No Shame in Life, No Fear in Death
For all of us, as long as we have breath we have anxieties about something. The fear of death is doubtless most common, centered more on being afraid of the unknown, of being alone, and of not being in control. Fear of death comes before fear of heights and fear of flying. Almost in equal numbers, people admit to fear of falling and fear of public speaking. In that sense, then, most of us are control freaks. Right? So what can we do about it, especially faced with our own imminent demise?
Erin Custer and her husband, Jacob, are health care professionals in Denver, CO who knew there was a better way to care for end of life patients. Universal Pathways is a group of medical and healing professionals who have created End of Life Specialist Certification and Training. It’s a curriculum unlike any other educational training being offered. And considering that the Baby Boomer generation is aging in great numbers, there is a need for EOLS providers to fill the gap for support in their transition from this earth.
How is this different from Hospice?
The focus of Universal Pathways is on the patient as a whole person, rather than on easing physical discomfort. Erin has been an RN for 11 years, and dedicated to hospice for the past 8 years. Over the past year, she began to realize that moments of humanity and connection when death is near were being pushed aside. There are Death Doula trainers that have begun to come alongside the medical community, but Erin wanted to do more.
Our passion to provide complete care and support became the focus. We invited a few hospice and healing professionals to share their perspectives and to educate alongside us. Through our research, there is no other end of life program out there that has the multidisciplinary collaboration, experience and education, to offer a certification like ours.
Universal Pathways’ multifaceted curriculum includes hospice medical director, hospice RN, palliative care chaplain (who also holds a psychologist PhD), a shaman, a ‘green burial’ mortician, and, finally, a certified death doula. There is a comprehensive, written code of ethics for the group. And the board of directors are in place to set the standard as they move toward legislative recognition of the profession.
We have aligned to complete the circle around end of life care.
Death and Taxes
‘… but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.’ (Benjamin Franklin, 1789)
Technology has enabled our culture to advance in so many ways, except when it comes to the end of life. We have undone what was once a sacred, ritual filled, communal experience. There is also much stigma connected with death. We resist talking about it, as if it will go away when we ignore it. Then we act surprised and shocked when it happens. News flash – nobody gets out of this alive.
Our culture is geared towards ‘life saving’ and people don’t even know what their options are. We’re expected to fight through cancers, beat odds and be warriors of buying time. But at what cost? We need to be honest with our patients and re-teach the honoring and sacredness in dying. And we need to take back control of our lives, and of our death.
Getting the Brand just right
I think I’m a rather difficult customer. I’m indecisive or I like an idea that contradicts another idea — I’m just difficult haha! The process was super easy, hand holding as needed and the ladies were one step ahead anticipating my needs along the way. They always followed through with deadlines and were communicative. I wanted my new brand to reflect peace and beauty, to give a feeling of comfort and support. The Autumn Lane design team did an amazing job of capturing all of that!
My biggest obstacle? Fear. Well, it’s scary when you know you’re doing something big. I was worried about silly stuff like people from high school judging me and “what if they think I’m crazy?” Ultimately, and quickly, I realized that I’m in control of my thoughts which are manifesting my destiny. I’m not doing this for anyone other than humanity 😉
The collective of Universal Pathways professionals are dedicated to teaching and sharing with those who have the passion of ‘shedding life onto death’. The aim is to create a new career of End of Life Specialists to change our culture for the better.
You will never be fulfilled until you follow that passion. It will all fall together for you, promise!