Rev. Lynda Elaine Carré
knowing what matters most. “
it gives the precious gift of truly
“Even though Death asks everything of us,
Thanadoula and Spiritual Care Coach
Thanadoula, Death Doula, Death Midwife, and Psychopomp are a few names that refer to someone with the personal commitment, training, experience, and spiritual calling to accompany the dying through their personal, intentional conscious dying process. The ultimate goal is more than a good death, it is experiencing a good life until the very end, as defined by the dying themselves.
I am uniquely both, a certified thanadoula and an ordained interfaith chaplain seasoned through professional palliative care and hospice service in hospitals, nursing homes, and private residences. I have dedicated myself through in-depth personal work, education, extensive specialized training, and the valuable experience that can only be gained by accompanying over 100 people living through their dying. See My Story.
Just as when we are born, we don’t do it well alone. The difference between our birth and our dying is that in dying we are aware of ourselves. We are aware of what we have become, of what we have left undone, and of what may never be. We are concerned for those we will leave behind. We may experience panic when faced with pending non-existence. Doubts may arise about beliefs. Our emotions may blindside us. We may feel helpless and afraid.
“Frequent assessment of a patient’s spiritual well-being, and attention to a patient’s spiritual and religious needs, should be among the core components of quality end-of-life care across all settings and providers.” (“Dying in America” report. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2014)
Our consciousness and ability to self-reflect gives rise to many questions and concerns with little remaining time to answer. That is why the skilled companionship of a transition guide for dying, along with the spiritual care of a chaplain can facilitate living well until we can’t any longer. Add to this Integrative Healing Arts––essential when the dying experience moves beyond words and communication becomes symbolic, metaphoric, behavioral, or from somewhere else––and there is greater likelihood of a fulfilling experience for all involved. Importantly, each ending of a life has ripple-effect impact for everyone. It is a preview of coming attractions for us all, and an opportunity to learn how we best care for each other as we live well through our dying process.
Thankfully, with compassion and consciousness––especially in the final time of our life––we can get the answers we need about what may lie ahead for us in the dying process and also realize healthy perspectives that overcome fears and doubts. We can experience wholeness, heal our spirit, and deepen our gratitude for all of life’s experiences, even including death. Gaining awareness and integrating understanding is possible when spiritual coaching and end-of-life transition guidance come together as a wellspring of possibility even as our life unfolds during the final months, days, and hours.
End-of-Life Transition Guidance
Most people are not aware of having died before and may even have very limited exposure to, or a negative experience with, dying and death during their lifetime. This can be extremely distressing and the source of spiritual/emotional/existential crises. See Spiritual Care.
The truth is our bodies are preparing for dying from the time we are born. Our body knows what to do to help us die naturally. It is the spiritual, emotional, existential aspects of our being that are most challenging. It is helpful to know that while each death is personal and unique, there are some natural things to expect or that may happen. Knowing more about the process while accompanied with compassion can alleviate fears and make way for curiosity, awe, and healing into wholeness with utmost significance that is only possible as we live through our dying.
Knowing what to expect in the dying process, what to do to make it easier, and how to identify presumptive pain when the dying can no longer speak for themselves is just some some of the knowledge I will share.
Interfaith Spiritual Integration and Transformation
All faiths and belief systems address the human experience of dying. All strive to transcend, or at least make meaning of, the experience of having lived. Some offer assurances about what comes after death in a wide variety of ways. Especially when faced with dying our well-being through our faith or spiritual connection is put to the test of whether it limits us or supports us. And it may be that unconscious shadows from beliefs around dying and death, worthiness, or angst about what we are leaving behind arise during this time. Distress at end of life is well documented.
"Information and experienced spiritual care support can alleviate distress and the fear of Death. Distress at end of life is well documented. 76% of people at end of life experience some form of distress." (Crujkilton & Rubins, as cited in Reese, 2013; & Britzenhofeszoc, 2011)
With limited time, we rarely can adequately come to terms with dying through our usual perspective or belief system––which may have become destabilized or be found inadequate in facing our new reality. But, with skilled and compassionate support, we can. We can heal, integrate, and transform up until our last breath. Each life matters and deserves this loving, sacred respect at one of the most potentially enlightening and creative times in our life.
Client and Family Advocacy
From the time a diagnosis indicates chronic or terminal illness, as health drastically declines due to conditions of aging, or during hospitalization, we are faced with a myriad of critical decisions about the care we receive or the care of someone we care deeply about. We likely also are presented with conflicting or confusing medical reports, numerous treatment options, and life-support or life-ending scenarios. It can seem like a roller coaster of extreme highs and lows in a country where a different language is spoken.
"Chaplains help patients cope with their illness, align care plans with values, promoting a culture of respect and dignity, and tap into inner strengths and resources." (BMC Palliative Care, 2014; BMC Palliative Care, 2015; Journal of Palliative Medicine, 2009)
I have specialized palliative care communications training and experience that facilitates clear identification of values and goals of care so that everyone–– family, friends, and medical professionals alike––can come into alignment with the most appropriate care to achieve the quality of life experience that is most meaningful and important to the patient. Learning your family culture, belief system, and values enables me to bridge communication between you and the medical providers.
Sometimes advocacy is helping someone achieve their final wishes. It may be holding out for a wedding/graduation/birth or helping them revisit their greatest personal hits––favorite music, movies, meals, walk on the shore, or ride on the golf course. It may be helping arrange a living wake celebration of life.
Surgery and Treatment Support
Experienced in hospital settings––from Emergency Room, to Medical Surgery, to Oncology, to the ICU–– I am comfortable and can easily bridge communication between providers, patients, and their families. When treatment procedures or surgery is deemed necessary, it is natural to feel unsettled, apprehensive, and perhaps frightened. And yet, even through this, there is an opportunity for healing and transformation. Through spiritual care, integrative healing arts that involves breathwork, guided imagery, and energy work there are notable benefits in reduced anxiety, decrease in pain and use of pain medication, and speed of recovery. Together we prepare in advance, I can accompany you during, and can help you in your recovery.
Integrative Healing Arts
I incorporate effective holistic and integrative healing arts therapies that can help alleviate physical, emotional, spiritual, and existential difficulties even when someone is struggling with questions and concerns, or when non-verbal or intermittently conscious. The use of sound or singing, healing touch, meditation or guided imagery, and essential oils create a sacred intentional space and can provide relief through the relaxation response which feels simultaneously expansive and connected. I have observed that while the body function is slowing and contracting, essence is expanding and releasing. Because contracting can feel uncomfortable, things that stimulate expansion and connection feel good and provide a sense of greater ease and well-being. See more about Integrative Healing Arts.
Family Dynamics and Group Support
Spiritual care and a holistic culturally-sensitive approach to the inter- and intra-personal dynamics of a situation provides the family and circle of carers with reassurance and skilled guidance during what is often a heart-wrenching experience. Family dynamics exaggerate and roles shift. Sensitive, respectful communications support allows the dying and the family to move through their differences and conflicts to focus on matters of the heart for healing, bonding, and legacy work. It frees the medical support team to focus on their expert skillset, and provides them with spiritual and emotional support as well. It provides everyone involved with relief and trust in the process. It created conditions whereby the dying can exit with dignity, grace, and gratitude. See more about this here.
Contemplative Care and Bedside Vigil
Being with the dying is an honor and a privilege, and it is also often emotionally and physically exhausting for the family and circle of carers. During final days and hours, I support sacred space to hold the dying and their loved ones. I can serve as a reliable constant, so that others can rest or share their concerns and grief with each other, knowing that the dying one is being compassionately watched over and companioned through the dying process.