In addition to the verbal strategies used by current practitioners and those rooted in religious beliefs, we are facilitating the use our bodies and spaces as tools to obliquely face the heaviness and emotional burden of facing death.
Pain is not just physical. Especially when we are dying, suffering extends from our physical bodies into the spaces of our hearts and minds. While existing services provide relief through discursive methods, our interviews with caregivers illuminated that these sacred internal spaces can be closed off to the conscious mind. Sensory experiences have the power to bring us comfort through neural networks that reach our deepest, unconsciously held memories. Jazz music or grains of sand alter experiences of pain by stimulating an atmosphere that invigorates patients with a sense of self and aesthetic beauty.
In a culture that hides death and glorifies the fight for life, we delay conversations about important preferences and choices to uphold in our deathbed, until it’s too late. The result is that most Americans die hearing sounds of heart monitors and smelling disinfectant. Even among the few who choose to die at home, little attention is paid to the senses by caregivers, who are burdened with logistics and their own emotional experience.
With the support of this award, we will build on our previous work. Our plan is to draw from our own experience with doula training and also collaborate with caregivers to translate the perspective and content we’ve developed thus far. We will also experiment in various spaces to discover new hacks, asking how might we manipulate the common elements of a room in simple ways, to transform a dying person’s experience?