Saturday, May 31, 2014

YYC Death Cafe Gets New Hosts....



Dear Death Café Guests:


I’ve had the pleasure of facilitating eight Death Cafes in Calgary over the past year; however, last Sunday’s cafe, on May 25th, was my final Death Café for now.


I invited people to meet for cake and conversation about death, dying, and grief; the stories, wisdom, and courage which I’ve heard from over 350 guests have taught me lessons about life which I now hold dear.


I’m pleased now to hand over the Calgary Death Café forum to two women who have attended the majority of my cafes: Janine Violini and Jamie Whittaker. I’m looking forward to attending, as a participant, the Death Cafes that these compassionate, knowledgeable, and fun women will create.


You’ll be able to contact Janine and Jamie at yycdeathcafe@gmail.com, and their upcoming cafes will be posted on the Death Café website at www.deathcafe.com .


So, what am I going to be doing instead of Death Cafes?  Death and Dying Dinner Parties! These will be meaningful conversations about life, death and dying, but now over dinner - a little more intimate conversations, a little more food.  Actually, a lot more food!

If you would like more information about these new events, stay tuned to this page.

Thank YOU, for participating in one or more Calgary Death Cafes. I applaud your brave quest to understand it means to really live, and die. I hope that your life has been enriched by your experience at Death Café.

I leave you with the quote with which I have ended the Death Cafes:


“Before we can generate compassion and love, it is important to have a clear understanding of what we understand compassion and love to be. In simple terms, compassion and love can be defined as positive thoughts and feelings that give rise to such essential things in life as hope, courage, determination, and inner strength. In the Buddhist tradition, compassion and love are seen as two aspects of the same thing: Compassion is the wish for another being to be free from suffering; love is wanting them to have happiness."  His Holiness the Dalai Lama

My friends, may you be happy.
Warmly
Wendy Kurchak

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Death Cafe is "SOLD OUT" on May 25th


One of the Death Cafes in 2013
If "raising awareness about death and dying, in order to encourage living life to its fullest" is the mandate of a Death Cafe, many Calgarians will be living life more abundantly after May 25th.

That's the date of the next Calgary Death Cafe, and it is now completely full.  It would be "SOLD OUT" except, it's free!

I'm looking forward to spending the afternoon with the registered guests - talking about all things related to death, dying, and grief.

Stay tuned to this site for future Death Cafe events.

Warmly
Wendy Kurchak

Saturday, March 29, 2014

New Death Cafe MAY 25, 2014


Photo: near site of Landsberg Hospice, Bavaria. W.Kurchak
 

Hi Everyone!

With all the the snow we've had in Calgary, perhaps we need to look forward to something which will remind us of hope eternal - a Death Cafe!

For anyone new to this concept, here's the scoop...

Death Cafes are events in which people, often strangers, meet to discuss issues about death, dying and grief. They are not support groups, but opportunities to engage in honest, open, and safe conversations about those topics generally avoided in day-to-day life.

At Death Cafes there is always cake and coffee, and an atmosphere of authenticity as participants share thoughts, feelings and questions about life and death matters.

So, you see, the essential purpose is to increase an awareness of death so that life may be embraced more fully!

The upcoming Death Cafe is:

Date: May 25, 2014
Time: 2 - 4:30 PM
Place: Hospice Calgary Sage Center
           1245 70 Ave SE ( across from Trail Appliances)
           Calgary

Fee: As always, Death Cafes are free of cost, and open to everyone.

HOWEVER, you do need to pre-register so that I know how many cakes to bake!

To save your spot at this Death Cafe, please send your name, and the number of people attending with you, to me at www.yycdeathcafe@gmail.com .

It is ONLY when you receive a reply from me that you can rest assured that your name is on the guest list. There are a limited number of spots at this event, so please register today.

Interested? You can read more about Death Cafe at the official website!

I hope to see you soon for my first Death Cafe of 2014.

Warmly
Wendy Kurchak

At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death.

Our objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'.

A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.

Our Death Cafes are always offered:

- On a not for profit basis

- In an accessible, respectful and confidential space

- With no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action

- Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake
- See more at: http://deathcafe.com/p/what-is-death-cafe.html/#sthash.wCoEqV3r.dpuf



At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death.

Our objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'.

A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.

Our Death Cafes are always offered:

- On a not for profit basis

- In an accessible, respectful and confidential space

- With no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action

- Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake
- See more at: http://deathcafe.com/p/what-is-death-cafe.html/#sthash.wCoEqV3r.dpuf

At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death.

Our objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'.

A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.

Our Death Cafes are always offered:

- On a not for profit basis

- In an accessible, respectful and confidential space

- With no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action

- Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake
- See more at: http://deathcafe.com/p/what-is-death-cafe.html/#sthash.wCoEqV3r.dpuf

At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death.

Our objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'.

A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.

Our Death Cafes are always offered:

- On a not for profit basis

- In an accessible, respectful and confidential space

- With no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action

- Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake
- See more at: http://deathcafe.com/p/what-is-death-cafe.html/#sthash.wCoEqV3r.dpuf

At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death.

Our objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'.

A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.

Our Death Cafes are always offered:

- On a not for profit basis

- In an accessible, respectful and confidential space

- With no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action

- Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake! - See more at: http://deathcafe.com/p/what-is-death-cafe.html/#sthash.wCoEqV3r.dpuf

At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death.

Our objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'.

A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.

Our Death Cafes are always offered:

- On a not for profit basis

- In an accessible, respectful and confidential space

- With no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action

- Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake! - See more at: http://deathcafe.com/p/what-is-death-cafe.html/#sthash.wCoEqV3r.dpuf

Monday, December 16, 2013

Four Memory Candles


                           
                                                      Memory Candles
 
As we light these four candles in honor of you, we light one for our GRIEF, one for our COURAGE, one for our MEMORIES and one for our LOVE.

This candle represents our GRIEF. The pain of losing you is intense. It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.

This candle represents our COURAGE – to confront our sorrow. to comfort each other, to change our lives.

This light is in your MEMORY – the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we were angry with each other, the silly things you did, the caring and joy you gave us.

This light is for the light of LOVE.

As we enter this holiday season, day by day we cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. We thank you for the gift your living brought to each of us. We love you.

~From Holiday Help: Coping for the Bereaved, by Sherry Gibson, B.S., R.N. and Sandra Graves, Ph.D.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Grief Doesn't Take Holidays


(also posted on www.ahpca.ca)

It was forty years ago, in a large downtown hospital that I worked my first Christmas Eve shift as a new nursing grad. As was the hospital tradition, a call went out during the night for nurses willing to sing carols strolling through the wards on Christmas morning . I thought it was a brilliant idea and jumped at the chance to participate.

c. Vancouver Sun
Many years of voice lessons landed me a position at the front of our little group where I had a clear view into patient’s rooms as we sang our way through the wards. We started on the orthopaedic floor where skiers with their legs in traction smiled and waved as we passed their doors. All was merry and fine until we entered the oncology floor which included our hospital’s answer to hospice palliative care – a few rooms away from the nursing station.

Passing these rooms, I saw some patients too ill to wave, some with expressions of sweet remembrance, and  others who garnered their strength to whisper ”Thank you”. Some of the patients had family members by their beds – holding their hands, wiping tears from their faces: some of the patients were alone; for many, it would be their last Christmas.

By the time we reached the unit door, I’d been gently moved to the back of the group; I couldn’t sing through my tears.  For the first time in my life, I understood that Christmas wasn’t all fun and cheer – it could be a very difficult time for those struggling with illness, dying and grief.

The holiday season holds many challenges for those who have lost a loved one in the past year, or so.  For example, meeting the expectations of established family traditions, or the “merry ho-ho” attitude of our culture just add stress to the grief.

“If the grief is fresh, holiday cheer can seem like an affront and celebrations may underscore how alone people feel,” notes Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.
 
c. Kurchak

Coping with the holiday season takes some thought and pre-planning but it is possible to survive intact and healthy. Here are some tips that the bereaved have found helpful during the holidays.

Acknowledge that the holiday season will be difficult

  1. Many bereaved say that the anticipation of the day/ holiday is often worse than the actual day itself.
  2. Heads up: although the first holiday without a loved one is difficult, some people find that there are still some challenges in the second year after a death. 

Plan a ritual to acknowledge your loved one during the holidays

Plan a simple symbolic act that acknowledges your memory of your loved one. For example:
c.Fotolia
  1. Leave an empty chair at the table.
  2.  Light a candle dedicated to your loved one.
  3.  Place a bulb on the tree in memory of your loved one.
  4.   ttend a seasonal memorial service offered at a local hospice or funeral home.
  5.  Recognize your loved one through your personal spiritual practices.
  6. Be creative: you may want to use visualization or creative expressive tools, such as drawing or music, to help you develop rituals which will be meaningful for you.

Make new traditions

Instead of following traditions which included your loved one, creating new traditions via new activities or new venues may ease the obvious absence of a deceased loved one.For instance, instead of spending the holidays at home, go away where ever your budget will allow.

c.Fotolia

 Make a "Plan A" and B (C,D, and E)
  1. Knowing that you can change your plans depending on your feelings, may help decrease the stress.
  2.  For example, if Plan A is to go to a relative’s house for dinner, Plan B might be to go to the movies instead.

Help others

Helping others may release the “feel-good hormones” endorphins. You might:
 
  1. Volunteer to serve dinner at a Drop-in center, walk the animals in a rescue shelter, go shopping for your elderly neighbours,  distribute mittens to the homeless…
  2.  Volunteer for a cause embraced by your loved one; what was an important value in their life?

Take it easy on yourself

  1. Practice these words: “No, thank you.”
  2.  Follow the excellent stress reduction practices on the Grief-Healing-Support website as best as you’re able.
  3. Rest as much as possible.
  4. Stay hydrated – water will help your brain cope with the “fight or flight” response to loss.
  5. ACCEPT HELP. Let others do the decorating, shopping, baking, wrapping, cleaning, greeting cards, cooking…
Practice Coping Mantras 
It's okay to laugh!(c.Kurchak)

These are short, easy to remember statements you can say to yourself when things get overwhelming. For example:

·       “Be sad. It’s allowed – grief doesn’t take holidays.”
·       “Laugh. It’s allowed – life goes on.”
·       “All good things come to an end. All bad things come to an end.”

·       What mantras or life mottos do you already practice? Write them on post-it notes as reminders.

Spend time with supportive people
  
Say “No, thank you” to invitations to parties or gathering where you might feel uncomfortable or that you would like to avoid. In other words, “Just say no.”
  1.  Spend time with the people who you identify as helpful. This might include “Friends” on Facebook, or other social media platforms
  2.  Phone support can be helpful when you’re just too tired to go out or have company; ask friends to call you, instead of you calling them
Embrace your “Treasure of Memories

c.Fotolia
      Alan Wolfelt, well- known director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, says, 

     “Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved.  And holidays always make you think about times past.  Instead of ignoring these memories, share them with your family and friends.  Keep in mind that memories are tinged with both happiness and sadness.  If your memories bring laughter, smile.  If your memories bring sadness, then it’s alright to cry….”
  1. Talk about your loved one over the holidays.
  2.  Share stories about your loved one.
  3.  Photo albums are a helpful to encourage conversation about your loved one – put one or two out where family and friends will look through them
The bottom line is to do whatever YOU need to do to get through the holidays.

What have you found helpful during the holidays after a loss? What tips would you share with others?
  
This season, I wish you peace, comfort, strength and grace in your journey.

Warmly,
Wendy