Lannette Cornell Bloom is passionate about bringing simple joys to others. As a Registered Nurse and health practitioner of more than 32 years, Lannette has seen first hand the need to care for others, both emotionally and physically.
When her mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness in 2003, she came to understand how critical it is that we talk about death in a more positive way and see that emotional healing is possible through mindful choices. She now shares her story and that wisdom in her book, Memories in Dragonflies, Simple Lessons for Mindful Dying.
KIMBERLY: Welcome everybody, welcome to Spiritual Biz Chat for Spiritual Biz Magazine, I am your host, Kimberly Maska, and today we have joining us Lannette Cornell Bloom, a Registered Nurse and health practitioner who shares her story and wisdom in her new book, Memories in Dragonflies, Simple Lessons for Mindful Dying. Welcome, Lannette, and thank you for being with us, how are you doing today?
LANNETTE: Hi Kimberly! I’m great, very excited to be chatting with you!
KIMBERLY: Fantastic! So, could you share the story behind your personal journey down the path to your current life’s purpose and work?
LANNETTE: I’m a pediatric nurse by trade, and used to help babies come into the world on a daily basis. It was extraordinary to be present for all those first gasps of breath and the joyful moments shared between family members and their new loved one.
It was years later, after raising two daughters of my own, that I was confronted with the other side of the life experience when my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I was fortunate to be in a position with support from my family so I could quit my job and care for my mom full-time. It was very hard watching the person I loved so much, and who had always been there for me, dwindling away. And yet, in spending that time with my mom in the last year of her life, I came to a new understanding of death and the dying process as well as how to live more fully.
Years later, when I looked back on that time, I could only recall the positive moments. I felt that I had to share my memories and help others uncover the beauty in the dying process through mindfulness. Yet my message is as much about living mindfully as it is about dying mindfully.
KIMBERLY: While writing of “mindful dying”, what would you advise to family members entering the caregiving experience with their own parents or loved ones?
LANNETTE: First, there is no one way or “right” way to move through this process. Howeve,r each family member can be there for the loved one in need of care is okay. The important thing is to make sure there is open communication, that everyone listens and feels heard as decisions are made. Discuss what each family member can and can’t handle and who will be able to do what tasks. Never be afraid to ask for help and support, whether it’s from other family members, friends, or healthcare professionals.
KIMBERLY: Such a helpful advice, Lannette. And to take it further, how should an adult child navigate this shift when they become a caregiver for their parent?
LANNETTE: First, it’s important to think about what that shift will look like for your life and how your life will be affected. You don’t need to have all the answers, but it’s helpful to look ahead to both big and smalls changes such as needing to quit a job or using a grocery service.
As much as you can, organize your own life and schedule so that you don’t get stressed out as you transition to helping your parent in what their daily needs will be. You can keep a shared calendar so everyone involved is aware of all obligations, appointments, and needs.
Again, communicate with other family members and friends. Find out who can be a support for you as you become a support for your loved one.
KIMBERLY: How can caregivers balance the opposing poles of the experience: nurturing the sick while holding onto their own independence and health, the anguish of pending death v. the miracle of life?
LANNETTE: As I said before, organization and communication are key. As you start this journey of caregiving, you will beign to create a daily or weekly routine. When you know what you have to do each day, when you have to do it, and who else is involved, you’ll be able to see what is or isn’t working and when you’ll have time for yourself.
There is nothing wrong with needing help.
Whether you can step down the hall to take a few deep breaths, or someone can relieve you for a break, it’s important to take time for yourself throughout the day—and especially at the end of the day.
Most likely, how much you do for your parent will gradually increase as they grow worse. Having a routine and schedule will allow you to open up to experience and appreciate the time spent with your loved one rather than being overwhelmed and run down from the activities of daily living.
KIMBERLY: And in the midst of it all, what role does the hospice care play in the lives of those dealing with terminal illness?
LANNETTE: Think of hospice as a backbone—they become your support system towards the end—generally, when your loved one has six months or less to live. They help you care for your loved one and make sure they are not in pain or suffering. What’s so neat about hospice, though, is it’s not just about your loved one’s physical comfort. They take into account the mind, body, and soul while guiding you and your loved one through the dying process.
KIMBERLY: Let’s talk a bit about the book you have written, “Memories in Dragonflies, Simple Lessons for Mindful Dying”. Our audience probably has an idea already of what the book is about and who it is for. But what is the most important thing you want them to know before purchasing and opening your book?
LANNETTE: I wrote this book, first and foremost, to inspire others in their lives and caretaking journeys to shift their perspective of death and dying. Losing a loved one is one of life’s greatest hardships, and yet the experience does not have to be wholly negative. I am proof that there is joy to be found within the struggle. My hope is that, in reading my book, others will begin to uncover their own joys to cherish.
KIMBERLY: Is there a final message you want to let the audience know? Or just any last little words that you have for them?
LANNETTE: Finding joy in a hard situation may seem impossible when you’re going through it. But it can be as simple as bringing your loved one flowers to brighten their room, asking your parent a question about their childhood over tea, or—as I learned—sitting in fast food parking lot with your loved one, eating hamburgers.
All of us have the ability to slow down, shift our mindset, and dive into the precious moments happening in everyday life, no matter what the situation or how long we have to say goodbye to a loved one.
KIMBERLY: If our readers wanted to reach you, where can they find you? And where can they find your book?
KIMBERLY: Thank you, Lannette, very much! It has been such a pleasure chatting with you today and learning about your work.
LANNETTE: Thank you so much for your thoughtful questions, Kimberly!