Sooner or later, everyone eventually asks questions about end of life. What happens to me when my physical body dies? Is there an afterlife? If so, where do I go? Do my loved ones meet me? Will they usher me to the next plane of existence? In Diary of a Death Doula, psychic medium, and near-death experience researcher Debra Diamond presents the story of life as a hospice 'Death Doula', revealing 25 critical life lessons from those at the threshold of the afterlife, and those who have already crossed over, ultimately revealing a new way of understanding death.
|Publisher:||Hunt, John Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
Debra Diamond, Ph.D. is a psychic/medium, author and death doula. A former Wall Street money manager, CNBC commentator and Johns Hopkins University professor, life took a turn in 2008 when a transformational experience left Debra with unconventional powers as a clairvoyant. She has a Ph.D. in Metaphysics from the Esoteric Interfaith Theological Seminary. Debra lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
Read an Excerpt
A Cultural History of Death — It Wasn't Always Taboo
In the ancient world, human cultures were open to the mysteries of life; in some cases, more open than we are today. Our ancestors had respect for the invisible world, if for no other reason than their lack of an alternative explanation for virtually all natural phenomena. It was routine for ancient cultures to revere and respect the dead and they were commonly included in the lives of the living and even consulted for guidance. Sometimes they were treated in death as if they were still alive.
In ancient cultures the idea that the soul survived death was well accepted. Descriptions of communities of spirits, underworlds, heaven and realms of the dead were incorporated into life. Many of these beliefs continued throughout history and cultures for thousands of years. Not until we reach more modern times do these beliefs begin to be questioned or disregarded.
The Incas preserved their dead, sought their guidance, and even put them in chairs and carried them to parties and other social events. The Mayans buried their dead below the living room floor, to keep them involved as an extension of the family. This veneration of the ancestors stemmed partly from the belief that the dead continued to exist and partly as a way to ensure the ancestors' continued well-being.
Like the Mayans and the Incas, the Mesopotamians, going back in 3100 BCE, believed the dead continued an animated existence in the form of spirit. According to the Mesopotamians, the soul reunites with relatives who precede them in death, which is consistent with what I witnessed as a death doula. Anthropologists have discerned that nearly 2,500 years ago, the Mesopotamians believed that the soul was not immediately transported to the netherworld after bodily death, but had to undergo an arduous journey in order to reach it.
The ancient Egyptians believed that even in death they would live again, and these ideas are in many ways similar to what I encountered as a death doula. The continuity of life was demonstrated over and over in my work as patients traveled to their new home, visiting with family and loved ones on the other side, taking their beliefs, memories, and essence with them. To the Egyptians, death was the necessary first step to reaching the afterlife, a journey they prepared for thoroughly during their lifetimes.
Even in more recent Victorian times, death was openly discussed and mortality was confronted head-on. Death in those times was described as a journey of passage where the near and dear were ultimately heaven bound. Elaborate displays were part of the Victorian celebration of death and the advent of photography even enabled mourners to pose with the dead laid out in their coffins before they set off for burial.
Up until the twentieth century, most people died at home with family and friends around them. Death was an accepted part of life. Nowadays, we live much longer and prefer to lean towards the working hypothesis that medicine and healthy living — exercise, stress reduction and good nutrition — will prolong our lives and, psychologically speaking, that death won't actually happen to us!
The Impact of Religion On Our Beliefs About Death
It's really hard to talk about death and dying without some mention of religion and its power to comfort some, but strike fear in others. What about your own attitudes and apprehensions about death and dying? You may be religious and approach the subject with certain beliefs, or perhaps you count yourself among the growing number with no particular religious affiliation but are not an atheist either?
Undoubtedly, different religions and cultures and our own individual "buy in" of these beliefs greatly influence our views of life and death. Regardless of what they are, these values are drummed into most people from a very early age, and many find that later in life, they may begin to question these "truths." As a result, as we age, how we think of life and death can change dramatically.
Today in the West, we have no uniform religious or cultural beliefs, so we have no specific place where we believe everyone goes after death. We don't even have a uniform language for dying. Some simply say their loved ones died; others say they passed or passed over or made their transition or have gone home. The complex attitudes and language in the West arise from this "hodgepodge" of different cultures, theories, and religions all coming together to form our diverse society. Our wide-ranging beliefs include everything from reincarnation to purgatory to nirvana, and many gradations of each. We wrestle with and accommodate an unnerving combination of ideas and definitions.
Each religion has developed their own narrative over thousands of years to explain something that seems inexplicable.
As you can see, relying on religion doesn't provide a simple answer about what happens to us.
The Scientific View of Death
In contrast with religion, mainstream science has developed its own views of death, and as expected, they don't intersect much with more spiritual views. While some religions speak of a soul and spiritual consciousness, science generally doesn't endorse the concept that consciousness survives death. Actually, science can't even define consciousness — and they offer no definition for what we'd typically call "an extraordinary experience." Science requires proof, and these experiences and the notion of eternal life don't easily lend themselves to the proof designed to satisfy the scientific model.
The scientific method requires consistent corroboration and reproduction, but if you've ever had an extraordinary experience or even a dream, you know they can't be reproduced at will. Dreams and visions and even gut hunches are spontaneous events, and that's essentially the nature of our connection with the universe.
Likewise, consciousness itself is not standardized, and you'll see abundant evidence of that throughout this book. In short, consciousness can't be reproduced; it's dynamic, fueled by energy and as unique as each one of us. And that's precisely why the concept is problematic for science.
So, even to begin the discussion of what death actually is, we have to accept that death is a state we can't define. And beyond looking at physical, measurable signs, science can't explain it, either. Death, and consciousness itself, is as much a philosophic issue as a scientific one, and perhaps one day, we can resolve the whole matter in a realm not yet developed.CHAPTER 2
A Spiritual Journey
My story with hospice began seventeen years ago when my mother was close to death, and we called hospice in during those final weeks and days. Hospice made a profound impression on all of us, but especially me.
Before my mother passed, I'd never been close to death. Up to that point I'd never seen anyone die. I didn't understand that dying can go on for days, weeks, months. Nor did I realize that no profound last words are uttered, and the heavens don't open spectacularly, either.
When I was growing up, we weren't allowed to attend funerals — it was considered bad luck. On the day of the funeral, we'd be shuttled off to a family member or friend's house. But I always wondered, What was the mystery all about? What was I missing?
Prior to my mother's passing, my idea of death was based on what I'd seen in the movies. A lightning bolt would announce death. It would be something dramatic and startling. The heavens would open up and all the secrets of the Universe would be revealed. Naturally, I soon found out this view of death was an illusion, appropriate for the big screen, but not at all like actual death.
The dying process isn't like what we see in the movies or on TV. It's a process, just like birth. It takes a great deal of energy to die since we aren't simply moving ahead with life. That would take energy enough. Instead, we're moving ahead to another realm and that requires us to reorder our body and our essence to get there. In some sense, the easiest step is leaving our body.
The line between life and death is blurred, because there really is no line. We shift, we move on, but we still exist.
Our consciousness at the end of life
As I watched my mother during her last days, I noticed she spent most of her time elsewhere. She wasn't talking about her needs or sharing her thoughts, and she seemed to be in another "place." I wasn't sure where she was or who she was talking to, but I knew she was experiencing something unlike any aspect of death I'd ever heard of. She seemed to be traveling to a place where she was clearly participating and engaged. Looking back, I realize now there are senses beyond hearing that exist at end of life.
When we witness our loved ones sleeping at end of life, this is when they are actually hard at work, preparing for the new realm they will transition to. This is an important part of moving on. It's invisible to most people, but trust me, I've seen dying men and women do this preparatory work and it's a real process that allows them to adapt when they finally cross over.
In this preparation stage, we're given a glimpse of our new home, to help us become familiar and comfortable with what's ahead. While visiting this new place, we'll see recognizable, meaningful sights, which could include our families and loved ones, or others from our lives. Whoever and whatever we see, we'll have personally meaningful experiences that help create the bridge necessary to transition.
Hospice makes an impression
Hospice made an impression on me — an impression beyond the one that death makes on all of us. Perhaps this was meant to be, I've mused over the years, and especially as I began my work with hospice.
One day, when the hospice nurse came to visit my mother, she handed me a piece of paper. "You should read this," she said.
I assumed the note was about medications or equipment, or perhaps advice about funeral arrangements. Eventually, I looked at the paper the nurse handed me. It said:
If the body is ready and the soul isn't, you don't leave. If the soul is ready and the body isn't, you don't leave. When the soul is ready and the body is ready, then you leave.
I thought about this. It was a new way to look at death. Rather than a single event, this hospice professional was telling me that death is a process involving two separate contracts, body and soul.
I read the paper again, and thought more about it. In fact, I thought about it for the next 15 years. I knew then that one day I wanted to work with hospice. I didn't know in exactly what capacity, but I knew that I wanted to be of service. I also knew this was something that I was capable of doing and that I'd be comfortable working with the dying.
A transformational experience
People often ask, "Have you always been a psychic and medium?" Actually, I can say I always knew things. I just didn't know a descriptive label could be applied. When I was younger, I didn't understand my abilities and figured I just had "good instincts." I never aspired to be a medium. I didn't grow up thinking, "Gee, I hope I get to be a psychic or medium one day!" I pursued another path as a money manager, a Professor of Investments at Johns Hopkins University, and a CNBC commentator.
When I was in the money management business, my boss used to say, "Debra, you have great instincts." I decided that must be the answer. Yes, great instincts! Years later I found out my ability involved so much more. As I came to understand it, my gifts were beyond the ordinary.
Before I delve into my work as a death doula and medium, let me tell you about the transformational event I experienced. It's significant because it was the catalyst that led to a shift that meant leaving my successful career in the financial arena to pursue work as a psychic/medium and eventually a death doula. It set the wheels in motion for everything that followed.
In 2008, I had an experience that left me with unconventional powers as a clairvoyant. To be clear about this, I didn't go looking for an extraordinary experience. In fact, I didn't even know what an extraordinary experience was. Briefly, here's what happened. I took an intuition development class in New York, because I figured I had pretty good intuition and it would be fun to give it a tune-up.
At one point in the class, after we did several elementary exercises, our teacher announced that we were going to do a séance. I consulted the schedule. A séance? No way! I thought I was here to learn telepathy. And maybe a few tools to enhance my intuition. I reconsidered and resigned myself to doing this one séance and moving on to the next exercise. What did I have to lose? Nothing was going to happen anyway.
The teacher guided the class into a meditative state and said she'd take us out of the meditation in a few minutes. She also said if we "saw" anything, we should let her know and she would tell us what to do next. I knew I wouldn't see anything, and as I meditated with the class, I felt the wooden chair pressing up against my back, the warm air circulating in the room, and the taxis honking on 7th Avenue. A few minutes later, the teacher brought us out of our meditation.
"Okay. Does anyone 'see' anything?" she asked.
I looked around the room. Everyone was looking at each other. I raised my hand.
"Yes, Debra. What do you see?" the teacher asked.
"I see about 50 people," I said. I explained I saw my relatives who had passed. I saw friends and relatives of classmates in the room. I also saw random people, including 42nd Street showgirls and pushcart peddlers strolling across the room. There was a whole vibrant world unfolding in front of me, invisible but as real as this one.
The teacher then asked, "Do you see anyone in the corner of the room? Because if you see someone in the corner, they probably go with someone sitting in that corner."
"I do," I said. "I see someone in the right corner."
She asked me to describe the person and I described a Hispanic man in his 20s, with long dark hair parted in the middle and a big, handlebar mustache. As I described him, the woman in the corner began to sob.
"I can identify him," she said. "He was my fiancé." She wanted to know if I could identify him from pictures she had on her cell phone.
I said I could, so during the break she flipped through her pictures. "There!" I said, pointing at a picture of a dark-haired man with a handlebar mustache. "That's him!"
"Yes," she replied. "That's him. I've wanted to connect with him since he passed but I never heard from him. I was so disappointed." As she hugged me, she thanked me for making the connection she so desperately wanted. She was thrilled about what happened in the session.
An unwanted shift
Now remember, I come from Wall Street. There are no hugs on Wall Street. And no thank you's either. I wasn't accustomed to the kind of reaction I got from this young woman. But it wasn't lost on me that I'd done something meaningful for her and had made a connection she'd longed for. I was shaken up but I was also grateful — not to mention stunned and overwhelmed.
It took me months to deal with this experience. I didn't discuss it with anyone, choosing to try to ignore it. I didn't have an explanation or context for what happened and no idea of what to make of it. As time went on, though, I began to understand that I was working with energy. That we are energy and that everything is energy. My gift is my ability to connect to our energetic essence.
Over time, I not only adjusted to my new talents and abilities, I learned to embrace these gifts, to speak to those who had passed and work with the energy I was given. In time, as I became comfortable with my abilities, I relaxed about the connections I was able to make. I began to do readings, lecture, write, and establish a practice as a psychic/medium. In fact, I've even come to think of myself as normal, which shows just how far I've come.
My profound personal transformation, which began in an intuition class in New York, became the foundation of my work.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Diary of a Death Doula"
Copyright © 2018 Debra Diamond.
Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Author's Preface, 1,
Part One, 13,
A Cultural History of Death — It Wasn't Always Taboo,
The Impact of Religion On Our Beliefs About Death, 14,
The Scientific View of Death, 15,
Part Two, 17,
A Spiritual Journey,
The Role of Hospice, 24,
What Exactly Is a Death Doula?, 25,
What's a Medium?, 32,
Part Three, 35,
Lesson One: Death is Not About Dying. It's About Living,
Lesson Two: Death is a Process Involving Body and Soul, 43,
Lesson Three: Families of Hospice Patients Need Support, Too, 51,
Lesson Four: We Retain Our Senses at End of Life, 59,
Lesson Five: It's Impossible to Predict When Death Will Occur, 69,
Lesson Six: Our Chakras Transform at End of Life, 77,
Lesson Seven: The Soul Leaves the Body to Journey at End of Life, 85,
Lesson Eight: There is Something Larger That Exists and We Are All Part of It, 91,
Lesson Nine: Living Well is at the Sacred Center of Life and Death, 95,
Lesson Ten: Our Soul is Intact at End of Life, No Matter What Our Physical Condition Is, 101,
Lesson Eleven: Having Conversations About Death is Important, 107,
Lesson Twelve: It's Important to Let Go of Your Expectations of a Person at End of Life, 111,
Lesson Thirteen: Never Assume the Dying Cannot Hear You, 119,
Lesson Fourteen: Our Loved Ones in Spirit are Waiting in the Wings at End of Life, 125,
Lesson Fifteen: Family and Friends May Deal With Death Through Denial, 131,
Lesson Sixteen: You Never Know if That Last Breath is Their Last Breath, 139,
Lesson Seventeen: Each Passing is Different, 145,
Lesson Eighteen: We Feel Loved, Peaceful, and Safe as We Journey to Higher Realms, 151,
Lesson Nineteen: We May Mention an "Appointment" to Keep at End of Life, 155,
Lesson Twenty: Personal Items Add Energy and Love to a Patient's Room, 161,
Lesson Twenty-One: Granting Permission to Die Is Implicit, 169,
Lesson Twenty-Two: Angels and Celestial Caregivers Assist Us at End of Life, 177,
Lesson Twenty-Three: Synchronicity Exists in Life and Death, 183,
Lesson Twenty-Four: As We Ascend, We Pass Through Ever Higher Levels of Consciousness, 187,
Lesson Twenty-Five: We May Will Ourselves to Die, 191,
25 Lessons the Dying Teach Us About the Afterlife, 198,
Part Four, 201,
Consciousness at End of Life, at Death and in the Afterlife,
What I Learned As a Death Doula, 203,
The Meaning of Living and Dying, 204,
Note to Reader, 205,
Book Club Discussion Guide, 206,