Michelle Peticolas, Ph.D is dedicated to shifting the way people think about and deal with death. Filmmaker, speaker, educator and coach, she helps people discover the life-enhancing lessons within the challenges of illness, death and loss.
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With an infectious curiosity, irreverent sense of humor and life-embracing spirit, Michelle gives presentations on death that are both uplifting and mind-expanding.
Using films, meditation and storytelling, filmmaker Dr. Peticolas facilitates the exploration of death, caring for the dying and grieving. By opening up the dialogue she enables people with life-threatening illness, healthcare professionals and ordinary people to examine their fears, share their needs, identify their challenges and enliven their approach to death and, simultaneously, to life.
“In the last analysis, it is our conception of death which decides our answers to all the questions that life puts to us.” — Dag Hammerskjold, former Secretary of the United Nations
CALL or EMAIL Michelle for additional information about her speaking services or to plan for your next community or staff event.
1. Facing Death While Living Life
Although death awaits us all, it’s a subject our culture prefers to avoid. In this workshop, we face it straight on. Through the award-wining documentary Facing Death . . . with open eyes participants are introduced to the stories of four insightful individuals who share profound truths about living fully while facing death. This presentation will help participants to:
- Explore beliefs and fears around death
- Imagine worst-and best-case scenario for dying
- Indentify unfinished business
- Make action plans that support needs around dying
- Become a more comfortable and less resistant to facing death.
Encouraged by the honesty of the film, participants can discuss their feelings and thoughts about dying in a safe and supportive space. They share their insights and listen to the stories of others. It’s a recipe that can reduces fears around death and enhance they way they life their lives.
Professionals are encouraged to explore their own beliefs about death while gaining insights into their clients’ experiences. Issues around working with dying patients or those who fear dying are explored.
2. Caring for Dying: the art of being present
In the face of impending death, the needs of the caregiver are often forgotten. In this workshop, the caregiver gets center stage. Viewing the film, Caring for Dying: the art of being present, participants are invited to recall our own experiences as three courageous individuals share their best and worst stories of accompanying the dying.
From this workshop participants will:
- Gain valuable insights about the spiritual and emotional rewards of caring for the dying
- Learn how to avoid or navigate some of the traps and pitfalls
- Practice strategies for staying present
- Discover the healing power of forgiveness and letting go.
Using the tales in the film as a starting point, workshop members are asked to explore their hopes, fears, struggles and regrets around caregiving. Hearing the stories of others, they can gain new insights and understanding, learn that they are not alone and discover new avenues for forgiveness.
The film heightens awareness around the experience of clients and family. Through guided meditation participants are invited to review their caregiving experience, as recipient or provider, and to discover how that can inform their work with patients. Break-out groups allow exploration of issues that arise around working with the dying and strategies for being more present and aware.
3. The Heart of Grieving
Because contemporary Western society has such an aversion to death it is often difficult to find either the space or emotional support that is so necessary to handling loss. In this workshop, grief gets center stage. Beginning with the screening of the documentary, The Heart of Grieving, workshop participants are invited to take a journey from diagnosis to death to mourning as four individuals recall the arduous and at times ecstatic process of grieving.
Participants will gain:
- A deeper understanding for the process of grief
- Effective strategies for coping with loss
- Ideas for handling painful anniversaries and milestones
- Personal insight as to how death can be an impetus for positive transformation.
Participants are invited to recall the deaths of important others in their lives, how they dealt with it and what they learned. Topics for exploration include ways to facilitate a peaceful death, cultural and religious upbringing regarding the handling of the death, artful approaches to honoring the deceased, coping with grief and acknowledging the mystery.
The film provides professionals with an opportunity to explore grief and loss around the death of clients and effective ways to address it. It provides insights into the client/family experience and facilitates a greater awareness of personal beliefs around death and how it impacts client service.
See Past Sponsors for a list of organizations that have sponsored community or staff workshops.