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Death Behavior

What is death behavior? In the designing of Conversing with Death Therapy or CDT, actual experience had to bypass theory. It is one thing to talk about death; it is another to see, hear, feel, smell, and touch it. In developing the therapy, I took into account the many repeated behaviors I saw over the 15 years in hospice, over 1 ½ years in the hospital training as chaplain, and 3 years in the military.

Death behavior doesn’t just consist of physical mannerisms, although the exercises do touch on these. When CDT refers to death behavior, it notes primarily common emotional and mental movements made around and during the transitioning stage. If CDT was to raise awareness of body impermanence, then it needed to present a well-versed portrait of these patterns. Book and class material wouldn’t cut it.

As an example, I recall loneliness was so common that chances are high we will encounter this emotion ourselves. Whether these patients were at home or in a nursing facility didn’t necessarily factor in. A patient would wake up in their private abode or move about in the hallways of a facility and in the process gather enough stimuli that echoed a “lonely life” (i.e. silence, a semi-lit room, fellow patient(s) sleeping, a recognized decrease in body movement, etc). Often the patient would calculate the absence of visitors. (Dementia often complicated this process). Then the patient would freeze this frame of feeling alone.

CDT believes it is crucial to help familiarize clients with these and other types of common death behaviors so that WHEN they begin their own transitioning stage, they will not be surprised by or react with protest to them.

Food for Thought

When I designed Conversing with Death Therapy, I thought I was alone with the idea of cultivating a daily awareness of death. Upon dipping into Buddhist literature, I realized my message has long been around.
While more graphic exercises exist, here’s a softer example of contemplating death:
Imagine yourself as a small baby. See the physical changes you have gone through until now. Sometimes looking at photos of yourself from childhood to the present can be a poignant way to examine your own physical impermanence. Look at the transformation that has occurred in you physically. Then think about your physical being from last year until today. See that your body is changing even from moment to moment (Anyen Rinpoche, Dying with Confidence, p. 27).

Four Doubts to Consider

Four doubts to consider when exploring subtle resistances against deep reflections on body impermanence:
  • Ascribing faith in a concept of an experience that we call death, rather than in the mystery itself
  • Placing credence on associations often placed on death (i.e. depressing, fearful, etc) rather than on the innocence of the experience
  • Adapting without question cultural gauges that minimize and restrict reflections on death (i.e. “We shouldn’t think on death too much”)
  • Believing that pretense conversations about death (“We all have to die someday”) is the same as intentionally reflecting on death.

Guest blog post by Kevin Quiles, M.Div., M.A., LPC practices mindfulness and psychotherapy in Roswell, Georgia. He is the author of Spiritual Care to Elderly and Dying Loved Ones and Conversing with Death: to Build a Better Now and Future. He is also the founder of Conversing with Death Therapy ®. For more information, go to kevinquiles.com.

Kevin has authored 2 online continuing education courses for Pedagogy Education.

The Role of the Hospice Caregiver, this online course reevaluates the basic understanding of caregiving to achieve balance in this altruistic trade and provides the necessary tools to help the caregiver maintain a healthy balance in the field while providing quality service to patients and their family members.

Whether one is moving into the field of hospice for the first time or is well-seasoned as a professional caregiver, he or she has a significant chance of encountering some surprising hindrances that could mentally eradicate the caregiver’s emotional balance.

The Spiritual and Religious Makeup of the Hospice Caregiver, the purpose of this course is to examine how the healthcare professional’s spiritual and religious makeup influences the role he or she plays in the field of hospice. In studying the fabric of knowledge that transcends science, the course neither labels one religion or practice as good or bad, nor does it deny any claims of spiritual experiences or awakenings. The primary objective of this course is to lay credence to the psychological and cultural factors on spiritual and religious development, and to understand its strengths and limitations as it interacts with the prioritizing value hospice takes in serving a religiously diverse community. Questions the study will entertain here are as follows:
  • How do the professional’s absolute beliefs come about in the first place? Here the development of religious or spiritual ideas is explored only from cultural and psychological perspectives.
  • Are there strengths and limitations to any one perceived universal spiritual or religious belief as it works alongside an organizations’ mindset to deliver equal care to all faiths?
  • How can the professional work around an organization’s mission to a religiously or spiritually diverse community without feeling like he or she has compromised convictions?

While the subject of spirituality or religion is often handed down in hospice to the chaplain, every discipline is still at the forefront of the tugs and pulls fueled by one’s set of beliefs. Thus while this course can benefit all the disciplines, including the chaplain, the audience here is primarily the licensed nurse.

To learn more about Kevin’s courses click on the course titles above, education may also be purchased for an organization by emailing sales@pedagogy-inc.com or giving us a call at 903-871-2150.  Facility purchases of education always include the use of our Learning Management System that allows you complete control and oversight of education.
Posted: 9/30/2014 1:03:58 PM
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