The other evening, as I stood in my kitchen preparing Okanagan peaches for the freezer, the setting sun glanced through my window, bathing the room in a warm, golden light. My mind flashed back to moments in my mum’s kitchen, then deeper in to my childhood to my gran’s kitchen. I saw three generations of girls and women working together, carefully placing rows of hand-picked raspberries and blackberries on freezer trays... the smell of cinnamon and the feel of aching muscles from milling fresh apples for apple sauce... and each of us taking a turn to stir the fragrant, sticky pot of Christmas pudding for good luck.
Feet firmly planted in my kitchen, I noticed how my body reacted to these sense memories. I inhaled more deeply, feeling my breath move oxygen through my body. My shoulders relaxed, a smile played on my lips, peace filled my heart. And my first thought was: I need to add this to my Personal Comfort Plan.
I had spent some time several months ago reflecting on the things that would bring me comfort through illness and my end of life. Things like:
I’d love to gather with my daughters and other women in my life to prepare raspberries, blackberries, apples or peaches. I want to feel the magic that happens when women share work: the conversation, connection, laughter and sense of purpose as we nurture our families through food.
Join our FREE Workshop!
I'm collaborating with Reimagine: Love, Life and Loss a Worldwide Virtual Festival on embracing life, facing death, and loving fully, during COVID-19 to host our workshop, "Getting Comfortable with Death: Preparing your personal comfort wishes." In this experiential workshop we'll explore the question, how do you wish to live as you are dying? You'll visualize your final months and moments and reimagine what's possible by defining your Personal Comfort Wishes.
My Personal Comfort Plan is filled with many original and thoughtful ways to find comfort at end of life. It gave my client a sense of control and the ability to get creative and even have some fun preparing for their end of life."
In this field the personal is definitely linked with the professional. I’m happy to share this interview I recently did with Girl Warrior Productions and for the opportunity to reflect on the experiences that called me into being an end-of-life doula.
Chelsea Peddle. The End-of-Life Doula Bringing Comfort and Guidance When it’s Needed Most.
Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, the compassionate and wise End-of-Life Doula Chelsea Peddle, founder of CircleSpace, a warm and engaging space to reimagine death as a normal part of the lifecycle.
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
My resilience. My willingness to find lightness, love, and connection even in difficult times.
My name, “Chelsea,” means a harbour. As a kid, I thought that was so boring! At the time I didn’t understand a harbour’s purpose, which is to shield vessels from stormy waters and to welcome people to new shores. Looking back on my career and personal life, I see now that my name was actually quite prophetic. In every role, I’ve held space for diverse people to come together to create more equitable relationships and communities. Now, in my role as an end-of-life doula, I hold individuals and families through very difficult times.
How did your father’s diagnosis of glioblastoma brain tumor change your life?
Like many teenagers, I thought I was invincible. At 15 years old, I had a great group of friends, I had found my passion in local theatre and I thought my family and my world were completely safe. That bubble popped when my dad was diagnosed with an extremely rare and aggressive form of brain cancer...
"What's your favorite thing about death?" was the first question I was asked by an earnest and inquisitive student. Whoa! Way to get things started!
This past week I had the privilege of being interviewed by a group of university students at an event called Campus Conversations, organized by Christopher Bowers, multi-faith co-Chaplain at the University of Victoria. It was a truly delightful opportunity for me to talk about my profession and to reflect on why I love this work! It was also amazing insight in to how this group of post-millenials view their relationship to death and the supports they need to accept the reality of their mortality.
Several students approached me after the interview with further questions and comments. The theme that came up the most: My grandparent recently died, how can I support my parents through their loss? We talked about being direct and honest, saying things like, "I don't know what to say but I want you to know I see how much this hurt. I'm here for you. How can I help?" We talked about setting up a weekly phone call with their mum back home, so they can look forward to a regular, loving connection. And we talked about the importance of seeking grief support, even years after the death of a loved one. Finally, the piece that surprised these students the most: we talked about the importance of sharing their own grief; for a death in the family is an opportunity to explore their own relationship to death and to put plans in place for themselves. (I'm sure you've heard me say this before, if you're 19 years old or older, you need to make an Advance Care Plan that defines the care you would want if you couldn't make decisions for yourself!).
These young people expressed so feverently their desire to be there for their parents. Their love and loyalty was incredibly touching. For me, this reinforced my belief that many of us are seeking more authentic connections and a relationship to death. But, sadly many of us aren't yet equipped for it. As my friend, counsellor Shauna Janz says, grief is a learned skill. So, too, is dying.
I felt energized and even more committed to my work as an end-of-life planner and death doula after this interview. I hope this video inspires you, too!
Campus Conversations: Chelsea Peddle... Death Doula
Chelsea Peddle is an end-of-life planner and death doula. In 2017, she founded CircleSpace: Empowered End-of-Life Planning in Victoria, BC, to help people prepare for end-of-life so they can live in peace. Through workshops and coaching, Chelsea offers emotional, physical, spiritual and pragmatic support for individuals and their families. Chelsea recently expanded her services to offer death doula care: guiding and companioning people and their families before, during and after death. Chelsea's passion is helping people find peace of mind and peace of heart in a time of great stress. She has an End-of-Life Doula certificate from Douglas College and is a member of the End-of-Life Doula Association of Canada.
I’ve been debating whether to share this post as it is about my own journey through the grief of my mum’s death this past summer. I’ve heard from many people that hearing about my experience has helped them. So, I’m sharing this story in hopes that it will soothe in some way, whatever darkness may be pulling at your heart at the moment.
No matter your faith or beliefs, we seek meaning and purpose, especially when our world seems untethered through loss. Maybe it’s a message of love and release brought by an unexpected visitor. Maybe it’s a loved one asking, “how are you?” and listening deeply to your truthful reply... but my hope for you, today, is for you to ask for what you need and for the Universe to answer. May you be blessed with an open heart and open mind to receive it!
This morning, I packed up the remaining items at my mum’s and said goodbye to the house my sister, Briana and I grew up in. I wondered, as I walked through the empty rooms, how do I say goodbye to a home that holds so many memories?
Turns out, the answer came in the form of a little brown bird.
Briana and I have a long-standing relationship with birds. We believe our deceased loved ones return to us through birds to give us reassurance and comfort. Or, just a little “hello, I’m here” nudge. Our Dad has been visiting us for over 20 years, buzzing in as a hummingbird when we need it most.
This morning as I sat in the sunshine on mum’s back porch, saying my goodbyes, I heard that familiar sound of flapping at a window. I turned and saw a little brown bird trapped INSIDE mum’s house. How did it get in???! I realized I had left the front door open and on this day, of all days, this little bird chose to fly through the door and in to the house. I was stunned for a moment but then thought, Ya, this is about right! Of course mum would want to be here, in this moment, helping me to let go.
It dawned on me, with trepidation and awe, that the task before me was to literally and figuratively release bird/mum from her home. But how do I do this without giving bird/mum a heart attack? (Can you imagine?!!). A quick search yielded a long handled broom, which I used to gently encourage bird/mum to stop stunning itself against the window and fly for the open back door. After a few tries, I managed to get it out of the den and in to the kitchen where it fell on the window sill. I could see its little breath puffing circles on the glass as it rested. Bird/mum flapped about some more and eventually collapsed on to the end of my broom, exhausted. With relief, I shuffled toward the back door, bird/mum balanced on the bristles. I whispered, “it’s ok to go.”
As soon as bird/mum was through the door and clear of the house it took to the sky, directly in to the path of a HUMMINGBIRD!!! My mouth agog, I watched the two birds dance together, circling one another for a moment then perch side by side in a nearby tree. I mean, come on! Hi mum and dad!
It’s a strange reality that both my parents are now on the other side. It also feels so perfect, so poetic to witness bird/mum literally released from the physical confines of her home and welcomed by hummingbird/dad to the freedom of the open air.
Thanks mum, for once again finding a way to lead our healing. You sure come up with some beautiful and creative ways of doing it! Love you. Miss you.