End-of-Life Planning Workshops & Facilitator Bios
Dying in America is complicated, and we have to be equipped to advocate for a good death for ourselves. The film Speaking of Dying grew out of Heartwork End-of-Life Planning Groups, which were called “A Gift for Yourself and Your Loved Ones.” Trudy James initiated these four-part workshops in congregations, senior centers, work groups, family groups, homes, book groups, and open groups of individuals.
Facilitated workshops support the process of completing an Advance Healthcare Directive, and provide the opportunity to learn about current resources, reflect on the meaning of the dying process, share stories, and take control of one’s own end-of-life choices. Participants receive an Advance Directive document and a curated selection of articles, handouts and other resources. The average group size is 10 people.
Workshop participants have commented:
- “It is comforting and enlightening to do this work in a group.”
- “My life is so much better now that I am more comfortable with my own choices.”
- “After the group, I could talk more easily to my doctor about my wishes.”
Since Speaking of Dying was released, the workshops have expanded! There are now 12 certified facilitators who lead groups around the Puget Sound area and in other states. Read more about them below.
“My parents lived to be 95, were married for over 70 years, and died within 30 days of each other. Growing up, they spoke candidly about illness, death and dying. Rather than being a morbid topic for the dinner table, it was perfectly natural for me to hear their feelings about what relatives or friends were going through, and what they wanted for themselves, sprinkled with healthy humor and irreverence. They also clearly documented their wishes. When they were finally declining, we knew when it was time for hospice, not healing. My brother and I had no confusion, arguments or guilt over what we should do for them. It was the ultimate gift.
As a Certified Heartwork Facilitator and Certified Hospice worker, my gift to you is to listen to your end-of-life stories, share my knowledge and resources, and answer your toughest questions. I’ve been a speaker and facilitator for over 35 years, engaging older adults to age well and to create great communities in which to age.
As an AARP Life Reimagined facilitator and board president for the NW Center for Creative Aging, I love to inspire older adults to embrace their aging.”
Contact: email@example.com or 206-920-6762
“I’m very connected to Heartwork in several ways. The first is that I’ve been working with Trudy James for the past three years as the director and videographer of the film “Speaking of Dying.” While collaborating on this project I became intimately involved in the issues around death and dying, and the difficulties we face if we are unprepared for it.
Through the course of our filmmaking project, I had the opportunity to meet many courageous people who made decisions about their end-of-life care, and were able to tell us why and how they did that. I witnessed first hand the benefit it brought to them in their final weeks and months of life, and how it made their deaths less burdensome for their loved ones. This experience gave me great insight into the powerful benefit of doing this Heartwork.
I also do geriatric care management and work directly with seniors and their families, helping many to manage care for chronic conditions. In doing this work I’ve witnessed both good and bad endings, and I’ve seen personally the great need for these kinds of discussions.
I’m passionate about this topic because I know how important it is to have the ability to die on our own terms, and not be at the mercy of chance, or God, or the medical system. My wish is that this work will inspire and enlighten, and enable us all to have a more gentle and peaceful passing.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-220-4091
Jennifer Kropack is 100% grateful for being born in Seattle. She graduated from The Evergreen State College and has worked at the Department of Health Office of Drinking Water for 23 years. One of her favorite tasks is training volunteer Board Members of HOA water systems. She is a lover of stories, and attends as many story-telling festivals as she can. She believes each person, with their own unique set of life experiences, is a walking library of knowledge, heart, and spirit. Community-based discussion circles are a way to share in a safe and intimate way, to learn from others, and to empower oneself to get end-of-life affairs taken care of so one can live life fully.
After 40 years in the corporate graphic design industry, Ginny made the plunge from sitting in front of a computer to sitting in front of a human… in the “get real and personal” world of a caregiver.
Since childhood, Ginny has always felt completely at ease with death, but after attending a Heartwork workshop she realized how little she knew about the choices available and the work of death and dying. Today, her Advance Directive gives intricate details for a meaningful, thoughtful death, right down to the specific music she wants played as she passes to the other side.
Ginny became a Heartwork facilitator because she knows firsthand how reassuring and peaceful it feels to have her “ducks in a row,” and to feel comfortable with an uncomfortable topic: death. She also became a facilitator because she has observed that elders who make choices and plan ahead not only feel at peace with dying but also seem to enjoy life more. They experience a much easier end-of-life transition, as do their friends and family members.
Ginny is the author of Don’t Make Lemonade: Leaning Into Difficult Transitions, the small but mighty memoir with a practical twist.
Contact: email@example.com or 206-769-4778
Pamela Steele, Ph.D., is an educational psychologist, certified mediator and conflict resolution trainer. She works with her clients on effective communication and defining practical and realistic ways to meet challenges head on.
Pam lost both of her parents and her only sibling within a two-and-a-half-year period. There was no communication, or even acknowledgment, about death and dying during this time, and there was no advance planning about health care decisions. None of the three of them would discuss the inevitable and, at that time, she didn’t know how to broach the topic. As a result, they were all robbed of those end-of-life meaningful conversations, and Pam was left with the burden of making health care decisions without their input. Out of this experience and its aftermath, she became committed to learning everything she could about the importance of identifying and defining ways to ensure that end-of-life needs are recorded and communicated to our health advocates, family members and health care providers.
Becoming a Heartwork Facilitator was the logical next step for Pam. She is honored to help people sort through their ideas about what would make a meaningful death, what they want their legacy to be, and how by thinking about these issues while they can ultimately frees up more energy and zest for their everyday life. It’s all about “Living Deeply, Dying Well.”
Pam conducts Heartwork workshops in sun-kissed Palm Springs, California. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-673-7407.
Caroline Stevens had a long career as a social worker before studying to become a registered nurse. She became interested in the mystery of death when her brother died as a young man over 40 years ago, and has continued to pursue that interest over the course of her life. She grew up in a family with five children, where she learned the value of hard work and education. In Caroline’s work she has always had a focus on teaching and helping people to be safe.
This is what she loves about nursing and being a Certified Heartwork Facilitator. She has always worked in careers that support these values. Caroline loves living in the woods at the end of a road adjacent to The Grand Forest on Bainbridge Island. She is fortunate to be in a habitat that nurtures “many creatures great and small.” She never tires of the thrill of spotting coyotes, deer, owls, and yes, even a raccoon now and then. She and her husband moved to Bainbridge Island in 2006 to escape the brutal Minnesota winters. They have since been adopted by a large, loving and very generous dog. Caroline is eternally grateful for many blessings including her family, the environment she lives in, the privilege of her education, and the many opportunities she has had in life to “pay forward” these blessings, including offering Heartwork End of Life Planning Workshops and consultation on Bainbridge Island and parts west of there.
As a nurse with over a decade of hospice experience, Martha VanDeMark feels privileged to have been present with hundreds of people during the end of their lives. She is passionate about end-of-life experiences and stories. Being a Certified Heartwork Facilitator has broadened her dedication, interest and commitment to community-based planning for good endings.
Martha brings a wealth of wisdom, humor, integrity and balance to end of life planning work. She is also interested in complimentary alternative medicine, including mindfulness, meditation and massage. She can often be found with her three grand children in Seattle volunteering at their school, enjoying nature or participating with them in meaningful community activities.
Contact: (425) 998-7360 (Transitions Nurse Coaching & Consulting business phone)
Laurel Riedel (Minnesota Facilitator)
For 28 years, Laurel Riedel guided women and families through the miracle and mystery of birth as a nurse midwife at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Every day, families taught her about their cultural, spiritual and family beliefs about pregnancy. She witnessed amazing joy and shared their unexpected losses and grief.
During this same time she cared for both parents through the changes of aging. While Laurel was growing up, her parents were open about their beliefs about death and dying. Despite the clarity of their wishes and the involvement of hospice, she still had to protect each of them from unwanted medical interventions. Laurel was able to be at each of their bedsides during their final days, sharing in the peaceful deaths her parents so wanted. She was moved by the profound similarity of birth and death.
When she traveled to Seattle to attend a Heartwork workshop, she found the small group to be a safe way to share stories and consider choices about end-of-life planning. Immediately she knew that she wanted to bring this compassionate approach to Minnesota. She believes that our final journey can truly reflect who we are, when we are clear about the care and comfort we want surrounding us.