#287 – Discussing Death With Paul Simard

Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service on the episode today we have Paul Simard. Paul, welcome. Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here. It is great to have you. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do? Sure. Absolutely. Well, I’m somebody who doesn’t like to put labels on anything that I really do. I have several hats, but primarily what I see myself as doing is being a mirror, a guide uh and someone who can help other people to more deeply and fully embody what they want to be and how they want to show up in the world. And I do that in a, in a wide range of, of different ways. I do a lot of, um, one on one work with, with individuals with men primarily.

Um I support organizations and thinking about some of the more um soft parts of their um work flow if you will, things like mental health and wellness and, and those kinds of things, um, as well as, um doing some things that are a little bit more off the beaten path if you will on the Certified Death Doula. And I actually believe that um our relationship to death is one of the the key drivers behind our mental ease in these, in these times. So especially coming out of a pandemic. Well, there’s a lot to ask you about there. Um and I got a whole whole list but um uh what would you say that your passion is in relation to the things that you like to discuss? Yes. So my passion is a mo is always a moving target, you know, and I think that’s one of the things that um has allowed me to show up in the way that I do. But really, I’ve, I just stated it and that’s to say that I’m passionate about service, I’m passionate about being in service.

Um And right now, my deepest curiosity um is around this relationship between um how we are showing up in the world in a wide range of things and death. Um I really do feel like it is the the primary driver. But again, if it doesn’t start with mental health, for me, it doesn’t start. So really, that’s the thing. But where my, where the crosshairs of my focus will be uh that will change from time to time. And right now it just happens to be around, around death. Well, those are three great topics. Um but the, the Grim Reaper is uh is something which um which I, I don’t find I’ve, I’ve spoken to many people and looked at uh many profiles and had many pitches to, to for people to be on the podcast. I don’t recall anyone saying I want to talk about death. Uh And that’s a very interesting thing in and of itself. So, um in terms of what you have learned about death as a start, as a summary, what would you share with me or the audience?

Well, I think first and foremost, it’s the fact that nobody else has ever wanted to take it, take talk, talk about it. Right? Like, why is it this thing that nobody wants to invite into the living room as a topic of conversation? And some of it is gonna be that, I think death’s pr firm has basically been on vacation for the last, you know, 100 years, certainly. And when it has stepped up, it hasn’t shown up in the best ways in the sense that it comes up through, you know, a pandemic which is fear driven by, you know, medical institutions and all these things and, and not that there wasn’t things to be concerned and to be fearful of necessarily, but that’s when death came into our, into our sites. If you will, is through these things, you, you even use the word, I mean, or you gave it a name, the Grim Reaper. You know, there’s nothing overly flattering about, you know, that as a moniker to be walking around the world with. And so that was an attempt at humor as well, but it was, well, but it was also a well placed attempt at humor and it was a funny and b very apropo for your question, right?

Because it, it, it is so true. Our, our labels and the way that we view death it goes into extremes actually. So it’s either this, this massively heavy, dark and foreboding thing that nobody wants to talk about or we make light of it. Right. And, and some examples of that are, are, you know, the playful way that we might describe it, the grim reaper or so on and so forth. But also, you know, even when I think of like we die every day or if you had three days left to live, what would you do with them? These don’t actually address the, the breadth and the, the importance of the subject of death. Inevitably you ask somebody, what do they want to do with the last three days of their life? And they’re gonna come up with a bucket list of things. Well, I’m gonna go and climb Kilimanjaro. I want to go and I’ve always wanted to drive a race car, uh, blah, blah, blah, whatever the thing might be. And yet, when you actually spend time with people who are in the last three months of their life, none of those bucket list things show up.

And if they do, there are things that are on a bucket list that was just recently created when the news of their imminent death entered the room it’s things like I wanna go, but I want to spend time in the garden. I wanna go and I wanna hold my grandchild as often as I can. They become these mundane day to day things that become the things that they really want to do with their remaining time. Um And so the, the, the most important thing that, that I have learned is that we actually um are in a time where we are being invited to reintroduce and almost reclaim death as a very normal and natural and actually awe inspiring part of our experience as people. It really truly is. And I, I’ll, I’ll take a breath in a moment, but I’ll just finish by saying, you know, awe and fear are actually variants of the same energetic emotion.

And it’s only what happens in our brain. That is the difference between whether we are in awe of something or in fear of it. There’s gonna be things like experience and things like that. But I can, I can be in complete awe about the same things that I might fall into a deep fear about. And death is one of those things I’m interested to know based on your answer. Um How you react to, to death, given the fact that you have thought about it a great deal because I think the default response to death, um whether it be, let’s say close friends or family, for example, is, is I suppose, reactive in the sense that everyone sees it as a negative thing. Um How do you deal with it personally? Yeah, that’s a great question. Thank you for that. And I’m gonna use a very personal experience because I’m coming up uh on the, the one year anniversary uh of my mother’s death. Uh She died in November 2022 survived by my, by my father.

And there’s uh I, I believe um now his name is escaping me. But there’s an actor who I recently heard talking about his own experience with his mother’s death. And he says I’m one of those strange people. I actually love talking about my mother’s death. And, and when I heard that I was like, yeah, I’m like that too. And I’ve only really come to be able to articulate the why of it in the last sort of month and a half or so I would say. And, you know, my mother’s, my mother’s death was actually the, certainly the last but potentially even the most beautiful gift that a mother could give to their child. My mother allowed me to be very intimately close to her death and dying process. She, she was very comfortable and it’s because she knows that I’m a death doula and that because she knows that I’m, I’m not, these things will affect me, but they won’t traumatize me in the way that society uses the word trauma right now.

Um I, I’m, I’m, I was deeply curious about what she was feeling and what she was experiencing. Um I, I tried to lean into that expression of awe and, you know, I was with my mom basically 24 7 in the palliative care residence, uh where she eventually died for the last four days uh of her life. And I got to experience everything from the those moments of recognition when she’s back in her body. And my mom is, is, has reentered the room. Um you know, to the moments of complete confusion where she’s not really sure what, what’s going on and what she’s experiencing to, you know, and this is a little bit of a harder one to share, but, you know, to the death rattle that literally carried on for eight hours all night until such time as, as they changed her seating position. And, and, you know, so, um my experience with death and, and there’s something I think losing any parent is, is really hard for us.

I think that losing a mom uh is, is, is, is especially so assuming that the relationship with the mother is, is one that is whole and, and is, is, you know, more or less nourishing. Um because we experience what we in the western civilization considered to be the opposite of the thing that they gave us. And, and so there’s that, that sort of last fiber of connection with our mother is truly, truly broken. Um And truly severed potentially. Uh, I actually don’t usually speak with my mom in the past tense. Uh, we’ve actually decided to keep her at home as opposed to, um, having her in a columbarium, you know, in a glass case in the urn and the, the whole nine yards her urn is here in my parents’ home, which is where I work from, which is where I’m speaking to you from today. Well, thank you for sharing that. Very nice to sort of share that um experience with you if you will. Um I, I should have followed up on something which you said earlier, which was um you, you said that you were a, am I right in saying a death jeweler?

Is that correct? So I should have said um what is, what is that? Yeah, great. Another great question and one that has as many answers as there are death doulas in the world, which is to say about 30. No, I’m kidding. There’s many more than that. Um My own attempt at light humor. Um So a death doula can, can however show up in a variety of ways and it depends on how that death Doula um chooses to fill that role. Um There’s the death Dola who will actually like a birth doula would, will actually sit and guide and support the dying person. Um Once you’ve typically gotten what they would call like a palliative care um protocol. And so the, the dying is very, very imminent and, and they will, um, they will support that person in, in navigating that everything from very practical things like, you know, making sure they won’t necessarily do the estate, uh, pieces and things like that.

But just making sure that those are pieces that they’re thinking of, uh, if they’re gonna be doing any kind of religious service or those kinds of things that could also be part of, of that side of the equation. Uh Do other duos might do that and also support the family as they begin to um you know, get in front of their, their grieving process uh and start to prepare for the, the death of the loved one. Um So, so that is also uh something that um Dola can do. Um You also have doulas and this is where I do spend most of my time who are more interested in normalizing and like I said earlier, reclaiming uh conversations around death and bringing it back them back into the mainstream. Um So that we, we create a, a healthier relationship with, with death as a part of the experience that we have as humans. Um And part of the reason that I’m, I’m really focusing on that is because the, the work with families or with dying people is still something that most people are not.

Um they don’t feel like they need in a lot of cases. Um We have what I call the, the death or the dying industrial complex which tends to make people feel as if they’re taken care of. Right. So you get ill, you go into the hospital, uh, the diagnosis becomes terminal and you go into palliative care, you die, you go into, you know, the funeral home and then depending on your religious beliefs, once you, you, you know, you’ve done the church and the funeral home thing. Well, God’s got the rest. Um, so we don’t actually have to do anything in the whole thing. And it’s a very convenient system, most of which is very profitable up until, uh, the person has, has actually been either, you know, put in the urn or, or died. Um And so this, this, um, sense that one might need a death do to support them is, is not quite there yet. Um And so, and you need permission obviously from the family and then, you know, obviously debt doers need to make a living as well.

And so there might be financial restrictions and so on. And so, and the idea of paying for these things for some people is not, that’s not something they’re comfortable with yet. Either on the other hand, I don’t necessarily need anyone to invite me in the room, for me to be able to create spaces to advocate for a healthier relationship to death. So that death do is either become a more natural part of the, the, the, the way that we are living or so that at least we’re challenging some of the, the ways people think about it at the very least so that they on their own can be their own death do to a certain degree as they’re experiencing death in their lives just through conversations or, or other things like that. So, um I do podcasts. I come on and I talk like, I’m, we’re doing today, uh, every month I host a Death over Coffee, which is uh an event at a local coffee shop here. Um And, you know, we get together as a group and we talk about of death and dying and, you know, again, just to tie it in, I have seen people’s mental wellness and improve through these conversations um where a man who 6.5 months ago, seven months ago when he first started coming to our death over copies was living in deep anxiety.

He’s an older gentleman. Um Death is probably not imminent. He’s, he’s, you know, early seventies, I would say so potentially lots of years ahead. Um But death fully afraid of death, like deathly afraid of death. And he sent me an email not two or three weeks ago sharing an article that he read. And he was like, this was really interesting and he goes, and I’ve just realized that death is now very much a part of my life, like the stress and anxiety relief that I could sense from his words. Is why II, I believe that it’s such an important part of our mental health and wellness. Well, congratulations for that. Um, I think any time that you’re doing something which uh relieves stress and anxiety over something major, I think that’s doing good work so well done. Um Yeah, it does bring me to, I mean, normally I would never ask this. Uh, because, um, I don’t know, I think you probably know why but uh because of what you do, uh what are your thoughts around?

What happens after death? Yeah. So a very interesting and, and a very challenging question and my, my short answer is I don’t think it matters what I think I think and, and I, I mean, that honestly, um my personal opinion is that uh a belief is very different than from something that we know. And so what I’m more interested in is making sure that whatever someone believes that I work with, who I work with or who I’m sitting with in conversation that it, it serves and supports and nourishes them. That is the most important thing. Now, I don’t want to bypass or avoid your question by getting, you know, or get myself off the hook by not answering the question. But in my work, that is more important to me than me projecting or sharing my belief. And that’s not what the goal is in terms of what I’m, I’m gonna share right now.

Um I’m, I’m a firm believer that in fact, and, you know, there’s many uh indigenous or intact cultures that still believe this to this day. Although it’s, it’s not quite as um uh prominent as it used to be. But, you know, many cultures don’t actually have the concept of death as something that is in their vernacular. It’s not in their experience, it’s all life, including what we now call death. And, you know, if, if you were a member of an indigenous community into a community here where I am in, in North America, in Canada, um you know, and you were an elder person and you were in the middle of migrating from one area to the next. Um And it was winter was uh you know, approaching. Um And you came to recognize that because of your age, you were potentially putting the, the life of the community at risk. Uh It took no more than a hand on the shoulder of your son or preten maybe your grandson depending on how old they were.

Um And you know, you would be, you would go together into the woods and, and that would become your, your ceremonial burial place. You know, as you quote unquote, gave your life. Although there’s no sacrifice in their mind, in support of life for them, it was just all, that’s just all life and what’s beautiful about that, of course is that the family will always know where the bones of that of that, that ancestor are. And so it creates a relationship to the land as well. I’m much more of that belief. So I’m much more of the belief that everything is in support of life. Um, when I die, I would love to be depending on what regulations come into play between now and my actual death, we are also, I mean, even the way we’re buried today is regulated and, and bound by law, right? They’re, they’re changing and they’re expanding. But I would love to be uh potentially wrapped in a mushroom suit and laid at the foot of a young oak or other beautiful tree and have my body, um contribute to that, uh in, in support of life because that’s, that’s what, that’s what death actually should be.

When you look at the earth in a potted plant or in a garden, that earth is made up of generations of things that have died before. And while we don’t necessarily associate in that way that includes people right there is there, there’s actually, you know, parts of, of the DNA of people that is found in that, that earth. Um And so it is, in fact, death is, in fact necessary for life. It is, it is absolutely necessary. And if, if we can, my hope and we’re probably many generations away from this, if ever. But my hope would be that we can start to reclaim that as a part of how we contribute to the broader um health of the planet because as it stands and it’s, it is getting better, as I said. But as it stands, we are the only creature on the planet who upon their death, for the most part doesn’t contribute to the future life of another entity.

But everything else when it dies contributes in some way, we put in metal containers and you know, in glass boxes, in marble walls. You know, as I said that and again, II, I do believe that that if we can reclaim that relationship um to death, that it will help us to come to a more um comfortable, although I don’t like the word comfortable but a healthier relationship with our own mental health and wellness. I, I really, I truly deeply believe that thank you for um for sharing that. I mean, just out of interest, I’d like to know whether or not you get some, you’re in a, you’re in a scenario where very tense scenario potentially with, with family members. Do you ever get any, a hard time from anyone? Yeah, sure. I mean, I’m, I’m blessed with uh a bit of an odd family where these kinds of conversations are a bit more normalized than you might find them otherwise.

But again, my goal is not to tell anyone what they should and shouldn’t do. Um I don’t actually know anything. I have a certain set of beliefs that I, I share my uh experiences through. Um And they’re constantly evolving, they’re constantly evolving. Um And so when there is a tension point, you know, for example, my, my brother um has a very different relationship. As I said, my mother’s urn is in the home. Um When I come most, most days I’ll go and I’ll, I’ll lay my hand on the urn and I’ll wish her good morning and ask her how she’s doing and all of these things. Um, my brother believes that it’s, it’s just a pile of ash that used to be my mom. That’s in a metal container that there’s, there’s, there’s no one to speak to there. Um, and that’s, that’s fine. That’s his belief. II, I don’t, there’s no conf there’s no conflict, there’s no confrontation, there’s no challenge around that, right?

Um, the, the test of our beliefs will come at the time of our own death. That’s, that’s when it matters, right. What we do now doesn’t necessarily matter. But when it comes, when our death is at our door is sitting next to us, that is where I will be curious to see how each of us might navigate, not knowing how even I myself will do so. Um, because it’s, again, it’s very different to be with other people’s death than being with your own. Um And, and so I have plenty of opportunities through which I could get into a conflictual conversation, but I don’t think that that serves and supports anyone and I, I feel the same way when I’m in circle with people or in conversation with you today. And is there a theme of, uh, the type of person that, that wants to have, uh, you present as a death dealer or is it, can it be pretty much anyone?

I think it can be pretty much anyone? Um, as I said, most of my time is spent in circles, uh, and in opportunities talking and, and writing about it. Um, what’s really been interesting to me actually, over the last, um sort of four or five months is we have about 20 people that come to these circles, we try to keep them intimate. We want them to feel as though they have a, an opportunity to share if they want to. And what’s been interesting is that almost half of those people and I don’t ask for their actual age, but based on, you know, looking at them and, and hearing their experiences and where they are in their lives are under the age of 35 and they don’t always have someone in their life who is dying. They are quite often thinking about their own, their own death. Um And more importantly what that means for their life. And so it’s really interesting to me to see that when we open these spaces that the, I don’t wanna say that they’re the first, but I’m gonna say it in that way just to say that they’re the most prevalent group but they’re the first to put their hands up when it comes to an invitation to have these conversations.

Uh, the people who are in, um, the minority are actually the people who are sort of at the height of their professional and personal lives if you will, you know, 35 to kind of 50 where I’m guessing things like Children and career growth and all of these other things are the um are the primary focus and, you know, having just and exited that, that um that window to a certain degree, I can also say that um there’s still that sense of it being way off in the distance and even, maybe even a little since, since I’m a AAA male, you know, identify as male and I’m cis gendered a little bit of that in invincibility energy too. They’re like, oh yeah, that, that death thing only happens to other people, right? Um But as I’ve become more and more involved and engaged in this work, um and, you know, I’ll use an example that might um surprise a lot of people.

But, you know, there were a lot of, there were not, they were not in the majority, but there were young people who died during the pandemic as we, as we obviously know. And I was always um not surprised, but it was always interesting to me to note how that was the, the demographic that created the greatest outcry, right? If, if a young person died, um, you know, well, we needed to bring mass back in school because if not, the governments are being irresponsible and so on and so forth, then there’s this, even at one point I remember, uh, um, a newspaper person here wrote that. Is it ok that the, the politicians are saying that it’s ok for kids to die from COVID is how it was framed And what’s really lying under there is that it’s not ok for Children to die and what that sort of leads you to start? The question is, well, when does it become ok, like is there an age limit now?

So it’s not OK if you’re, you know, in, in primary school? Ok. Uh Are we OK with it in high school? And if you ask most people, they’re gonna say no, still not. OK, 20 years old and, and at a certain point you get to like the 80 year old and they’re like, well, yeah, it starts to be ok. So what do we do? We go around to all the 80 year olds and we start tapping them on the shoulder and saying, well, we’re not gonna put any energy and effort into you living any longer now that you’ve contracted this disease because you’re 80 that’s, you know, you’ve had your share, we’re gonna put all our energy over there. I have three girls. If anything were to happen, my heart would be destroyed, ruined. But that doesn’t mean that it was wrong for them to die or that their death is somehow more wrong than a 75 or an 80 year old person. You know, my mom died at 73. A lot of people said she was so young. Yeah, she was in the general scheme of things, right. And especially where we are today in the world she was.

And I can tell you that my mom lived more life than a lot of people who, who survived to be 100 right? So that, that the the notion of, you know, death at a certain age not being ok or being more wrong than another. You know, I think this is also what some of those young people are being curious about because they’ve seen other young people die in a more public sphere than they have before because of the exposure that, that COVID brought to this. And um and, and they’re, they’re feeling something move within themselves and they’re curious to know what that is, which I think is beautiful. You said in a previous answer about the fact that you don’t know how you will be um when you die. Um The question is how do you suspect you will be? Let me tell you how I quote unquote, hope I will be here. I, so one of the, again, one of the most beautiful things I hope I will be like my mom, to be honest.

And what that means is, I hope that it will give the people around me who want to, lots of work to do. And there was, there was a lot of work for us to do, which, which allowed us to be so intimate with her death. I’ll give you some examples. She, um you know, when she got the diagnosis, one of the things she wanted was to come home for a week, her life was her backyard. She loved this home and she only wanted to go home for a week. Happy to share. She actually ended up with 3.5 months. But when she came home, one of the first things that my brother and I, my brothers and I did and this was already a project, but it advanced the timeline. We tore down the old deck and we built a new deck in the back. That was more amenable for her to be able to, um, to go out and sit in her backyard. Right. So we did that in five days. Something that probably would have taken, you know, let’s call it 8 to 10 normally.

But just, we didn’t know the time. So we had that to do in the work. Um, my brother and his partner, um, had been planning to get married at some point all of a sudden that became something that everybody needed to get involved with now so that they could get married before my mother died. Um There was uh uh she had a mission to all of the women and girls in her life that she cared about. Um We’re gonna get little pouches with Mementos of hers, you know, jewelry and earrings and things like that. She prepared close to 70 of those for us to distribute after she died. And we had to help with all that and going and getting the pouches and the cards and all of these things. Um And so there was a lot of work that came with it, but all of it was done with grace, right? And my mom was fortunate that she was able to have that kind of a timeline to do all of these things.

Many people die, suddenly, many people die in tragic circumstances. Many people get the same prognosis as my mom and pancreatic cancer. And three weeks later they, they’ve died. Um But whatever the circumstances around my death, I hope that it is a death that invites people to be involved in it so that it can teach them something about what dying looks like and, and maybe get a glimpse into their own because you’re going through something that um you can share with someone else, which perhaps makes their process a bit better. Is that fair? Yeah, absolutely. And, and again, you know, like there were some moments where it was really hard and, and, you know, most deaths will have those moments where it’s really, really hard and all you wanna do is is look away, right?

Um But the more that we can hold in our attention, those messy moments and, and we can, we can normalize them, then our level of comfort, these, you know, raises and our level of ease more than comfort raises and the stress and anxiety and all these other things that we as we’ve talked about begins to kind of move through our body in a different way. I don’t know if I can say that I’m not afraid. I can actually say no, that’s not true. I can say that I’m not afraid of death. I’m not sure I’m quite at the place yet where I can say that I’m not afraid of dying because I don’t know, again, the pain that I might be subjected to the discomfort, the, the messiness that might be involved.

I mean, we as humans, we have pride is, you know, one of the sins, right? And, you know, there’s two moments in our lives really where we can be pretty sure that uh our capacity to control our bowels and, and bodily fluids leave us. Uh One is when we’re very young and, you know, we need diapers and things like that. Um But we’re, we’re not at the point yet where pride is really playing, playing a role. On the other hand, especially if we’re dying from old age and, and those kinds of things. At 75 80 85 years old, we’ve had a lot of practice with pride and it can be very, very challenging for us to allow our loved ones to be a part of helping us to navigate those moments again and with deep sadness, I would say my mom was able to allow us in on some of those moments and again, like I’m, I’m getting a little emotional in a, almost in a positive, positively sad way.

But like, I’m so grateful that she did so grateful that she wasn’t so stubborn that she needed the nurse instead that she needed the, you know, somebody else to come and do that work. We weren’t there all the time. We didn’t do it most of the time. But on the moments where we quote unquote, had to because there was no one else around she realized and recognized that’s what needed to be done in this moment. Typically, if I was having a conversation that wasn’t about death, I would, uh, you know, speaking to someone about their expertise, I would say, um, you know, what are the mistakes that someone would make in, in this scenario? So I’m not gonna ask the mistakes. But, um, how would someone make the process of their death worse for them and others around them? Well, II, I think you’ve already gotten a sense and I think it’s, I think it’s actually in the, again, let’s, let’s take it one step out. It’s interesting to think that one level further out might be mental health versus death, which, you know, you would think is the bigger of the two subjects.

But I’m actually going to say that mental health is the, is the bigger of the two. but I think it’s trying to keep it all to yourself. You know, I personally believe that one of the most, one of the saddest decisions that somebody could make when they know that their death is coming is to quote unquote, do it on their own or to die to want to die quietly when no one is around, right? Uh It seems very noble, it seems very um you know, um generous towards those people who might find that person’s death and dying challenging. But again, in fact, then what did your death actually serve? Did your dying actually nourish anything or anyone if you die in that way? And so again, the more that we can and it’s gonna be different for everyone and there’s no judgment on how much that is. But I just would invite people to, to try as to the capacity that they’re able to share in their experience.

Right? Again, when it comes to stress, anxiety, I mean, one of the most mental, you know, when someone’s experiencing depression, when someone is experiencing fits of rage and like the the expression and the processing of that with people is one of the most cathartic things you can do. And I would invite through the notion that it is the same thing with death and dying that, that dying and grieving for those who are, you know, with the lo or who have a loved one who is dying and, or who has died. These are all things that are actually meant to be done in community. They are meant to be done with others. Um That’s, that’s my experience of it and, and I, I understand the nobles oblige to do it on your own. But again, to what, to, what purpose to, what to, what end we touched on a very interesting point because um I think our conversation so far has been in the context of the person who is dying, but obviously they leave people behind.

Um And do you help or has anyone asked you for help in dealing with that process, the grieving, what we would call the, the grieving quote unquote process. Yeah. So it uh yes. Um And I, I think first and foremost, it’s to uh understand it. Um you know, grieving is absolutely a uh a set of actions, a set of things that we do, a set of emotions that we will feel um to say that someone is feeling grief. Um you know, or the grief that I feel that doesn’t really sit with me um because it can be so you can, you can be laughing and tears of joy and sharing and stories about the person who has died. And, you know, would you define that as grief, as feeling grief? I think that grieving is a verb?

Absolutely. And I think it includes all of those things. And again, there’s no right way to grieve. And there are, there are definitely not five stages of grief that happen in a systemic and, and very like, you know, this is phase one and phase two, you know, there’s a very famous book on, on, on this. And um you know, grieving grieving is something that I think most people will do for the rest of their life and someone’s gonna hear that and go oh really? Like they may have just lost somebody and they’re gonna be like, oh no, I’m gonna have to deal with this forever. The frequency with which you’re going to experience the, the grieving and that you, you will associate what you’re doing with the dying person. And so it’s part of your grieving uh will more than likely become more and more spread apart. Uh And, and, and this, the the gaps will become um more prominent and the depth of whatever it is, happiness or joy will, will maybe become more fleeting. Um But I believe that we, when we lose, oh no, don’t like that word when someone that we love dies.

Um Then we are gifted the capacity to grieve in meaningful ways for the rest of our lives. Remembering that however, much we grieve. The mirror reflection of that is how much we loved that person. And so embracing the grieving process is embracing the love that you had for that person. And so that’s really what I try to lean uh or invite people to lean into in whatever way that looks for them. If that means you’re going to, let’s say you decided to, the person decided to be buried if that means going to the grave site every single day and you know, leaving AAA flower or just, you know, touching the grape, wonderful. Just absolutely do that. If it means you’re going to be busy, busy, busy and you need to get right back into your life. Um I’m gonna challenge you a little bit, but I’m not going to necessarily say you shouldn’t do that.

That’s not helpful, that’s not supportive, right? Um And so how we grieve again is gonna be different for everyone and there’s no wrong way to grieve. Um My experience has been that when that the person as an example who is go, go, go, go, go isn’t necessarily allowing for the space for that grieving to, to come in. And when they do, it does start to look like what other people do air quotes for those who are listening. Um But that there are other people who just they, they, they, their grieving is in there the continuation of their life. Um And, and that’s ok. Right. Like uh and we also don’t know what happens behind closed doors when they’re at alone at night, when they’re out in the woods on a walk, when they’re whatever it is that they do on their own.

And we don’t, we don’t know. So the notion that grieving is supposed to look like any one particular thing, um, is, again, it’s a false start. Actually, as soon as I said, it, it reminded me of something you said at the beginning, which is um a certain framing about how a process should be. So grieving obviously doesn’t sound like a very positive thing. Um And I suppose, do you think that there is a uh social pressure um to act in a certain way around grieving? Um So that people have to look like they are. I don’t know. Uh It’s, it’s a negative thing rather than, I don’t know if this is the right term, but maybe celebrating that person’s life rather than the, the opposite. Yeah. Again, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a great question and it comes back again to this notion that, um you know, if you’re grieving process is truly your own um then performance doesn’t enter the room, right?

Um And you will have people as an example who will come up to you and say like, hey, like, are you OK? Because like your mom just died and like, you’re 10 days later, you’re hosting a death over coffee and, you know, like you’re doing all these things and like, I’m a little concerned, like, are you keeping things in, like, they’ll, they’ll, they’ll, they’ll be expressing these things because of the expectations that they have. So there’s definitely, and again, look, I find it deeply unfortunate that, um, that we do have this preconceived notion and I actually just heard it on the news this morning as we’re talking because they were talking about the fires in Maui and, you know, they were talking about, well, people will now start to move through the five stages of grief. And, and that isn’t, first of all, Maui is, you know, one of the oldest cultures that, that we know of and has, despite all its tourism and things like that, there are a lot of intact elements to, to the Hawaiian culture that are still very much a part of their experience.

So assuming that they’re gonna go through some kind of five stages of grief that Western civilization, you know, a has adopted uh complete projection onto, onto the cultures of, of Hawaii. Um But just this notion again that, that, you know, oh, it’s coming up on a year. So, you know, your dad must be at this stage in his breathing process and like, actually, no, uh he did that about six months ago and now we’re at what you would call stage two, you know, 10 months in, completely out of schedule, sorry about that. Um So, you know, it, it it’s, it’s unfortunate too because the, the woman who wrote the book, um, didn’t actually write it with that intention. It wasn’t even around death. It was around a fire that happened and she was talking mostly to survivors of that fire who were never really, ever close to dying.

Necessarily, they would just happen to be sharing an experience where other people did die. And that’s what got turned into eventually the five stages of grief. So again, it’s, it’s a bit of a long winded answer to say that, you know, we the most powerful thing we can do for somebody we know who is in a period of what I would call active grieving is to allow them to do that in whatever way they choose and just be ready to support in, in any way that you, you might be invited to do so. Should you be OK? Thank you for that. I will um I will close with uh with one final question if I may. Um It is very possible given what I will eventually title this podcast episode that someone may find it who is actually in that process right now, meaning they are dealing with, um dealing with their own death if you could give them perhaps any advice or suggestions.

Um What would you say to that person who’s listening right now? Don’t do it alone. It’s going to be the recurring thing that, that comes back. Um Don’t do it alone allow those who you love to receive the gift of your death and dying. One of my mentors, um you know, often frames it in this way where he says we have this misconception that uh when we are dying, that it is our death. When in fact, our dying belongs to other people because they are the ones who will carry the experience. They are the ones who will carry the energy and emotion. They are the ones that will have to navigate life after you’ve died. Um And, and so can your death be of service and your death be in service? We are all going to die like I don’t know about death and taxes because there’s plenty of businessmen who bypass taxes.

They’ve found ways to get around taxes, right? They’re not getting around us. And so that’s the one thing that we do truly all share. And the question becomes, can we see it as this thing to fight or can we see it as this thing to share and to learn and to grow from great answer? Thank you, Paul. Is there something that I should have asked you about today? Uh I love this question. I mean, I don’t, no, the answer is no. Um I think this has been a beautiful conversation. II, I do want to commend you for opening up spaces to have these um what I call dangerous conversations because they are so against the societal norms. Um that most people don’t know how to navigate them. And this has been deeply nourishing for me and, and I hope that uh it has, if it has even helped one person who happens to listen to this, then our time will have been well spent.

Well, I think you’ve helped me. So, um, mission accomplished, achieved. Isn’t it wonderful? Well, that’s, that’s great. Then if, uh if people want to get in touch with you. Oh, hi. Are you? Where did they go? Yeah. So the best place is either um one or two places I have my website which is humanity. That’s humanity but with an e in the middle humenity dot co. Um And I’m also on primarily on Instagram as living wisdom and uh in between the word living and wisdom, there’s two underscores so that they can find me more easily, but there you have it. Well, thank you for being a great guest today. Uh Thank you so much for having me on. It’s been a real pleasure.