Brigid's Balm Thanadoula Services

Debbie Seddon




I came upon this lovely gem when perusing books online, and ordered it for my collection. "Lifetimes: The beautiful way to explain death to children" is a simple way to explain death - insects, plants, birds, wildlife, and people. Simple language, beautiful illustrations, a quiet book that brings death back into its natural context and understanding as being part of the life cycle of all beings.

 

Recommended for quiet moments, talking and sharing with young ones who are contemplating the death of a loved one, that being a pet or a family member.



I was excited to learn about The Shamanic Handbook of Sacred Tools & Ceremonies and quickly ordered this book from Amazon. After over six months of waiting it finally arrived, and I must say I was a little disappointed.

 

The book, for what it is, was interesting enough. It seemed to be somewhat of a beginner book or introduction to what some aspects of shamanism may entail. Personally, as a Thanadoula (and going by my interpretation of the book's title) I was expecting more along the lines of actual life cycle rituals and accompanying sacred tools involved in the performance of said rituals, hoping to learn from and incorporate various traditions into the work I do at end of life. This was not to be the case at all.

 

Covering specific aspects such as your alter, amulets, drums, directions, divination, incense sticks, journeying, medicine bags, and power animals, this book seemed to me to be reminiscent of the many "Introduction to..." books... (wicca, paganism, druidry, etc.) As a very basic introductory book it is clear and well written. For someone seeking deeper understandings into shamanic traditions, rituals and ceremonies, I would kindly give it a pass.

Mindfulness-Based Elder Care - A CAM Model for Frail Elders and Their Caregivers by Lucia McBee is a well written book regarding the need for caregivers of all types to take a step back from doing their job on automatic pilot. So often we become so accustomed to performing tasks without thought, simply doing what we know we have to do and then move on to the next.

 

This book explores how, with populations living longer but with more disability, chronic conditions and pain, the role of caregiver in our aging populace is vitally important. We must stop looking at our palliative clients, patients and loved ones as another task to get through but really take the time - in the moment - to see them wholistically.

 

Sit and focus and really listen to what they are saying, don't half lend an ear while thinking about what you are going to cook for supper. This book is all about presence. Being mindful of them in this moment. Helping with stretches to keep flexible. The importance of hand massage, foot massage, or even simple touch. Looking someone in the eye, not with one eye on the clock. The importance of slowing down, of breathing.

 

This book also outlines the importance of self-care for those of us who are assisting with loved ones, friends and clients. We must remember to be kind to ourselves if we are to be able to reach out to others.

 

Topics covered in this book range from health care and nursing homes, mindfulness-based interventions and stress reduction (breathing, walking, yoga, eating, guided imagery), alternative medicine such as aromatherapy and hand massage, teaching mindfulness to elders, frail elders in a nursing home, mindfulness-based elder care for elders with dementia, isolated elders and palliative care, creativity, and stress reduction programs.

 

With guided suggestions and exercises this is a very practical and helpful book for caregivers of all types. This book is not one to sit down and read as a novel, but I recommend it to be kept on hand as a reference book to be referred to again and again.

What an awesome book. Still Alice by Lisa Genova takes the reader on a journey into the world of Alzheimer's disease, one we won't soon forget.

 

Alice Howland is a 50 year old cognitive psychology professor at Harvard University, married and with three adult children. Her life revolved around teaching, assisting with theses and traveling to give talks as a world-renowned expert in linguistics. She begins to realize she is becoming increasingly forgetful and makes an appointment to see a doctor.

 

This begins her journey through the dark experiences with early onset Alzheimer's.

 

The book explores the fears, obstacles and challenges of this disease, from her point of view but also exploring the experiences of the rest of her family. She realizes she can no longer continue working as she was, she helps build her own supports and coping mechanisms. As she becomes more and more disoriented we see how rapidly life as we know it in this moment can change into something totally unexpected and unrecognizable.

 

Still Alice was a tough book to read. Every step of the way I was asking myself - could this happen to me? What would I do? How would my family cope? Big questions, and perhaps things we should consider sitting down with our families and really discussing. I would recommend this book to anyone with a friend or loved one who is living with dementia or Alzheimer's in order to perhaps gain insight into that experience.

 

As a Thanadoula, part of the work I do involves assistance with advanced care planning. Reading this book made me think even more about the "what if's" in the future. This disease, or early onset dementia, can strike anyone. Do you have YOUR advanced care plan in place?

 

On the topic of Alzheimer's, this Thursday there is an event taking place at Carleton Place Terrace (613-253-7360) in which we will be able to have a virtual Alzheimer's experience. Scary, perhaps. Enlightening, definitely. This would be of particular interest to caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, clients, friends and loved ones. And please, feel free to contact your local chapter of Alzheimer's Society of Canada at http://alzheimer.ca/en/Home should you require any information or assistance.

 

Still Alice is also a motion picture available on Netflix starring Julianne Moore, Kate Bosworth and Shane McRae.

The Smell of Rain on Dust - Grief and Praise is one of the most beautiful books I have read in a very long time.

 

Martin Prechtel has created a gem of a book, written in prose form with vivid imagery and on subjects we can all relate to - grief, passion, birth, death, addiction, social manipulation, group anger, war, money, animals as our healers, and most of all, love and compassion. He explains to us that whatever our life's journey holds, we must meet it, feel it, experience it, live it and praise it. Only then will we be able to grieve the losses we feel on many levels.

 

Martin speaks of true grief, the heart-wrenching, bringing it up from your toes and bellowing it out, sobbing until you are spent type of grief, as well as praising our losses and understanding the why of it happening without looking to place blame or seek revenge. He allows us to be one with our heartache, to live with it here and now, not searching for an audience or putting on a show, but truly living it in this moment and allowing it to be a part of who you are, praising it for what it has been for you, and then later being able to release it from your being. He illustrates the importance of grief as a healing tool, and I am sure many of us are aware of those who suffer mental and emotional trauma due to fear of expressing their grief - lack of trust and security leaves no space for us to open ourselves and be vulnerable.

 

My words do not do this book justice. It is a book you read one chapter at a time, then spend the rest of the day thinking about what you have read. You digest this book, don't hurry through the pages and move on to the next book. Savour this. Read it with thought, with purpose. Then... read it again.

As a Thanadoula I work with those approaching end of life. None of us knows for certain what happens after death and this usually comes up in discussion between my clients and myself. Most religions ascribe to the belief of life after death in one form or another, predominantly reincarnation. What happens to our souls? Where do we go after we transition from life through death? Big questions...

 

A friend passed this book on to me and I really enjoyed reading it. "Journey of Souls - Case Studies of Life Between Lives" by Michael Newton, PhD is an interesting book to say the least. Dr. Newton has been a counseling psychologist, hypnotherapist and teacher fore more than 40 years. He is the founder of the Michael Newton Institute for Life Between Lives Hypnotherapy in California.

 

Dr. Newton takes us on a journey via his clients experiences under deep hypnosis where they describe what happens to them between lives. Here we learn what happens to people after they die, what the spirit world is like, where we go and what we do as souls, and why we come back in specific bodies. Chapters such as Homecoming, The Displaced Soul, Transition, Placement, Guides, and Life Selection take us step by step through stages of soul growth and development as experienced by 29 different case studies.

 

I found this book fascinating, but obviously it is not one for everyone and should be read with personal discernment. I would recommend this book to anyone who may be curious about what may exist beyond the veil, and perhaps bring hope to those looking for continuation of their existence in some manner.

A friend asked me recently if I could recommend a book for her client, one that is not written from the point of view of a caretaker or a physician or a hospice worker. One that is written by someone living the end of their life, from their point of view. A book her client could possibly relate to and that was not steeped in religion. "Before I say Goodbye" is such a book.

 

Poignantly written by journalist Ruth Picardie this book tells - with humour, grace and anger, the story of the end of her life after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Put together as a series of emails between friends and articles written for Observer Life magazine we read as silent observers witnessing the last months of her life. We walk beside her observing the love she has for her children, family and friends, her laughter, fear, anger and ultimately we share sorrow in her passing. We are touched by the "after words" written by her husband, Matt, as he fills in the final spaces.

 

Touching and personal, this book gives us insight into some of the thoughts and experiences of those living with cancer, perhaps valuing our own lives and blessings even more.

As a Thanadoula, I am always looking for something interesting to read that will gain me greater insight into various aspects of my work; perhaps what a client may be experiencing, or the position from a doctor's point of view. I saw the title "Knocking on Heaven's Door - The Path to a Better Way of Death" and it peaked my interest - this book could be based upon a number of things... so I bought it.

 

What a journey. Katy Butler had expected her parents to experience a pleasant retirement and eventually they would die peacefully at home. This was not to be the case.

 

This book tells in vivid and sometimes agonizing detail the story of her father's stroke which resulted in a pacemaker being implanted. Her mother was thrust into the role of full time caregiver (and for those working in the field of hospice and palliative care, THIS gives great insight into the struggles and frustrations involved) and as her husband further declined and slipped into dementia, the hated pacemaker kept his heart going rather than allowing him to slip peacefully away.

 

Struggles with doctors who refused to remove the pacemaker, struggles within the family regarding their father's decline, struggles within themselves regarding moral and ethical issues and frustrations while seeing someone  you love suffer and being unable to do anything about it... this book takes us on an emotional roller coaster with this family's journey.

 

I have to admit it was not an easy read, at times I needed to put it down and walk away - a luxury not afforded one who is living this situation. It opened my eyes to many issues and led me to learn a bit more about the workings of pacemakers and legal and moral issues surrounding their use.

 

I highly recommend this book to anyone providing family support, caregiver support, or interest in end of life care. It is an eye opening, clearly and often graphically written account of one family's journey through a struggle at the end of life that perhaps need not have been so difficult.

 

 

When Breath Becomes Air is a book written by Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who sees his life change in the moment he is diagnosed with cancer.

 

The first half of the book tells the story of his years growing up as a child, later as a scholar and his love of literature and enjoyment of life as an adventurer, and then the sudden turn when he discovers his love of medicine and his development as a gifted neurosurgeon. The love of family and his wife are always predominant in his life, even through trials and tribulations experienced to which many of us can relate.

 

The second half of the book brings us along with him as he experiences the shift in roles, changing from doctor to patient when cancer rears its ugly head. He struggles with accepting life over death, gaining back strength after treatments, acceptance of becoming a patient and letting his doctor run the show, future hopes, fears and losses, and the emotional and mental comprehensions that accompany his change in roles.

 

Often we see doctors as distant, as being in the "business" of prolonging life - let's try this treatment, and if it doesn't work we will try that treatment, and if it doesn't work we will try.... - patients often feeling as if they are guinea pigs to a distant being's whims. This book rather turns that image on its heels, the doctor - and those with whom he works - shows us the human side rather than the distant. We understand, perhaps a little better, why doctors may appear distant in the face of grave illness or impending death.

 

Reading this book takes us on a personal journey with a literary scholar, a doctor, a neurosurgeon, a man - and his family - as they battle the disease, hope for the future and live their lives the best way they can. The epilogue is a touching ending, poignantly written by his wife as a tribute to the man with whom she shared her life and love.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning further about living with cancer, or perhaps sharing in the experience, feeling you are not alone with your hopes and fears. It gives us insight into a doctor's thoughts, something to which we are not easily privy. I think the paragraph that best spoke to me was the following:

 

"...I had learned something, something not found in Hippocrates, Maimonides, or Osler:  the physician's duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence."

 

THAT is the kind of doctor I want taking care of me.

Working with clients as they approach end of life, listening to their stories, and reviewing cases with other hospice workers, Thanadoulas, and end of life care specialists often brings up issues with regards to medical intervention. Doctors are in the business of preserving and prolonging life even though many times that is not the goal of the family. Doctors are often seen as individuals who feel they have "failed" in their work when a patient dies or succumbs to their illness. This book gave me wonderful insight into the experiences of one doctor who does not fall into this category.

 

the measure of our days by Jerome Groopman, M.D. is one of the best books I have read in a while and I highly recommend reading it. Quoting from the book, "Dr. Groopman is the Recanati Professor of Immunology at Harvard Medical School, Chief of Experimental Medicine at Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Centre and one of the world's leading researchers in cancer and AIDS. He and his work have been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe and The New Yorker, as well as in numerous scientific journals."

 

Each chapter in this book tells the story of an individual Dr. Groopman has treated. As they come to the understanding they have a life-threatening illness, this book explores how each person faces that truth, steps they take, questions they ask of their doctor and of themselves, and the relationship between the doctor, patient and the disease. We feel we are brought into the room to take part in this intimate journey; reading the symptoms, viewing the samples under a microscope, listening to the anger and fear, celebrating in small moments of joy, and watching the spiritual journey develop as they approach end of life.

 

This is a book of faith - not religion, but faith of patient in themselves and in their doctor, faith of the doctor regarding the patient, his knowledge and understanding and his quest for further understanding of the illnesses and ways they affect the body, immune system, how they develop and what we can do to stop their destruction. Dr. Groopman also leans upon his spiritual faith in times of hardship, and shares moments of doubt - and hope - with the people he cares for.

 

As Dr. Groopman is a blood specialist there is some technical data in this book, but it is easy to follow and adds to the understanding of the case study. This book was very easy to read, each chapter being dedicated to one patient. As stated previously, I would highly recommend anyone dealing with end of life care, especially regarding patients with cancer or AIDS, to read this book. It shows us how even though many doctors seem to run from patient to patient with a very short amount of time or even a closed bedside manner, compassion still abounds in caring for those at the end of their life.