The Matt Sodnicar Podcast

There are truly few shared experiences. Death is one. Dying is as natural as the setting sun. Most people don’t think death is beautiful. What if it could be?

Show Notes

Emma describes her journey to become a death doula - helping people with holistic end-of-life planning.  She is the founder of Beautiful Life Beautiful Death.  She takes me through watching her dad die - then 11 years later, being pregnant with her first child when her husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Learning to live presently, mitigating fears, conscious peaceful dying.
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What is The Matt Sodnicar Podcast?

The Matt Sodnicar Podcast. Founded on the belief that one need not be famous to tell a compelling story. Focused on turning points in business and in life, those moments that will inspire others.

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Emma Weisfeld-Adams 0:42
I could I could do a grounding exercise like any of my meditation groups.

Matt Sodnicar 0:45
Oh, sweet. All right, everybody. Welcome to the podcast. This is Matt Sodnicar. Thank you so much for listening for sharing your comments. It means a lot I see them and I really appreciate it. And with me today is Emma wise film, Adams. She's the founder and owner of beautiful life beautiful death. And Emma, thank you. Good to meet you.

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 1:14
Thank you. Yeah, it's nice to meet you in person.

Matt Sodnicar 1:17
Yeah. So tell me about the business beautiful life beautiful death. What is it? Where did it come from?

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 1:27
Well, um, I founded beautiful life beautiful death as a business only pretty recently, I guess about a year ago. But I've been doing work focused on supporting people and end of life experiences for the last couple of years a did a training as a death doula. Back in 2019. So do you want me Do you want me to define death doula? I feel like people

Matt Sodnicar 2:12
say like, I'm a five year old. Yeah, absolutely.

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 2:15
I mean, I hadn't heard about it. If you had asked me you know, two years before I did my death doula course I would never have heard about death doula myself, so I don't think it's like, very common knowledge. But

Matt Sodnicar 2:27
I've heard the word right. It's mostly associated with is it pregnancy?

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 2:31
So yeah, doula, like birth doula is, is is a pretty common position role. I think most people know what it is. And there's definitely like a lot of similarities. But obviously, it's on the other end of things. But so a death doula is someone who tries to support people and having a comfortable, meaningful end of life experience. Right, whatever. Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. So yeah, it's are premised, I think, on the idea that, like birth, death, how can can have a miraculousness to it and a beauty to it. And that there can be a place for someone who is not necessarily focused on medical, but can maybe offer that go between between the medical community and the family and the person who's dying, just a facility, whatever that person's wishes are, whatever that person's vision for comfort for meaning for completion. So they're like a frontline caregiver typically. So I did a training as agile, as I said, a few years ago, but I ended up especially focusing on a piece of it, which is holistic end of life planning. So a lot of my work that I do now, although I do work directly with people and under life circumstances, providing direct support and direct care, I do a lot of helping people create holistic end of life plans.

Matt Sodnicar 4:25
So this is not anything like on the legal side of things. You're not doing wills and stuff like that you're doing. So when you say like a holistic experience, take me through that.

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 4:36
Okay. So you're right, that I'm not a lawyer.

Unknown Speaker 4:43
I just want to draw.

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 4:45
Yes, absolutely. So most people, when they think of planning for end of life, they exactly they think about creating a will, or they may even think about advanced directives, you know, living wills, those kinds of things. And those are Extremely important documents that are extremely important areas of decision making. But they encompass a pretty narrow range of choices, with a will, you know, matters of your estate, your your finances, and with advanced directives and living, which is a pretty narrow range of specific circumstances regarding medical decision making. But with holistic end of life planning, what essentially I'm inviting people to ask themselves is, what do they need in order to die peacefully, comfortably, and with a sense of completion.

Matt Sodnicar 5:47
So it's more of a, I guess, philosophical approach to this.

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 5:52
I mean, there's pieces of it that are very philosophical, but there are pieces of it that are very, very practical. I mean, what what it means to die peacefully, comfortably, and with a sense of completion, it means very different things for different people. But you know, we get into a number of different domains, including practical decisions, like, you know, where do you physically want to be at the end of your life? Sure. You know, where do you want to be located? How do you want to be cared for by whom, you know, what kinds of roles do you want the people in your life to have? Or what roles do you want professionals to take on? What kinds of things make you comfortable? What kinds of business do you need to take care of not just like the major decisions of your estate? But are there things that are bothering you about your practical affairs that need to be wrapped up, you know, before you die for you to feel calm, and comfortable and ready. I mean, obviously, it gets into like emotional life and relationships, it gets into people, you know, reconciling their sense of spirituality with their death and their end of life. For a lot of people, a lot of planning goes into mitigating fears they have around the dying process. So, you know, circumstances that seem really unacceptable, you know, fears around frailty around dependence, loneliness, being in pain, you know, you can actually kind of unpack all of those and come up with practical solutions that kind of soften some of the hardest edges of people's fears around the dying process. So when I do a holistic plan was on when it's like, very, very detailed. It's a very extensive process, and you really get into the weeds of a lot of different areas.

Matt Sodnicar 7:58
So you're a death coach, as opposed to a lead? Yeah, exactly. That's

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 8:02
not that's not an uncommon term. Actually. People like in the death doula community, some people do prefer that term. But yeah, that's definitely another way to look at it. Except for that I think of myself mostly as a facilitator rather than a coach. Of course, sometimes I, you know, I try to be as informed as possible, and advise people to consider things But primarily, it's about providing support and space for people to come up with their own blueprint of what a good death looks like to them. That's what a life coach does.

Matt Sodnicar 8:45
They're probably focused on the alive part of things.

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 8:50
Yeah, well, yeah. Well, a lot of this does have to do with, with your, with your life, like how you live, but how you're living at the end. And also, I mean, I, I think it's important to look at death kind of wherever you are in your life, because confronting mortality, and acknowledging the inevitability of our dying does affect how we live everyday. So regardless of age or health status, I think it's a worthwhile pursuit.

Matt Sodnicar 9:26
Well, it's top of mind for me, on the end, I use the word coach, intentionally because I've been listening to some podcasts is by the guy who wrote Moneyball, Michael Lewis, he's got this podcast called against the rules, and he's talking about coaching and society and what it means to be a coach and then he's on the performance side of things. But I brought that up, because when you talked about having a peaceful death, and I would say being able to focus on it That's what a performance coach does. So you're free of distractions, if you're gonna go hit a golf ball or a baseball or shoot a free throw, you're getting all that out of your head. So you can focus on what's most important. And if you're at the end of your life, then I think by definition, Your death is the most important thing to focus on. So I can see it from, again, trying to tie that all together, it makes a ton of sense, right? That you'd want to experience this in the best possible way.

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 10:34
Yeah, I mean, it's, it's the one. It's really one of the maybe the only thing that we can possibly be sure. We'll definitely. Oh, yeah. Great. So there is a certain basic logic, although that logic isn't really reflected in our culture. There's basic logic and like, well, maybe I should think about what this means to me. And what it will mean to me to have that experience and what kind of experience I want to have, since I'm definitely going to have some kind of underlying barriers. But you know, there's just a lot of fear a lot of death, and I l&r culture and a lot of, you know, a lot of discouragement for people to want to, like, think talk, look at it. So

Matt Sodnicar 11:28
I've noticed that too. And I think it's partially just because of events that have transpired in my life, not only recently, but I lost my mom when I was 20. So that's sort of my first exposure to, I would say, mortality, for sure. But also mine and so like a friends, it was all so disconnected, like, third fourth orbit that that happened. And then reading about the Stoics, and things like that and thinking about, but embracing the impermanence, not from like a morbid sensibility or afraid of it, but like, Hey, this is gonna happen. And then, but like you're saying about being uncomfortable with it. Like, I've had conversations with people about Yeah, I gotta, like, figure this out. If you're gonna, like, your life is already over. I don't know if you know this or not, like, get going, you know. But then talking about even just the word, there's some people that are kind of like, Oh, hey, like, you know, yeah, warding off the evil spirits or thinking that you're gonna invoke it. It's kind of like, yeah, it's gonna happen.

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 12:42
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I think a lot of people who don't consider themselves superstitious and anyway have a lot of unconscious superstitions about kind of manifesting premature death if they talk about it. And I, I mean, I even experienced that myself, like, in my own life, you know, when I came to this work, because of my own personal experiences of people close to me dying and, and watching my own resistance and my own, you know, the most probably, although I had a few profound experiences with death, but the death that definitely altered my trajectory on this path, was the death of my husband, How long ago was four years ago, he died four years ago, and it was like a whole, you know, long cancer situation. And he was a very practical person, like in medicine, and knew the statistics of his illness. And he wouldn't have known anything about a death doula, you know, what it was, he didn't have the sort of spiritual law side of it that I really have been drawn towards, but he was just like, hey, this is probably going to happen. So we should probably, like figure some stuff out. And I mean, I remember feeling feeling at the time like, guy like, you know, you're, you're being negative. You know, like, you have a positive attitude.

Matt Sodnicar 14:27
So you're pushing back

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 14:28
on that absolute? No, I was like, Look, well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. You know, let you know. We just got to stay positive. And it wasn't just me. I mean, he confronted that in amongst any other members of his family and his community overall, even and as much as she was very caring and dedicated oncologist, even his own physician, who I think true Lee truly wanted him to do as well as possible. And I think she did our best work. But even even with her, there was a lot of reluctance to talk about the inevitability of death, the likelihood that at some point, these treatments were going to fail. Like, how were we going to, you know, when we were gonna decide it was time to stop treating them. I mean, there's just, there's just so many forces, nudging everyone to like, look away, not talk about and pretend it's not happening. But of course, the you know, we all kind of know it's, it's there and not talking about it doesn't prevent it from happening. So luckily, my husband was very persistent, tenacious, assertive, sometimes grassa. Not fabulous. But just like he, you know, he wore me down essentially, and kind of forced me to share in the reality that he was living. And because of that, we did have a lot of conversations, we did make plans, we discussed our finances, we talked about what he wanted, in terms of our children, because we have, we had a young child when he was diagnosed, I was pregnant. With my second child, we had a young child, we had the kinds of conversations that you want to have had with someone when they've died, you know, the, the, you say the things that you want to have said, when you are together in a shared reality of the impermanence

Matt Sodnicar 16:46
still recall one of the more powerful ones that you'd share? Well,

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 16:53
yeah, I'll tell you, I mean, obviously, like, you know, I, I was able to kind of share my grief with him, I was able to share my love for him, that I feel really grateful that I have those kinds of conversations. But I'll tell you the truly the most, one of the most like powerful moments for me, in terms of my own reckoning with the reality of His death was this is probably maybe less than a year before he died. But it was like, it was clear, he was sick for about three years. And the last year was rough. Like, it was just clear things were not going well, you know, the treat, he was just having a lot of health crises. And, you know, things things were just on a downward spiral. And I remember having this conversation in bed one night, where I don't I can't recall exactly what was said. But it was like that moment where I was like, okay, yes, it's gonna happen. He's, this is really gonna happen like this is this is like, this is going that way. And it's probably going to be pretty soon. And it hit me, you know, like a ton of bricks, like, suddenly the reality of the situation washed over me. And I kind of like we like cried together about it really, for the first time. Throughout his whole illness, what I wrote, what I remember, most vividly actually was, you know, the reality that he was going to die and probably, you know, pretty soon we were laying in bed, he kind of fell asleep. And within, I don't know, within half an hour, 45 minutes of having recognized that he was going to die. I just remember he fell asleep, and I sat there, and the realization of my own mortality hit me. Also, in a way, like I had never truly been hit before. Because, you know, this guy can can die. Like, you know, I remember like, like, that's probably true. Like, I felt like it's true. Like, like, I know, people have been saying it but I couldn't really like think really would now I just feel like it really is gonna really happen. I swear it was like this cold feeling of like fear and dread of the reality of my own death you know, was like a simulated, so as as intense and fearful and kind of dark as that moment was for me. It was really pivotal. I think I think, you know, it's it's part of grief. In general, you know of other people as recognizing the reality of death overall, right? Your own death being the most significant to most people. So in as much as I as I said, it was a scare very intense, like dark, painful, sorrowful moment where I agree with my own inevitable death. I think it was the most important moment in my life. Because in that recognition of impermanence, I feel like I was really able to start living in the way that I was supposed to, or living in a way that really was more meaningful and more authentic for me, and living more presently than I would have, if I had not had that epiphany. I was gonna die. That's true.

Matt Sodnicar 20:45
The most powerful word out of that was live presently. And would you say that understanding and coming to reckoning that you are going to die? Did it put everything else in the proper perspective for you? Like little things?

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 21:07
Yeah, there's actually research that demonstrates that people who contemplate their death, tend to live with more joy with more puppies, with less focus on daily hassles. And absolutely, I think, you know, the through line I, you mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, my business I do end of life planning and support, I also teach meditation, and the through line of those pieces of work is absolutely present. You know, meditation certainly is a practice, like, you know, practicing the skills out learning how to be more present, or how to exercise your attention in a way that you're able to be present. But also, I mean, recognizing that any moment truly any moment might be your last does have a way of making you appreciate the present moment. I mean, you know, taking a drink of water or taking a shower is a pretty banal event. But if you knew it might be your last and honestly, any drink of water, any shower might be your last you truly don't know, you might find that you savor the feeling of the water on your skin, or just the your thirst being quenched, or whatever it is that you're experiencing in that moment. If it was the last time we were experiencing, and it might be, you know, you might be a little therefore it truly Yeah.

Matt Sodnicar 22:40
It's, it's affected. My consumption of I would say, media, particularly, books, movies, music, things like that. Because, like, all due respect to say, I'll just pick an album that I love Pearl Jam, 10, right, the very first one. Love that album, right. But at some point, I'm going to run out of minutes for something new. And so it's not that I'm that I've shut down any sentimentality or things like that, like around Christmas, like I watch the same movies, right? That's part of the tradition. But outside of those traditions, I'm focusing on what's new, what's unique, what's the different experience I can have? Because at some point, it's going to be the last Netflix documentary and watch her right. And just as a case in point, I never watched the show as a kid Sanford and Son is way too old for me. You've probably never even heard of it, of course. Okay. So I saw it on Amazon, like, all these episodes is like, I don't think I ever was I watched like four minutes of this. And I was like, no, like, it just for me. It didn't hold up, right? Because, like, why would I go back and watch like friends or cheers or something like that? I'm getting way off topic. But what I'm saying is that, yeah, I've pondered that and it's made me again, trying to cope with attention issues and focus, but also like, yeah, be here now.

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 24:23
Easier said than none. So true. I mean, I'm not a naturally very present person, all of my all of my skill set and awareness of where my attention is and training it to be more present or very hard one, and still require for me a lot of vigilance because I definitely was like a very in my head, neurotic weirdo, you know, pretty much my whole life. And so, you know, my 30s my mid 30s, I think was one I You know, early mid 30s When I first started having any inkling of, you know, perspective on a relationship with my thoughts that didn't just i were i, maybe I'm maybe I'm speaking like going to have to stay away. But you know, I think I just identified with my ego. I didn't really have any perspective on my ego until pretty recently in my life. I gotta have pretty precious. Oh, I will. Yeah. Well, I was like, you know, what do they think is I don't know if this is like a expression piece of you that center of the universe. That was that was more me. It wasn't that I thought I was perfect. It was that I was like, you know, I was the worst, but it was like a very narcissistic, self flagellation. That was like, more my jam, you know, you know, that the form of egotism? that's right for you? Oh, of course.

Matt Sodnicar 26:01
Was there anything that you and your husband shared? That was sort of like, Honey, always hated that casserole? Like, is there anything that sort of amusing that came out that? I didn't mean to tell you this for years? But,

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 26:17
um, no, you weird, like, if you kind of hilarious with requests that were very detailed, some of which I adhere to, some of which I was, like, I don't know, like, my son, like, got, like hair cut. And he was like, that his that looks like usually when I'm dead, like, keep his hair like, like, I don't think I can you he's gonna agree to this, which. Yeah, no, I, you know, that we went through a lot of different phases to artists illness, you know, it was very hard for him to find out, I guess he must have been, you know, 35 Oh, wow. 36 when he was diagnosed, like terminal illness, so, you know, we run through some really rocky times. But I would say that, you know, there were ups and downs, there was a lot of anger, there was a lot of grief, there was a lot of trying to control things, you know, when everything else felt so out of control, but there was also a lot of appreciation and gratitude. And, I mean, I think he showed a pretty astounding grasp on what was happening and, and desire to take care of his family of me and the kids and to do everything he could to make sure that we were going to be okay. And even to the extent that I remember like, he was like, right at the various weeks before he died. I mean, he was really in bad shape. And it was late March is he died, he died in April anniversary of SAS. SAS has happened recently. He was like, We gotta like, do our taxes. Want to do our taxes? Oh, and he like made us like, internally what was ended up probably being one of his final days, like, do our taxes. He's one of his final days. And that's my dealing with our friggin Nylas. Which at the time, I this is not like what I want to be doing now. But after he died, I thought like whatever it was, it seemed like actually such a romantic gesture to me in retrospect, it's like, you know, he didn't want me to have to like deal with our taxes right after he died. Knock knock them out. You know, what, together? So yeah, I mean, I mean, I, I work with people who are elderly and very sick, who are in absolute denial, you know, who really cannot hear anything about their impending death. So I mean, to me, it's very, was very impressive and definitely, like, shaped the course of my life, you know, and obviously, what I'm doing now,

Matt Sodnicar 29:31
did you ever get mad at your husband throughout all this?

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 29:33
Oh, yeah, I was mad at him like a lot. Well, it's hard to live with a sick person, you know, when I was mad at the situation, and then he was just like, there, you know, available for me to be mad. You know. So, yeah, it you know, it's, it's something that I think is an inevitable part of. I mean, this is a separate subject of cohabitation. But, but But yeah, yeah, I mean, I, it's it, it's just it's very painful and very difficult, you know, to, to, to live with another person, but certainly to live with another person through like a very debilitating, painful illness where, you know, your expectations of what you kind of envision for a marriage are not being met. And of course, that person's fault. But it's can be very difficult to let go of those expectations. And that's another reason why I am one of those annoying meditation people that advises meditation for everything, because letting go of expectations and not attaching to expectations, I think is really important. Oh, happiness and enjoyment in life.

Matt Sodnicar 30:54
But yeah, I learned four or five years ago that the that your misery is the difference between your expectation and reality, or your lack of happiness, or however you want to frame the first part of that, but

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 31:09
yeah, absolutely. Would you feel comfortable

Matt Sodnicar 31:11
talking about the moment where your husband actually died? When that happened in those feelings?

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 31:18
I wouldn't be comfortable, but I'm actually going to answer a different similar question. I, the I was with my husband at that moment of his death. And I'm happy to tell you about that. But actually, years before that, at this point, 11 years ago, I was with my dad, at the moment of his death, and that was my first big death. He He also died of cancer, but it was a much shorter illness. He was diagnosed and then he was dead within the four months or something

Matt Sodnicar 31:56
like what happened to my mom, it was almost like over the summer, yeah, three or four months.

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 32:00
Yeah. So I mean, and that also that experience, compared to my husband's death, you know, where there wasn't a lot of talking about it, there was kind of quote unquote, positive thinking, you know, fighting that cancer and, and not wanting to sit with the possibility that he was going to die. So things got very chaotic. There wasn't a lot of there was no advanced decision making than in any case. I was with my dad, at the moment of his death. In fact, my whole immediate family was there, he was in hospice at home and had been in hospice at home for just a couple of days. And he had been unconscious, like pretty well sedated for some period of time, it's a little bit of a blur to me now maybe a day or two days. And he started breathing in a pretty kind of a way that is typical for people right at the end of their life, you know, kind of a lot of gasping for breath. And I think the hospice nurse may have indicated like, hey, like, this is Tom, you know, happening and he's probably you know, about to die. And we kind of gathered around him at this point in my life, I really did an I probably would have identified as an atheist stay thing didn't really have like much of a spiritual belief system. I didn't really I don't know, I didn't really think about that. But I remember watching his face as he took his last breaths and the moment there it's very, very hard to describe and I often refer to it as like there was like a poetry to this to this moment, because it's um, it doesn't really apply to kind of rational description but there was a moment where I just knew like he had left his body and even though his his body was not completely motionless as yet it was still kind of compacting with like the the completion I guess, of the last breath. But it was like that expression, like the light going out of someone's eyes, really spoke to what I felt like I saw it was just there was no question at the moment that he was in his body. And in that moment, he was not in his body anymore. And it was really powerful to me and I didn't really have I didn't know what to do with that or how to explain it. But it just I sat without I think for euros because I didn't I didn't really buy I just didn't know what to do with that, you know, I just I didn't really have a belief system, I didn't have any kind of sense of the afterlife or any sort of sense of awareness continuing after our physical form. But that was a, it was a very profound moment. And when my husband died, I was also with him. And he died also at home, he was in hospice at home for a while he'd also like he died in our bedroom and our bed. And

it was, um, it's very surreal. I don't know if you are with if you've ever been with anyone, were you with your mother?

Matt Sodnicar 35:51
When she died two minutes after they were doing some resuscitation? And then was like, immediately after? So I was in the room adjacent. Yeah.

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 36:01
Yeah, I think no matter how much you prepare, seeing the body of someone who you knew as an alive animated person. There is something about seeing FAF. Shell. That is, it is it is it really communicates their death in a way that like news can't. Because I've known other people that have died, you know, that I've been told like they died. And there is a non reality to it. But when you see someone's dead body, like you, you just know, they're not there anymore. They're not in their body like their dad, it's, it sounds a little like obvious, but I bring it up, because I think there's a lot of there's a lot of reluctance and not a lot of support, or invitations for people to spend time with the bodies of their loved ones after they've died. And I think that there's a lot of value in doing that in terms of processing what's happened and accepting the fact that they're dead, honoring, getting the opportunity to honor the body to honor a vessel that prints Yeah,

Matt Sodnicar 37:27
I still remember it vividly. Because I was 19 or 20, I think, and walked into the ER or whatever it was in, she was in a gown. And I just remember, her eyes are closed, I remember picking up her right hand and holding it and it was cold, which was an amazing sensation, which I've never experienced before. And you know, to your point about that it is obvious though, right? Like you can see somebody sleeping, that's close, you can see a picture of somebody sleeping, that's closer because they're not moving again. But to experience the rawness and literalness of somebody that's dead. You don't really get that opportunity outside of I would say like armed forces or EMS or police or something like that. Right? You are medical, you're not really going to be around a body that much. And yeah, it was just remember, like, the her hand didn't move, there was this nothing to it, and it was sort of like, oh my gonna wake her up or something, you know, and even at 20, like it just was surreal is probably the most perfect word for that.

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 38:49
Yeah, people don't get a lot of exposure to death. There's a lot of ushering it out of our homes and out of our lives. And, you know, it's medicalized in most circumstances. And again, there's not a lot of invitations for people in our culture, we don't have a lot of, you know, old school rituals are where we wash the bodies or do other kinds of engagement with the bodies of our dead loved ones. So yeah, most people don't really get that.

Matt Sodnicar 39:29
So you were, you're a completely different person between the death of your dad and the death of your husband. So as you look at those two events being there, and you've talked a lot about just facing it in the conversations you've had seems like they're almost polar opposites, right? Because the family your family didn't seem like they talked about it. It was sudden you had a lot of time with your husband to go through it. Were there. Were you aware that the that you were different in that moment, then processing it differently?

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 40:00
Um, well, I was somewhat but I would say that the growth that I think the growth that happened throughout his illness was slow. And it it was exponential towards the end. So I don't know that I felt like such a different person when he was diagnosed, in fact, I felt very, like I, I felt very victimized by the diagnosis. Because, you know, I had had the experience with my dad, who died also, like, right after I got pregnant with my first son. And I felt very, I felt very deprived of him getting to meet his grandchildren, I felt very deprived of the family experience that I had wanted, and the head I expected. And then my husband and our, you know, mid 30s, is diagnosed with this illness where now all of our lives are going to be revolving around his health. I think, still, my ego was just like, out of control, you know, I mean, not that I was your diabolical I did, I truly did the best I could. And I think I was, you know, decent like wife and I did. I loved him. And I tried to support him as best I could. But I felt really I thought it was unfair, because I was also now pregnant again, I found out I was pregnant with my second child. Three days after he got his diagnosis, there's a funny story about that, which I can't get into. But anyways, yes. The funny story, so he had actually had had a so so basically, he got his he got his diagnosis, you know, he was told he was the illness, renal cell carcinoma, so kidney cancer, so he saw the need to start treatment right away. And the treatment is like, you know, destroys sperm basically. So like, they just, I think it's just part of the standards of care that they offer sperm banking. So we had been trying for a second child for like, six months with really no, nothing. So have any reason to think that you know, anything that happened, so he, he had a, you know, he went to the place the bank, when he goes deposit. And literally, like, while he was there, while he was in that appointment, I got a call from my OBGYN who I had been to, like, just days before for kind of a standard, well, women's checkup telling me that I was pregnant. No way. And so we had like, all those like, No, you're the way Ah, you're being dead. But yeah, so I was like, so he like got like, in just, you know, I always like my metaphors, like, you know, like, kind of Bruce Willis, like, rule under the garage door, like, cool was like, super sperm, like, just in the nick of time. But I was always proud man, and like, he's sick. And in Canada, like, again, I have a pregnancy that's not like about me, you know, I want him to be like the pregnant spoiled, like, care of, but, you know, that wasn't gonna happen, you know, I had now had, like, I was pregnant had a young child of a three year old, sick husband, so I was really, you know, was pretty devastated for him, but also for myself. You know, I'm very, very sorry for myself for a very long time. Yeah. And, you know, figuring out how not to live in that kind of paradigm was was, you know, took took a lot for me, you know, and I don't even think I, you know, I wouldn't have known how to do that at the time. Like just things happen that that kind of opened doors

Matt Sodnicar 45:03
But what a unique experience being in the words are pale in comparison, but to have the experience of seeing death in life, at the same time creating life and watching death. Yeah,

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 45:25
people would say that and like I at the time, I didn't really like the beauty of the whole circle of life.

And no, but actually, um, so that was also when I started meditating. That's my whole history of meditation, because I was praying now, like, life was just like, clearly, you know, very stressful, and only gonna get more stressful. And like, I couldn't even like drink or do drugs. Because I was pregnant. I was like, I guess I'll just like meditate, I guess, if that's what you're supposed to do. You know, like, it's supposed to be good for the stress. So I stopped when I started my meditation practice. So that's like that, that all and definitely, like, I don't, I don't know, you know, I'd heard of meditation for years and kind of like, tried at a time or two. But that was when I actually like committed to a meditation practice and kind of started to learn what it means to you know, create a little distance between yourself and your thoughts to watch your thoughts to watch your emotions to be present. So, yeah, I'll kind of happen at the same time.

Matt Sodnicar 46:44
So I don't want to hit like the big fast forward button here. And firstly, thank you for sharing all those very personal stories. But where did the the business side of this originate? Where did that happen? How long ago after your husband died was? Where did the idea to help people through this come from? Okay,

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 47:07
so I had this life altering, profound experience. With my husband's death, I had this sense that I felt other people maybe weren't as often aware of that, you know, if you are willing to confront death, if you're willing to like, drag it out of the shadows and shine a bright spotlight on it, that you can have a much more meaningful, peaceful, beautiful end of life experience. And so that was kind of all in floating in the background. I'm just like, processing all of this. And I went this one night, someone told me, you know, they tell you to go to thing like there's like a Yeah, it was like a young widows support group. Someone told me to go to his I went to it, and it really wasn't for, for me at the time, but I met this one person there. It was, like really the only other young widow there who had been through like a long cancer thing like I had. And he told me that like his wife had, and he had used a death doula and I had never heard of a death doula. And I just became obsessed and fascinated, and started researching. And it just, it just felt like I have to like learn about this. I, I felt completely compelled. And so I did this program. At the Institute for conscious dying death, doula certification, and it's probably less than a year after my husband died, that I started the program. And then was working as a volunteer with hospice. After I did my training, was just doing that for a while as a volunteer, just companioning with people dying people. And then COVID happened. And the in person companionship program with the hospitals like shut down, I really know what to do. So I was like, I did this, how to teach meditation course. Because I thought like, well, maybe this is something I can do with hospice patients, you know, over zoom. This, you know, maybe just like the meditation is like I could do guided meditations with hospice patients is like something I could do. But then so I did that course. And then I told the hospice I can I can teach meditation. I have like this probe unit to this program. And then they were like, well, actually, can you like Teach our can you do like do a meditation program for our staff because they, I feel like they really need it. Oh, meditation and mindfulness course for the hospice staff. And then they're like, I feel like we really need something in our bereavement. program and I had never thought of working with grief or bereavement. But it actually made a lot of sense considering my own relationship with death and grief and how meditation I feel like really helped me. And it was very important for me. So then I developed this grief and meditation program for while we were doing it as courses, you know, like a four, four week course I've done that course also at some other locations, retirement communities. But now I have just an ongoing meditation and grief group at the hospice. So and then, you know, things opened up, and I also started doing more. That was another thing that came out of COVID was like doing the end of life planning piece felt more amenable to zoom, and it was something I could do as a way I could support people in preparing for death, and thinking about death, and in a more, you know, virtual context, but I just like love it. And I think it's so important that it's now still like a cornerstone of my business. So I was doing all this as a volunteer doing plans with friends doing volunteering with The Hospice. And then I just decided last year that it was time to open my business and expand my work. And that's how I'm doing.

Matt Sodnicar 51:19
So how do you manage the emotional part of your job? Is there are there ways that you can be empathetic, but you don't assume all the emotion that's going on around you?

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 51:38
I think this is why I'm a freak that I don't I don't find it. You know, any job can be upsetting any any day can can have upset, right, and kind of a roller, you know, a landscape of emotions. This job, if any, has been this work is far more uplifting than any that I have ever engaged in.

Matt Sodnicar 52:06
Is that your perspective? I mean, has your perspective changed? Or is that just how it impacts you?

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 52:14
Um, both, I think, you know, the beauty of my work is, you know, there's not so especially when I'm working in person with someone, and an end of life circumstance or when coming to the end of their life, there isn't a script, there isn't a checklist of things I'm supposed to do. Really, my only job is to be as present as possible. And to listen as attentively as possible. And to trust that in that space of attention, that my intuition will serve me, I may, you know, in advance of a visit set some intentions are thinking about, like, you know, what might be supportive and helpful for someone, once I'm there in that moment, I really don't have to think about anything, I just need to be there. With all with all with all of me that I can't be without my attention that I can bring.

Matt Sodnicar 53:20
Well, and that's a that's flow state, right, like whether I feel it on the bike sometimes, but just being fully present, wherever you're at is so rewarding. And I think you're helping people have a better experience, I'm going out on a limb, it's not a big one, but you're not making it you're not removing all sadness and all emotion, you're making it slightly better and or a lot better. And that must be really rewarding. Well,

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 53:52
it's really rewarding, and I definitely don't feel like it's my job to like remove sadness. Sure. I think grief is a part of the human experience and it's the other side of the coin to love and there is no love without loss and allowing yourself to grieve allowing yourself to sit with intense emotions with other people who are grieving for themselves or for others is that's one of the service that I try to provide. I you know, I am often very moved by by my time that I spend with people, but it doesn't feel so I don't know how to describe it. It just doesn't feel depressing to me. You know, it feels like it's just part it's just part of what it is to be human it's is such as to move through these motions. So Yeah, no, I don't know, I guess I don't really know how to answer how I deal with this. Stuff it because, you know, how does I deal with it the same way? I guess like any, any you know, we all have to deal with what you're presenting Yeah, presenting intense experiences and we all have our own kind of coping strategies, and I have certainly my own techniques for dealing with intense emotions, but but I don't find it to be I don't find this work to be like, particularly upsetting or depressing or sad. That's great.

Matt Sodnicar 55:34
What does the day to day look like? So what what is your first conversation with DICOM patients or the clients? Or how do you define,

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 55:47
um, people you work with? It really depends. So, if I'm doing planning with someone, they're, they're their clients, I

Matt Sodnicar 55:56
guess. So, that first meeting, what are some of the questions that that what are some of the things you talked about in that first meeting,

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 56:03
so if I'm doing a holistic if I'm doing an end of life plan with somebody, it's a it's a very structured process. So it's a structured interview process that takes place over the course of usually this can be customized depending on someone's needs, but usually it's two to three you know, either in person or zoom, you know, virtual interviews. And in the very beginning, I start off with a sort of death and I call it death and royal death and quality of life. Interview, were basically just I asked a lot of questions to kind of elicit and a broad brush kind of way what their basic premises are, what their basic assumptions are their their kind of greatest concerns around death and dying their standards around what quality of life means for them. Where what their history is what you know, what kinds of influencing experiences, childhood or more recent experience they've had that have affected how they look at death and dying. So we kind of that's how we start off. And then we get into the planning pieces like the planning domains and there's this like practical physical environment and practical stuff, emotional life and relationships, spiritual religious. Legacy, we do a like a legacy and life review interview, after death care, like plans for bodily disposition or memorials, and oh, I skipped one. We do like practical today, I mentioned practical affairs. Like, okay, okay, so, anyway, so yeah, there's there's very kind of concrete planning we do in all those different domains. The idea is that someone is able to envision what a good death means to them in these different areas. And then actually, we get into the weeds of like, alright, well, what do you need to do to make that happen? You don't want a family member to support you with bathing? You want a professional? Like, what is your insurance cover? What are the activities you need to complete? So that, you know, you can have this depth that you want? Like, is it is it realistic, like I want people to come away at the end with a plan that has the possibility of being implemented? So we try to cover cover all the bases? You know, is there a conversation you need to have with this person in your life? You know, your sister? Do you feel like you have what you need to have that conversation? Are you resource? Do you know how to start that conversation? Do you need support from someone else? Like what do you need to make this conversation happen? We get very, very detailed, which is why it's like a pretty in depth process that takes a few sessions.

Matt Sodnicar 59:18
I wonder is part of it the removing a lot of this uncertainty? Because I think, at least for me, if I don't know what's going on, I don't think it's just confined to me, but the the unknown breeds uncertainty, which can breed anxiety, and is a large part of this, that they have some degree of control over what's going to happen. Do you think that helps?

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 59:44
Yeah, I think absolutely. It helps, you know, with control I mean, of course, you know, like anything else, you know, you can do as much planning as you want, like nothing is gonna go perfectly to plan. But there is a lot of space for autonomy. and making choices if you're willing to actually figure it out what it is that you want. So yeah, creating the set and setting for your end of life like, Yeah, I think I think it is very empowering for people. I think it comes a lot of anxiety around death and dying and existential distress that we all live with, you know, I think it can, if you have a vision of your death that does feel beautiful to you, it can, it can be very comforting, quiet down some of that existential distress. So yeah,

Matt Sodnicar 1:00:43
I totally agree. And I talk about this a lot on the podcast, but learned optimism by Martin Seligman. He talks about even the illusion of choice helps with people's outlooks. So that there's always a decision you could make, no matter how small it is, right? So as you're talking about that as taking me back to that book, in a life side of things, but that, yeah, if you can plan these things out and face them, and like, what happens here? What happens here that that makes a ton of sense that it would eliminate or reduce that uncertainty, which then would reduce the anxiety?

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 1:01:27
Yeah, I mean, even if look, I you know, you do it really, you know, comprehensive, holistic end of life plan. But you know, that's not to say you don't just get hit by a bus A week later, right? To the point of the plan, okay. I'm gonna answer that glass. And I'm gonna say

Matt Sodnicar 1:01:45
preparations never waste. We Yeah,

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 1:01:49
your ability to live presently. Because you have attended to some of these like grumbling, fears around like the possibilities of death, and dying and sickness and indignities or whatever we got into in the plan, you've addressed those for yourself. So you're able to live that last week before you ended up getting hit by the bus and didn't really do the plan, you know, you're able to look at that last week, more fully, than you would have otherwise. That's the pitch anyways.

Matt Sodnicar 1:02:23
Yeah, just because you didn't just because you didn't need the parachute in the airplane doesn't mean that packing, it was a waste of

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 1:02:30
time. Yeah. And maybe you have that conversation with your assessor, or you know, that you needed to have. Maybe that was the piece of the plan that you took care of in advance, because that happens a lot. When we do end of life planning. I mean, certain pieces of it only kind of come into play, once the person is actively dying. But what ends up happening is issues that need resolution arise, you know, and it becomes clear, like, I just need to have a conversation with my sister, like, I just need to. Okay, so we talked about, when are you gonna do that? Do you want to wait until you're dying? Or is that something you want to do? You know, yeah, next week, next month? Like, should we set a date for it? You know, that kind of stuff goes into people's plans frequently.

Matt Sodnicar 1:03:13
My biggest takeaway from this conversation apart from your energy, which I absolutely love, is that you don't have to wait till you're faced with dying to live in the moment and do all these things like the concept of a bucket list, like you're dying anyway. Might as well get started. With whatever it is,

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 1:03:36
that's fun. Live like you're dying. I don't think my tagline could be, it could be because yeah, truly none of us is guaranteed any amount of time. And it's hard to believe that, you know, we kind of know it's true. It's hard to believe. But I do try and remind myself,

Matt Sodnicar 1:04:01
I think it's a great way to start today.

Matt Sodnicar 1:04:06
Well, I want to be respectful of your time. And I would love to do a part two and actually, I'm going to On My Shelf over there The Denial of Death go through that. And then perhaps there could be a follow up where talk about specific questions I would have and go through this. Like I don't even hire you for an hour to do that. But that would be fascinating for me to go through and talk about these questions and these things and, and get not necessarily like a working session, but get more specific and personal on these things. That would be something I'd be fascinated to do.

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 1:04:48
Well and available. Matt has been a pleasure to speak with you. So yeah, please feel free to contact me either.

Matt Sodnicar 1:04:57
Where can people find you?

Emma Weisfeld-Adams 1:04:58
So PSL Life beautiful You can it's it's kind of a long post. My email is ama at beautiful life beautiful Yeah, so that's my website. That's how you can reach me for questions, comments, you can look at my services. Read more about death. I meditation on my site.

Matt Sodnicar 1:05:30
It's been great. Thank you, then you don't need to be dying to live in the moment everybody.