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The Chrysalis Room: Creating Sacred Space for Dying

Long term care communities can provide a beautiful private room, like a birthing room, for loved ones to keep vigil with the dying.

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My mother spent the final six years of her life in a long-term care community.  During those years, I watch other residents experience dying without the kind of privacy and support that I knew, as a hospice volunteer, could be offered in this place that became "home" for so many, including my mother.  I witnessed the distress that staff suffered when residents died.  And I witnessed the sadness that other residents revealed when their friends died.  Most residents live in shared rooms, with nowhere for loved ones to comfortably keep vigil.  Often, there is secrecy around the person dying.   I was able to convince the nursing home to convert a large storage room in a quiet corner of the building and a view to a garden, into the first Chrysalis Room.  My mother was one of the first residents to experience a peaceful, supported transition surrounded by family, staff and other residents.  You can see photos from the last eight days of her life and the hours after her death when her devoted hospice aide came to care for her body.   This room, named for the stage of transformation between the caterpillar and butterfly, became sacred space for honoring the final passage out of this life.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Loved one have a deep desire to "be present" for the dying. There are emotional and spiritual as well as social needs to be met. In long-term care communities--and hospitals-- there is often no privacy provided for loved ones to gather and keep vigil. There is simply no room to be present. Some long term care communities--especially rural ones--often have no access to hospice care.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am an entrepreneur with a capacity to companion people through the end of life, which I have been doing for 30 years. I completed the Metta Institute program in '06 and in '09 an MA in Gerontology.

If you participated in an End of Life Storytelling Event, tell us which Chapter or city you came from:

Chicago, IL



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