wishes and final resting place were met with “oh, put me wherever you want.” She clearly thought she had many more years to answer this question. So imagine the feelings my wife (an only child) and I had with not only the shock of her sudden death but also the added anguish of deciding where she would have wanted to be buried. Needless to say, within 2 months of her death, we completed our Will and Advance Care Directives!
The major lesson about how death and grief can be a gift happened for me in 1995 when my grandma died. I was her oldest grand-daughter and we shared a birthday. We had a very special bond. The time we had together every day in the hospital during the last month of her life was such a gift. Our conversations about what was important to her, her words of wisdom, and what she needed to say and do at that time, I feel, allowed her to find peace as her days on this earth came to an end.
Following her death, I sought support to acknowledge the reality of this event (yes, I initially thought she’d live forever!) and moved through the grief process to heal into the next chapter of my life. Prior to this, any feelings of sadness and loss were suppressed and ignored. With her death, there was no containing the myriad of emotions and the lid was blown off! The word ‘grief’ was now in my vocabulary and supporting others through the process was the gift I was left with.
My extensive experience of death with family, friends, and my work with hospice patients, my intuitive and empathic nature, and my strong belief that death and dying are part of our life cycle led me to become a Certified Professional Life Coach. I was trained through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC), a nationally accredited Coaching Program with the International Coach Federation. I also received certification as an Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner (ELI-MP) through iPEC and I was an associate training coach for new students attending iPEC.
In addition to being a certified coach and trainer:
- I am a sought after speaker and workshop facilitator on topics such as Advance Care Planning, Grief During The Caregiver Journey, Hidden Gifts of Grief, Hope After Loss, Healing Your Heart.
- I have been a licensed massage therapist since 1999, trained in New York State where I completed a 1000 hour massage therapy curriculum at the Center for Natural Wellness School of Massage Therapy.
- I have studied numerous energy healing modalities including Reiki, Chakra Balancing, LightBody Activation, and AKAMAI Full Spectrum Healing.
- I am also a Mesa carrier in the Andean Shamanic tradition having studied with Shamans both in the US and in Peru.