'In Conversation with' Dr Don Eisenhauer

End Of Life Coaching

During this webinar, we explored End of Life Coaching. Dr. Eisenhauer shared the principles of end-of-life coaching and the benefits it provides to the dying, as well as to the loved ones they will ultimately leave behind. We also discussed how funeral directors can better serve families and their communities through the use of these techniques. Dr. Eisenhauer also shared how his Bereavement Management System can support Funeral Directors in establishing and providing aftercare to the families they serve.

Key Takeaways:

End-of-life coaching is for the dying as well as for people grieving the loss of a loved one. It can also apply to a non-death loss, which applies to any loss, like a move, a break-up, divorce, losing a job, etc. Many of these losses are not being dealt with.

End of life coaching provides:
  • a safe place for people to be heard and to tell their stories
  • someone to be present with them as they ride the grief rollercoaster
  • normalize what they are going through
  • help them discover their “new normal” and how to live in the midst of the loss
  • celebrate growth with them
  • Funeral Directors can provide grief groups for families for ongoing care.
Having a “grief mindset” means acknowledging that loss is a reality and it’s a part of life. Give yourself permission to feel and talk it out.

Grief is an opportunity to grow.

Transcript

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Hello eveyone! We're so excited to be here today. Welcome to our May "In Conversation With" today, we are going to be speaking with Dr. Don Eisenhauer. We're very excited to have him as our guest. My name's Michelle. I'll be your host. And with me, I have Marlena, and she is going to be helping to monitor the chat and sharing any questions or comments as they come in. So please feel free to go ahead and drop those in the chat as they come up.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

So before we get started, just a couple of quick housekeeping items. First, we really want this to be an interactive session. We know you're going to have a lot of questions for Don today. So please go ahead and just ask away. And your participation is very highly encouraged. And if your association grants continuing education credits for this event and you need a certificate, please don't hesitate to reach out to me so I can go ahead and get you one.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

So with that, I would like to go ahead and welcome our guest today, Dr. Don Eisenhauer. And he is the founder of Coaching at End of Life. So welcome, Don. Thank you so much for being here today.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Hello, Michelle. Thank you for having me. It is a great privilege to be here with you.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Well, we're very excited to be able to chat with you really about end of life coaching, you know, what it is and how it can benefit not only the dying, but, you know, the Funeral Directors and those who serve in this profession. So we're so excited to be chatting with you. And and perhaps we could get started just by sharing what is an end of life coach. You know, we hear about maybe deaths doulas and other people like that, but maybe tell us what an end of life coach is.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah, thank you. And end of life coach is a person who provides a safe place for people who are dealing with end of life issues, a safe place for them to share, a safe place for them to be real, a place where they don't have to use any kind of censorship. They can just express what they're experiencing, what they're facing. And the end of life coach walks the journey with those individuals.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

So it might be for people who are actually dying, OK, we walk aside of them. It might be for somebody who has a loved one who's dying and all the emotions that they go through. It might be for somebody who has had a loved one who has died and they're facing the grief. We do a lot of grief coaching. And it might be for those who are professionals who are working in this field. I spend a lot of time coaching Funeral directors. It's a really tough field. I just have such a special place in my heart for all of you who are funeral directors.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

I've worked with funeral homes for many years. I'm currently an end of life coach for a funeral home. And just to spend time with the Funeral directors and give them a really safe place to share is just so near and dear to my heart.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wow. Well, that's wonderful. Well, I'm so excited to hear just how Funeral directors can really benefit from having an end of life coach, maybe perhaps you could tell us a little bit about your journey. How did you end up becoming an end of life coach? Now, what got you started in that?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah, not something as a child I said, I want to be with the dying and grieving all the time. I'm similar to most of the funeral directors, I'm sure. But I started, I'm a pastor, so I pastored a church for 15 years, certainly dealt with end of life issues in the church, and then started working as a chaplain, a chaplain, in a sense, is a pastor to other organizations outside of the church. And I was a workplace chaplain.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

I was the chaplain at a meatpacking plant here in Pennsylvania where I'm from. And while I was working as a chaplain, one of the employees died while at work. And I found I had to do death notification. I did a lot of coaching of the employees who watched him die. And I found I really enjoyed the crisis work, got some other training in crisis management, critical incident stress management, and joined the local disaster relief team here in the Philadelphia area where I live.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And that was right before 9/11. So I ended up taking numerous trips to Ground Zero with my team to be able to do debriefing of the firefighters as they were walking among the rubble, as they would sit at lunch and and just to talk and to share about all that they had experienced and to help them process that. Soon after this, an opening came into hospice, and so for 19 years, I've worked as a hospice chaplain and bereavement coordinator. So spending all my time with the dying and the grieving.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And I have my doctorate in counseling. So I've always done counseling and used my counseling skills in communicating with people. But then a friend introduced me to life coaching and I fell in love with life coaching and said, this is so amazing being able to not try and fix people, but just come alongside and walk the journey and help them figure out the answers to the questions that they have and help them move forward from good to even better. And what amazed me is that these life coaching principles were the perfect model to use with those who were dying and those who were in grief and to support the professionals who work in this field.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And so that's when I started doing life coaching or grief coaching, using the life coaching principles to be with all of them. I started doing it on my own and then started teaching others how to do so. And that's how coaching at end of life was formed.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wow, what an incredible journey.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

It has been such a privilege.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Absolutely. How many other end of life coaches do you think are out there? It's maybe still a bit uncommon, but it sounds like it's taking off, if you will.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah, it is. I think there are more and more. There are over 100 people who graduated from my program. And I know there are many others that are out there as well. I think my program is the only one that's affiliated with the International Coaching Federation. So people are credentialed as life coaches, ICF life coaches, as well as the grief and end of life coaches. But there are many others who are trained and equipped just to be with the dying and to be with the grieving.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And so, there's always room for more, though, because, you know, the statistics of the number of people who are going to die is pretty high. OK, so there are a lot who are dealing with that. And the number of people who deal with grief is very high as well. Not everyone, like, as far as dying, but there's so many losses of life that we deal with. Death losses, as well as living losses, and just end of life coaches coming alongside them and walking the journey with them is something that's needed more and more and more as time goes on.

Marlena Weitzner

We had a question come through the chat. I'm sorry, Michelle.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Go right ahead.

Marlena Weitzner

OK, so there was a question. It says, "Can end of life coaching principles help not only when someone experiences a loss through death, but also through divorce, loss of a job, et cetera?"

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Absolutely. OK, we call them, you know, there are death losses and that's what we've been talking about. But I also refer to what I call living losses or non death losses. So the same principles that we use with the dying and the grieving apply to any kind of loss. Loss of a job, the loss of finances, a divorce, a move, a broken relationship.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

In the midst of this pandemic over this last year, year and a half, pretty much everyone has experienced loss. We say we're in a Covid-19 pandemic, we're in a grief pandemic right now, there's been a global outbreak of grief. And the sad thing is many of it, much of it is not being faced and dealt with. And so these principles that we use in end of life coaching are exactly what we use in coaching these living losses. And I'll tell you, where I used to do just mostly death losses. Right now, the primary issue is all the living losses caused by the pandemic. Yeah.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Well, that is the wonderful question and beat me to my question, I was going to say, what are living losses? So I thank you to who ask that question.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah. And, you know, living losses are things that start from the moment we're born. You know, we're born and there's a transition from our mother's womb to all of a sudden life on Earth. And, you know, we nurse at the breast and then we're weaned and then we're raised close in the home. And then we have to detach and go to school. And there are just losses that are part of life, which is sad that so often we don't want to talk about them. And, you know, loss becomes a curse word to many people, but it's really just a normal part of everyday life and so important that we talk about it and are willing to face it and address it, whether as individuals or even as professionals and as funeral directors to help people to be able to face all these death losses and the living losses.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Well, absolutely. And what kind of principles are there to end of life coaching? It sounds like with life coaching and end of life coaching, you know, they share a lot of those. But could you perhaps share what the principles are of end of life coaching?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah. So when it comes to coaching the grieving, let's start with that. We teach eight principles that we build on top of the basic life coaching principles. We talk about providing a really safe place where people can share anything, where we're not going to step in and try to fix them. We're not going to tell them to stop crying or don't talk about that. That as long as they are not bringing harm to themselves or to someone else or doing things that are illegal or immoral, anything goes and they can say anything. They can yell, they can scream, they don't have to use any kind of censorship. It's just being real.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

So we provide those really safe places. We, what we call, ride the roller coaster with them. You know, grief is a roller coaster. The emotions, the up and the down, as Funeral directors have all seen and experienced in the preplanning and the planning of service and the follow up and end of life coaches ride the roller coaster with them. We're saying it's not holding it back. It's letting it all out.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And we're going to be right there and be present with you. In the midst of that journey. We invite them to tell their story in the midst of a world that says, don't talk about it, no, don't share this. We do the opposite and say, no, go ahead. We're listening. And one of the basic life coaching principles is listening actively. To give them a really safe place where they can just share and we're there helping them feel heard and listened to.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

We help to normalize what they're going through, assuring them with what is normal, because most of us have never been taught how to grieve or taught what to experience when we're dying. And so we help normalize that for people to know that they're not going crazy and there isn't something wrong with them. But all these things are just part of normal, typical common grief, and we give them the time that they need. There's no rushing through this process.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

For some, it's a lot quicker. For some it's a lot longer. But grief, per say, never ends. OK, so there's never a rush and saying, "come on, it's been six months. Aren't you over it yet" which so many people get. But no, we're not rushing through the process. As end of life coaches, we come as the student, not the expert. We believe and hold the principles that our clients, those who are dying, those who are grieving, are the experts of their own life.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

They're whole and complete, they're naturally creative, resourceful and whole. And we treat them as such. And so instead of telling them what to do, most of us don't like to be told what to do. We help them figure out the answers of what they need. As time goes on, we help them discover the new normal. That's the goal of grief coaching and coaching the dying. It's not telling them to get over it because they don't get over it, but learning how to live life again in the midst of the losses that we've experienced.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

So figuring out what does that new normal look like and how do we process it? And then we celebrate their growth with them, as growth usually is a result of even going through loss. We'd rather not have experienced the loss, but the reality is we do grow through it in so many different ways. So there's some of the basic principles that we teach and that we use in grief coaching and end of life coaching.

Marlena Weitzner

We had another question come through. "What does a great workplace in the bereavement sector look like? One in which employees who engage with loss are able to flourish in spite of encountering grief daily?"

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Can you say it again, please? You went out for a little bit there.

Marlena Weitzner

Oh, I'm sorry. "What does a great workplace in the bereavement sector look like? One in which employees who engage with loss daily are able to flourish in spite of encountering grief daily?"

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah, what a great question. I love that. That kind of workplace, when you're encountering grief on a regular basis, is to have a safe place to be able to talk about it, to know that what you share is going to be held in confidence and to be able to share with each other. This is what I've been experiencing. I've been with these people who are grieving and this is how it's taken its toll on me right now. So it's a place where you can talk about it together, a place where you can be very real about emotions, a place where self care is honored. Self care, where you know what you need to be able to take care of yourself. Sometimes just to go out for a walk or to take a break or to play with a pet or whatever is needed. Maybe it's to sit down and just to share openly with another coach or with a coworker.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And in addition to this self care is the group care. Sometimes having opportunity to be able to share with coworkers. To be able to say, hey, how are you doing? What are you experiencing? And to know your support there for each other. It's just really being real and facing whatever you're going through. You know, I think too often we get so caught up even in the business part of it, that we don't have a chance to share and release our own emotions.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Because even in the funeral industry, as you're helping so many people, which, you know, you who are funeral directors and funeral workers do so well, it still does take a toll. And we need a place where we can focus on ourselves and say, this is what I'm experiencing. This is how it's affecting me. And to make sure we're not taking it home and taking it out on family or on other relationships or just bury ourselves in our work, but rather dealing with the emotions openly.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

That's what I'd see as a really healthy place. And in addition to within, you know, what we provide is just some grief coaches to come in and to listen to the funeral directors. So it's not just the coworkers, but to have some outside people who you can talk with and to be really safe with. You know, it's sometimes hard to share with coworkers. It's sometimes hard to share with the community. Who is going to look in and say, why is that Funeral directors being so weak?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

You know, it's just really hard to do that. And so that's why having an outside confidential person sometimes is even more effective than just doing it within at the workplace.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Good question.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Hope that answered the question, if not, write back with another question and we'll follow up.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Perfect. So, Don, with these different principles you've shared, how can Funeral directors use these principles when they're meeting with families to better serve the family and to help them through the grief they're experiencing, or with the community as a whole? Do you have any words of wisdom for them?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah, I do. The first is what we just answered in the last question, that make sure you're doing your own work first. Make sure you have a place to process all that's going on within you. And if you're not doing that, then it's hard to be really effective with all of the clients who you deal with, with all the families and individuals. But when they do, yeah, as you're meeting with families and preplanning or planning services, it's really being able to listen and let them express their feelings.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

OK, most of the people, they don't need to be made to feel better. They don't need you to take away the pain. They don't need you to help stop the crying. What they need more than anything is a safe place where they can express it, where they can talk. And sometimes that's hard because it can take a while because they have a lot to share. And that's why having somebody like an end of life coach there to help take that time and do the listening for them can make a difference.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

It's allowing them to express the pain and to cry even in the midst of their planning, in their meetings, as well as during the services. So I think I've had numerous, many funeral directors who've gone through the training and that's what they find so helpful. In addition to using one on one coaching, the other thing that we teach and prepare people to do is the group coaching. Holding grief groups. And that's another thing that the Funeral directors can provide for their their families is that ongoing care, that ongoing support and even regular grief support groups where they can come and share with each other what they're experiencing and to realize they're not alone.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

So many people say, I think something's wrong with me. I'm going crazy. I feel this way. And then they hear 15 other people in the group saying, I've experienced the same and I'm going through the same thing. And they realize, wow, I'm really not crazy. Either everyone, all of us are crazy or we're really not. And it really is just a normal part of the grieving process. So, many ways to be able to implement these principles within the funeral industry.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wow, and through coaching at end of life, do you have any special training for Funeral directors specifically or someone who has that funeral experience?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah, absolutely we do. We have long trainings where people can be credentialed as end of life coaches, but there are many in the funeral industry who don't need that. They just want to learn the skills. They don't care about the certification. And so I have a training that's 24 hours long that's geared specifically for like clergy or for Funeral directors who just want to learn to apply it in their business. And I like to do a lot of specially tailored trainings for different funeral homes or for a group of funeral homes or for some local groups of funeral directors that we can just tailor toward their needs and make it a four hour training or make it a 10 hour training or whatever is needed. And we use the time to train and equip them to do that.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wow, yeah, that's great. So what if someone was interested in being an end of life coach, but they have no background in the funeral profession? What would you recommend for them? What kind of training? And do you think they would be good at it even without any experience in the profession?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah, the training that we offer, no experience is needed. We start from ground zero. And for my full training, it's it's nine months long. It's 142 hours affiliated with the International Coaching Federation. So people learn the life coaching skills and even are prepared to be credentialed as a life coach, as a PCC professional certified coach, and at the same time to be certified as a grief and end of life coach by the organization of Coaching at End of Life.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

So we start from the very beginning and just walk this journey helping people do their own personal work, as well as learning all the skills they need to be with the dying and the grieving, as well as people grieving all these pandemic losses and other living losses as well. Yeah, so we try to have programs and trainings that reach out to any who are needed. And we have resources. We have a textbook we use. I have a book called Coach Yourself Through Grief, which is geared specifically toward those who are grieving. So many funeral homes even get this and hand them out to some of the families just to help them to continue to process their grief as they're going through it. Just providing resources for them.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wow, do you think, do you envision a future in which most funeral homes employ an end of life coach on staff? Do you see that as something happening?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

I dream of that as a future. Whether that's going to happen or not, I don't know. But I know the difference it's made as I've connected with funeral homes and as I see other of my graduates who are getting involved in funeral homes and being there to support the staff, that's part of it. And to be able to support all the clients, the families who come in. And it makes such a big difference. It really does.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Yeah, and is end of like coaching specific to the United States or is this something that you'll find when you go to other countries as well?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

It is slowly growing in other countries. One of the greatest privileges I had before the pandemic and hope to have again soon is to travel around the world teaching this. Now we're continuing to do it over Zoom. And teaching people in just many different countries because we're finding the need is the very same. The funeral industry is very different in a lot of different countries. So it looks different, but the need for coming alongside of the dying and the grieving is just as real, at least in every country that I've been and I've been to many of them.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And people need a safe place where they can talk and express about all these things. And they just don't have many people who are willing to listen and who are prepared and equipped to do so. So the need is so great. And I'm just seeing the number of international graduates who are applying and setting up coaching practices and working with some of the local funeral homes and providing this follow up and support that's needed.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wow, that's pretty cool to know that it's really becoming a global, you know, a global benefit, if you will.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Because it's a global need and all the more so now after this pandemic, you know, in this pandemic of grief we're in, it's just needed more than ever.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Do you find people in other countries are more open to talking about grief and death and dying, or is it kind of the same attitude you find here in the United States?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah, I really expected it to be different in a lot of other countries, especially where they seem to face a lot more death and tragedy, and yet what my experience has been, personally, is that it's not much different in any other country than it is here. They have some different rituals around funerals and some who celebrate and have longer times of mourning and prescribed mourning. But for the most part, people don't have a safe place where they can share.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And it's in country after country where I've been. I've heard people saying, you know, it's been a couple of years and I've never gotten to talk about what I'm feeling since my loved one died. And to give them that opportunity to do so is the greatest gift imaginable. And so no, for just like in the United States, death is a taboo subject. People don't like to talk about it. If I talk about it, it might happen to me, people say.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

You know, we act as if death is optional and we all know it's not. And so something we really need to face. But around the world in general, people don't like to do so. You know, there's some places, there's some organizations that do this so well and people talk about it. So I'm not trying to paint such a negative picture, but I've just found this is a need worldwide.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wow. So, in this age of Covid, and I know everyone's kind of done talking about Covid, of course, but in the age of covid, how would an end of life coach be working with someone who's dying? Are you doing Zoom calls? Are you, do you still go in person? You know, what are some of the different methods an end of life coach would use? Maybe that's something you could share.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah. So sometimes it's in person. It's one on one meeting. Haven't been doing that since covid but did that in the past. But that obviously needs to be people who are local to you. We've used Zoom even before the pandemic to be able to meet with people. And as well as the telephone. There are some who just want to be able to talk and don't even need to be seen or to see someone. And we hold not only one on one sessions, on the phone and on Zoom, but even grief support groups that we hold in that way.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

We hold telephone grief support groups. We hold Zoom grief support groups, even chat room grief support groups where people can just chat and be able to find that support from each other. Everyone is different, and we try to make a lot of different options, possibilities so that people can find support in the way that is most helpful and most comfortable for them.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

That's good, I guess, for the dying person. What would you say be the greatest benefit of having an end of life coach is? I mean, of course, there's many benefits like we've discussed. But what would be the primary reason a dying person would want to use an end of life coach? And do you think every dying person could benefit from using an end of life coach, if that makes sense?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah, I think everyone could certainly benefit from it. Some have their own family members or friends who kind of serve the role of end of life coaches for them. They have people who are real, who are honest, to come alongside and say, I'm not running away. You can share anything with me and I'm going to listen and I'm going to be a support and walk this journey with you. And that's so wonderful. When people have that. When many don't have the family or the friends to do that, then we as end of life coaches become, in a sense, the professional friends who step in, who they hire to come in and to be that support and to walk the journey.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

What is the greatest benefit you asked? It's to have that really safe space, a brave space where people can just be brave and share anything and to know they're not going to be judged, they're going to be accepted for who they are. Doesn't matter what their beliefs are, what their values are, we just look for the good in them and help them to, yeah, one, to prepare for death. But that's not really the focus. The focus is what hospice is all about, to help people to live fully until the moment that they die.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And by talking about it and facing all these issues, that's what enables them to really live fully until that moment when death takes place. They're preparing. They're working through physically, emotionally, spiritually, through their bucket list, not just of going and flying airplanes and climbing mountains, but the bucket list of wanting to be the best person they can be, until that moment that they die.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wow. And what about those who perhaps don't have any family, don't have any support, but maybe finances are a challenge? Is there a way an end of life coach would still be able to work with them or to help them? Are there organizations out there to benefit those in that position?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah, and most of the coaches that I train are willing to come in and will either use a sliding scale or do a lot of pro bono work as well. We know that there are some who can afford it. And, you know, we certainly need to be able to continue to live and to be paid to be able to keep doing this. But there are some who just have genuine needs, and we step in and do a lot of pro bono work and a lot of support for them as well.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And as I've worked with many funeral homes, I know many of them do the same and they just are there to be able to serve the communities in which they live. And we find ways to bring that about and find the support that is needed. And that's where even the support groups come in, you know, just to be part of a support group like that or to be able to connect with others who have a loved one who's dying to be, you know, not so much grief support, but the anticipatory grief support can also be helpful and less expensive to deal with.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wow, that's such a wonderful service to families, and it sounds like, you know, I know that a lot of funeral homes do have some sort of aftercare, and it sounds like this can even tie into the aftercare like you're talking about, you know, just having the support.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah, it is. And that's one of the things we do is, as grief coaches, with life coaching, it's usually setting up certain appointments and there's no real follow up. When it comes to grief coaching, we really try to follow up with our clients and check in on them and say, hey, how's it going? You're not forgotten. And finding ways to send out information about grief and give them things like my book or other newsletters that we write to be able to do that after care, which is so needed.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

How many years do you find, after someone experienced a loss and you're helping them, how many years of aftercare you find is beneficial to the family, in your experience?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Forever. I think the first year is usually the most difficult. All the firsts that people deal with, getting through that first anniversary of the loss is always really hard. But the problem is sometimes we just stop right there, and it continues on. What we try to do for the long term care is to still reach out on at least the anniversary of the death, we reach out over the holidays because that becomes really difficult for many people. We try to reach out on, when the deceased's birthday comes, or when the anniversary is there, or any other special events.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

So at least on those times, to be able to continue to follow up and say you're not forgotten and your loved one is not forgotten and we want to continue to walk that journey. I just connected with a person today whose mother died 17 years ago and just reached out and said, hey, thinking about you and mom today. And it was like the greatest gift I could have ever given. Like, I gave them a million dollars because I just said, hey, I care, and it's been 17 years. And they wrote back and said, oh, it's been such a hard day. And I just miss Mom so much. Thank you. It means the world that you reached out to me. Just a simple text like that could do that.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

And I guess one question I had, and I had someone ask me this earlier when I let them know we'd be speaking today. But, how is an end of life coach different from a death doula? I think death doula might be a bit more common of a term? But what's the difference?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah, death doulas and death midwives are just amazing, they're wonderful. I went through death midwifery training myself, because I wanted to understand and make sure I was understanding others who were doing similar work. And they do a great job. They equip people a lot with what the dying need, with what some people in grief need. It's more on the dying process, at least in my experience, what I've learned and helping them even in more detail through the process, through sometimes a home funeral and green burials and a lot of those things that they get involved in.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

So they learn really well and companion the dying in a great way. What makes our program different is that in addition to learning all those basic skills, we learn all the life coaching skills, too. So it's learning how to really listen in ways that we just don't normally do. We hear, but we don't listen. It's learning how to ask questions rather than tell. It's learning how to be really present with the people and to say we are here and walking the journey, riding the rollercoaster with you through the ups and the downs.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

So it's those extra skills and that extra training and equipping that goes along with the amazing work that the doulas and the midwives do.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

So it's a death doula, you would do what they do, but then there's that extra element of the life coaching as well.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And there are some who do other things, some who I say do the in-home funerals and the preparing of their own caskets. And we don't usually do that kind of work. That's something that doulas and midwives, at least part of the training that I was part of, do even more. So we kind of work hand in hand with them, but just have a little different focus in our training.

Marlena Weitzner

We had another question come through. "What advice would you give to someone who is grieving? How can someone develop a more healthy grief mindset?"

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah, OK, I see that as really two questions there. For somebody who is grieving, I think the best thing to do is just find some safe places and safe people where you can express what you are feeling. One of the basic principles that we teach at coaching at end of life is the difference between grief and mourning. We often use those words interchangeably, but they really mean different things. And grief is what we feel on the inside when we've experienced a loss.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And you can't help but feel those things. But it's not enough just to grieve a loss. We also need to mourn. Mourning is the outward expression of that grief. We mourn by crying. We mourn by telling our story and talking about our our loved ones, or our jobs or whatever it was that we lost. We mourn by certain rituals. We go to the graveside. We we mourn by lighting a candle in somebodies name. Different things like that.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

It doesn't matter how you do it, it's just letting it out that's so important. And the reason that's so key is that if we don't intentionally mourn and let it out, then it's always going to find its own way to come out. And whenever it finds its own way to come out, it's never pretty. It comes out through depression or it comes out through acts of anger or it comes out through some physical illnesses. I really believe there are some physical illnesses, some cancers and things that that grow and develop as a result of grief that's never been mourned, that's never been let out, and it comes out in that way.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And so for the person who's grieving, what I'm going to encourage you to do is find those safe places where you can let it out in whatever way is best for you. OK, even though we live in a culture that says, oh, don't talk about it, just get over it, just stuff it inside. I'm saying no, do just the opposite and find ways to do that, whether it's with a friend or family member, or hire an end of life coach who can come and be that professional friend alongside you.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Second part of your question was the coaching mindset. I have a blog article that's on my website. You can download on "how do you develop healthy grief mindset". And it goes beyond just people who are grieving. I think this is something the mindset that we should all develop. I can share the principles. I happened to have it here, acknowledging that loss is an inevitable reality. We just need to realize loss is a part of life and not why should we be surprised when we experience it?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

It's a part of life. We need to understand grief hurts. Sometimes we're surprised by the pain, and now part of the new mindset is grief is painful. Give yourself permission to be raw and real. Seek continually the safe places where you're always welcome, engage regularly in end of life conversations as we're doing. Talk about it, OK? Don't just make it a taboo subject. Develop communal support. Know who else you can go to who are going to understand and get it.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Continue to do your own work of processing your grief and see grief as an opportunity. It is an opportunity for us to grow. So that's not just for grieving people. I think every one of us, especially following this pandemic, needs to learn how to develop a healthy grief mindset in that way.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Well, I think perhaps we had another question come through on the chat that I just saw and it was what I was going to ask as well, it's a wonderful question. But what kind of professional background do you find a lot of the end of life coaches have?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

OK, and that's a great question, too. There are some who have some professional backgrounds, we have some who are clergy who come through, we have some who are professional coaches who are already been trained in life coaching, and they come to be able to add the end of life tools and skills to their toolkit. There are some, we've have medical doctors who go through this to learn how to cope. We have a lot of funeral directors who want to learn how to do this.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

A lot of hospice workers who learn to be end of life coaches to even better do their work with the dying. And it's even some, like home health aides who spend a lot of time just watching and bathing and dressing their clients. They get to talk probably more than anybody else. And just to have these skills of how to draw out their clients and provide the safe place is wonderful. But, you know, there are a lot who don't have any kind of professional training, but they've experienced loss themselves and they've had people who've come alongside them and they say, I want to pay it back. I want to make a difference in the lives of others, I realized what it meant to me. So I want to be trained and equipped to do that. And that's why you don't need any kind of background to do this. We start from the very beginning and equip you with all the tools that you need to be able to be the end of life coaches.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Well, I do see one final question, it looks like. We are nearing the end of our time together, if anyone else has another question, please go ahead and drop that in the chat. The final one I'm seeing right now, though, is "what drives a family to choose to use an end of life coach? Especially because it's maybe a bit of a newer concept." What are you finding?

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

I'm just finding that people are realizing they need some help and support in this. That when they're doing it alone, they're really struggling and they're not sure what to do with all the emotions that come as a loved one's dying, or as they are dying, or as they're grieving a loss and they're just looking for help, looking for support. As I ran all my grief support groups, I had new people there, pretty much every single meeting and people who would call to the hospital or call to the medical doctors or are called to the hospices and say, is there a place where I can find support because I just don't know what to do with all that I'm experiencing.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And that's what drives them. Just the need, the real need. And they find such support when they're surrounded with others who get it and really allow them to talk about it. It's a reality.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Unfortunately, but it is and sounds like by, at least being able to utilize these different principles and to work through the acceptance that they can really benefit.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Yeah, absolutely.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Marlena, do we have any other questions coming through?

Marlena Weitzner

The only other one that I see is, if somebody could have certification? So we can we can reach out afterwards.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Perfect. We'll go ahead and do that. Thank you for that. But my final question to you, Don. Can you tell me about the dragonfly behind you? It's quite beautiful.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

Thank you. My 90 year old mom made this dragonfly for me because I talk a lot about dragonflies in my training. If you go to my website at coaching at end of life, I think it's going to go up on the screen as we finish. I have a free e-book that you can download that's called Life Lessons from Dragonflies. And Dragonflies just can help us to face and start dealing with some of these end of life issues that we've been talking about throughout this last last 45 minutes or so.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

So dragonflies become my branding. It's just part of everything I do. And people often refer to me as the Dragonfly guy. So that's me. Instead of taking all the time now you can just download the free e-book and you can read about how dragonflies remind us and can help us through all these things we've just been talking about.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wonderful. Well, everyone, I would really encourage you to visit Don's website coachingatendoflife.com. We have his phone number there as well as his email address. So please reach out to him with any questions you have. I would highly encourage you to register for his courses, to download the e-book. I read the e-book and it is phenomenal. I really enjoyed it. So I encourage everyone to go ahead and do that as well.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

But, Don, we would just like to thank you so much for your time today. And again, thank you just for sharing, letting us learn. You know, there's so much that we who have served in the profession don't know. I didn't have this knowledge. So I appreciate your your wisdom. And thank you again, everyone, for joining us today. We appreciate your time.

Dr. Don Eisenhauer

And I just want to say thank you to all the Funeral directors and funeral workers as well. Your work is invaluable. And I just appreciate you so much. Thank you. And thank you, Michelle and Marlena, for this time, also.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Thank you. Well, with that, we'll go ahead and close out our session and make sure to join us next month for our June "In Conversation with". We'll see everyone back with us in June. Thank you.

 

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