Ask a Death Doula Podcast: How do we reduce the fear of death? – by learning the truth about it. The Art of Doulagiving
Guest: Teri-Portugal Gooden
Ask a Death Doula Podcast: How do we reduce the fear of death? – by learning the truth about it. The Art of Doulagiving
Guest: Teri-Portugal Gooden
#deathdoula, #deathdoulas, #Doulagivers, #endoflife, #endoflifedoulas, #grief, and #hospice
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Speaker 1 (00:02):
Hi everyone. And welcome to the art of doula giving. This is our spotlight series on our doula giver graduates. And I am thrilled to share them with you. There are so many amazing people in this space that I am so honored and privileged to be a part of, and then to see what they are doing out in the world to make it a better place for everyone in it. Today, I have an amazing guest that I’m gonna share with you. This is Terry Portugal, Gooden. She is a certified end of life, doula giver specialist, a former professional chef restaurant tour, and entrepreneur Terry has served in the doula role for, from a very young age when she first sat vigil at her great grandmother’s bedside and bore witness to the grace. That is a peaceful death. Everyone had left the room and Terry and her Gaga were alone.
Speaker 1 (00:57):
Terry applied Gaga’s favorite lipstick and sat at her bedside. Speaking words of love Gaga experienced the surge before death and kissed Terri all over her face and told her that she loved her and not to worry because it is beautiful. When the rest of the family returned Gaga had died and Terri sat at her side with a face full of kisses for more than three decades. Terry served many at the end of life through her pastoral care department of her spiritual community. When Terry retired from her business in 2020, she knew she wanted to live a purpose filled life and was led to doula givers. As founder of infinite passage, Terry is passionate about empowering her clients and their loved ones by providing holistic support, education and guidance throughout their end of life experience. She is a strong proponent for home funerals and a passionate advocate for green burial and the evolution of death care. Terry walks beside her clients and their families each step of the journey with compassionate care, holding the sacred space for a graceful and dignified death. Terry, welcome.
Speaker 2 (02:11):
Thank you so much, Suzanne. I’m so honored to be here. Thank you so much.
Speaker 1 (02:15):
Well, I wanna thank you for answering the call and this is the art of doula giving because it is an art and it’s a beautiful, loving, holistic, uh, model that we live not only for end of life, but it teaches us about life. And I, I just got goosebumps when I read about your Gaga and that experience from a young age and the sacredness of death, because right now we’ve removed all of that from this experience and it’s causing deaths to be a thousand times more challenging. So I wanna start with the spotlight that we ask, um, a few questions and then we can let this go wherever it needs to go. So the first thing I wanna ask and you can expand and answer in any and all ways. When did you know that you had the calling to be a doula giver?
Speaker 2 (03:08):
A doula giver specifically was when I found you.
Speaker 1 (03:14):
Speaker 2 (03:14):
I, I always had, as I, as you mentioned, and when reading my bio that I had always worked and volunteered and found myself just randomly. Yeah. You know, in that space with the terminally ill, the dying, you know, throughout my early, early childhood. And I wrote a paper about it when I was in the fourth grade and I got called into the principal’s office. <laugh> they thought that was totally weird, but I just, you know, I’ve always felt it I’ve always felt a space for my elders. All of my friends were elders growing up. I mean, I learned the best lessons of my entire life in the kitchen of my elder women. Yes. And family, I mean, sitting in the room, you know, that Hamilton line in the room where it happens, you know, and just hearing their stories and their conversations and, you know, it, it’s just, it’s always moved me in a very profound way. So I
Speaker 1 (04:13):
Love that. I love that. So very much, you know, you’re really, you know, an honorary doula. It, it’s just part of your being, you have that gift, you have that gift of being comfortable and having a knowing within this space that right now is the number one. Death is the number one fear in the world. So I often will say for those of you who have this gift, for those of you who are innately comfortable, for whatever reason, you can pinpoint it to something, or it’s just is please step forward, whether for family, community, or for being a doula, because the world need to very much now. So that’s really beautiful. I wanna talk about your Gaga. I wanna talk about this experience because it is amazing. And one of the things that we are doing in the doula givers Institute, and a lot of, again, the free training that we do is bringing back the natural sacredness of the end of life experience.
Speaker 1 (05:07):
And part of that is sharing with people to be honest with children, to, from a very young age, age appropriately, how they can understand, do not shield them, do not remove them from it’s. One of the greatest gifts you can give children is know that this is a natural part of the cycle. And it sounds like you had that. So could you expand a little bit on that story? Because I just love it. How old were you? Did anyone talk to you about it? I mean, I know that you were gifted to be among elder populations, which is another awareness that I want people to hear. The, our elders are such a resource of everything, of love, of connection, of how to live. And yet we’ve removed them from society. We, we act like they don’t have value because they, you know, in in fact, a hundred years ago, or a little over a hundred years ago, the older you were the cooler you were because you were the wisdom keepers, you held the story. So people used to lie up let’s, you know, that’s really great. Now it’s Google, but, but it’s not, cuz nothing can replace that care and the wisdom. And also, you know, that it’s our responsibility to be compassionate, loving to our El to any population. So let’s talk about your Gaga.
Speaker 2 (06:27):
Oh my gosh. She was just everything. She was just everything. She had come to this country from Ukraine. God bless Ukraine. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and she was very young and she came with my, well, my great-grandfather had come first and then she came a little bit later, Lisa, this is what, as I recall the story. Yeah. And she was just my favorite person in the whole wide world. And I was born to a young mom who was divorced, you know, though when I was like two mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so I spent a great deal of time with her and she would, she told me so many stories, like how, when they came to this country and there was like an underground and all the women really took care of the entire community in every single way. Wow. You know, making sure that families had food, medical care, beautiful birth care, death care.
Speaker 2 (07:23):
I mean just in every way and being a, an immigrant, you know, to this country and facing all of the things that they faced as, you know, coming here, not speaking the language, just everything. There was a, a whole community of people like them that were not necessarily from the same part of the world. There was African American people. There were other, you know, people that had come to this country from fleeing the war and, you know, and, and everything that went along with it. And it was just a huge community of like-minded individuals trying to build a new life yeah. In their, in their own vision. Yeah. You know, really. Yeah. And they brought, and my grandmother, my great grandmother brought with her wisdom from her grandmother.
Speaker 1 (08:13):
Speaker 2 (08:13):
And, and she was, you know, that’s where I learned food is love. Cause you know, we would just be in the kitchen together and she would always cook and I cook with her and that was, you know, my joy.
Speaker 1 (08:26):
Speaker 2 (08:27):
And um, so she was a remarkable person.
Speaker 1 (08:31):
Yeah. She really does sound like it. And I think that the community taking care of community is, again, one of the things when we do our free level one, when we make this offering available to everyone in the world every month and even in person when we can, is really trying to get back to that community, taking care of community because that’s where magic happens. We don’t need a lot to be passed to. We can care for one another. We just have to wanna do that. We just have to, you know, be willing to create those spaces, bring down the walls a bit. So may I ask you that, that time that she was in her transition and what was that like? It must have, what did you think when she had a surge of energy, which by the way, not everyone gets, but if you don’t know about this, everyone, it’s when somebody is very close to the end, sleeping a lot. And then all of a sudden wakes up and as clear as day and yeah, it’s a very magical time.
Speaker 2 (09:27):
I, you know, it’s, it’s interesting because you’ve asked the question many times what called you to this space? Mm-hmm <affirmative> and I, and I, and I, and all of those memories came flooding back to me. Yeah. Cause in so many memories. Yeah. And I was sitting next to her, you know, bedside and everybody else had walked out, cuz everybody was, was very, very gutted. Mm-hmm <affirmative> my GRA my great grandmother had three children. My grandfather, my mother’s father, um, was, was extremely upset about it. But I always, I always knew that she and I had a special, I couldn’t imagine, but I always knew that we had a very special relationship and she used to stand and wave at me from her porch. And I used, I asked her, don’t do that right now. You know, don’t do that. So I just was not even surprised to be on him. Yeah. Yeah. I didn’t even know what to expect. It just seemed like the most natural thing in the world. Yeah. And I didn’t realize, even though she loved her lipstick, so I had put it on her. I don’t even know where, how I got it, but she, but she woke up and she just, you know, took my face and she kissed me all over my face and she told me that, you know, don’t worry, don’t be, don’t be afraid, you know, all of those things.
Speaker 1 (10:49):
Speaker 2 (10:50):
And, and then she died and then my, you know, and I just, I mean, just, just feeling that right now is like very moving for me. And it was, it wasn’t even that it was when my grandfather came into the room and basically crumpled mm-hmm <affirmative> and I, and I was holding, I, I was holding him up, telling him what he told me, you know? Yeah. And I realized that I had, and I felt a power and a strength yeah. Within me that I, I couldn’t even language at the time, you know?
Speaker 1 (11:27):
Yeah. And I don’t know that there is a language for it, you know, I try. So what you’re describing is very similar to many of the experiences that I’ve had with my beautiful patients at the end of life. And it’s almost indescribable the piece, the Seren, the connection to something so much greater than what we normally think of and that it solidifies that you there’s an omnipresence of us, all that, this and it’s, and it’s love at this point, you know, it’s dropping the physical human part of us and having that spiritual part that is just so full of light and shine. And it exists forever. When you feel that when you know that yes, that physical, person’s not there. But boy, there is like a piece in serenity that goes along with that. So I, I love that. And I love that. She said to you, don’t worry.
Speaker 1 (12:20):
It’s beautiful. And again, this is what people share with me. So for those of us who work in this area, it’s very important for us to allow people to know the truth about what death is like, because now there’s a big, um, illusion around it. There is a fear around it. People don’t see it. So they don’t know. We wanna tell them that it can be beautiful, that it is sacred, that it is natural. And then of course give them practical skills of support, because we all know that we’re gonna get there. Beautiful. So you were really on this pathway. And I, when I look back at my journey, I’ve been on this pathway the whole entire time. In fact, when I was on, when I was a hospice nurse, which I was called the hospice, I went and became an oncology nurse after a few years because I said to myself, I really wanna know what people go through before they get to hospice.
Speaker 1 (13:08):
So I can be a better practitioner, not ever thinking that I’d be on a platform of educating, but all of those steps. And of course they were organically led. I just follow my heart, um, led us to this incredible education that we can really support. Thank you for that, that you were on that path. And I, and thank you for just again, bringing in the, the youth into this fold. Cause I think it’s very hard for anyone to talk about death, but when we say children can be a part of this age, appropriately, people are like, wait, but then we explain why. So it’s a beautiful thing. The second question that I wanna ask in this, um, interview is how has being a doula giver and doing this work personally changed your life.
Speaker 2 (13:52):
Speaker 1 (13:52):
And I think you said at the beginning, Terry, I think you said something about it taught you everything about life
Speaker 2 (13:57):
<laugh> Yes. Yes. And when I first heard, heard you say that, it was like, oh my gosh. Cause I really didn’t know the direction that I would go in. My only intention was after a 30 year business that left me ravaged on so many levels.
Speaker 1 (14:19):
Speaker 2 (14:19):
I, you know, I had to take a time out. Yep. And during that time out, I had the blessing and privilege to, you know, be there for my brother-in-law when he, um, had a massive stroke mm-hmm <affirmative> and nobody knew what to do.
Speaker 1 (14:41):
Speaker 2 (14:42):
N you know, there, hi, his wife knew absolutely nothing about anything. He had always taken care of everything mm-hmm <affirmative>. And even though I I’ve been after her for years to please, you know, get the documents, have the documents, you know? Yeah. I mean, even to the point where she had to get, show her marriage certificate, to be able to do things sure. Which, which, you know, she just conceived. God knows how <laugh> and, but that was a problem. And there was no, there was no advanced care planning for in the event that, you know, some, either one of them were to pass away. Right. So I had to just fr and I, and I found him as well. So it was like from the beginning, and then, you know, just the, the, what I knew, what I knew. And I don’t really, you know, from all of the experience that I had had, and with my own mother, doing her advanced care directors when she had breast cancer and also the preplanning for her disposition and with my brother-in-law, um, that was just in July of 2021.
Speaker 2 (15:58):
Mm. So I helped in, you know, to get the plot mortuary yeah. Plan the funeral, produce it, all of those things. And it was all. And then when I think when I left there, I realized that this is what I meant to do. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and I really, my first step was in palliative care. Um, and that’s what I started to study initially, um, online, through Stanford medical school. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and, and I just, I mean, palliative care, palliative care, palliative care, I’m, I’m like all, I’m just believe that so strongly. Yeah. And then, you know, one step led to another and I’ve, you know, oh, end of life doula, that’s me, you know? Yeah. And so, and I have had the opportunity to speak on it now mm-hmm <affirmative> and I have had, I have had a patient since I’ve been, uh, certified, you know, and it’s just a beautiful space and you never know what you’re gonna walk into. You just know that you just know what the guarantee is at the end of the day, you know? Yeah.
Speaker 1 (17:07):
Speaker 2 (17:08):
Speaker 1 (17:08):
So what does it feel like to have found your purpose and to honor your calling? Because this is not exactly textbook. I don’t think when they were offering like options, when we’re growing up a nurse, like a, whatever, the, whatever the options are, a teacher and all that good stuff. Doctor’s lawyer. I never heard about a doula giver, but I also know that even today, um, to honor and step into that, knowing and calling is not always clear what that looks like or why, or how that’s gonna present. But I know that when I did, when I honored that my whole life opened up in a way, just that feeling of, I found why I’m here, I’m doing something to be of service I’m connecting in the most loving way that I could possibly think of. Is, is that something that you can relate to? Is that how you feel?
Speaker 2 (18:06):
Absolutely. Absolutely. Mm-hmm <affirmative> for me, I had to unravel completely. I’m gonna get emotional, just, just, yeah. Thinking about it. But honestly, you know, I had been in a very demanding business for 30 years. Um, very high demand of every aspect of my energy. And when I decided to close in that moment that I decided that to, to close, I had the opportunity. I felt like my, my, that, that chapter was complete mm-hmm <affirmative> and, and all I wanted for my next chapter was to do something that, where I was living a purpose filled life, I wanted to be of service. Yeah. That’s always been a part of my life is to be of service I’ve and, and this service found me probably 20 plus times in my life. Right. Including birthing babies too. I’ve been on that side of the doula movement also. Yep. And I thought, and I thought perhaps I would be a birth doula and I had a very powerful woman wanting, you know, she wanted to train me to work with her and it’s an energy I, I really believe. And I’ve heard you say so many times everything is energy. And for me, it’s an energy. And I feel like I am completely home.
Speaker 1 (19:31):
Speaker 2 (19:32):
Such a and that’s. Yes. And, and, and the empathy that I have learned my empathic nature is, you know, is able to be completely present. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, you don’t have to dial it down. I don’t have to make excuses for it. I can celebrate it. I can offer it. I can, you know, and that empathetic nature has shown me things, you know, just most recently, about two weeks ago, when my person was in active, dying stage, and we were there doing ritual for her and her two daughters were there and her elder sister and, and we were at the, we were at her, um, bedside. And I just was sitting, standing there at the foot of her bed and my eyes were closed and I felt the room completely fill up mm-hmm <affirmative> around us. Mm-hmm <affirmative> it was like crowded. Like you couldn’t fit one more soul in there. Wow. And I, and I just knew. Yeah. I just knew that she was such an amazing human in life.
Speaker 1 (20:43):
Speaker 2 (20:44):
She was definitely being, you know, escorted to her next journey with so much love and celebration. And, and I, and I was able to say that,
Speaker 1 (20:57):
Speaker 2 (20:57):
Ordinarily you’re like, yeah, my goodness. You know, you think twice, but that’s how it’s really changed my life. I could be my 100% authentic self.
Speaker 1 (21:07):
There you go. And how, how much does that allow you to just breathe when you’re able to be yourself and not be trying to fit into this and that and listening to everyone else when you’re like, this is me, this is my heart. This is my purpose. It is like, yes. And I think that comes with age. And I think there’s a beautiful thing about age because of that. But your empathy is your best medicine. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> let that love and let that empathy be there because it just engulfs and holds people. It’s so beautiful. So I absolutely love that. Okay. We need to talk about you and your new business and what you’re doing and how people can get in touch with you. So, a few things I just want to highlight here is that you are a doula giver specialist. So you do care consulting work, you do advanced care planning, which everyone knows that we are gonna have an end of life. And when you plan ahead, 80 to 90%, it can go better, no matter what the disease process is. So this is something everyone so important for you to do. It’s the greatest gift you can give your families. So you also had mentioned that you did a talk, can you just share about what you’re doing right now with your business and how people can get in touch with you?
Speaker 2 (22:24):
I am open and receptive for every opportunity that comes my way to serve. That’s what I say every morning. You know, that, and it has come in a myriad of ways, but in the midst of it all, I feel that I am a doula mm-hmm <affirmative>, and that is the space that I walk into every opportunity and every meeting with mm-hmm <affirmative> and I have been, I’m a, I’m a new doula
Speaker 1 (22:55):
Speaker 2 (22:56):
And I had the, I, you know, and I’ve spoken to a group of people that have been meeting with each other for 15, 20 years, like a very, very long time. And from that, you know, and when I got there, I thought I was gonna talk about something and then I was talking about something else. So my, my, I really, I am doing advanced care planning. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I am helping people with that. You know, I am try I’m. I do a lot of talking about it before people really are ready to, you know, acknowledge that it’s, that you get past the part of, you know, it’s your death, you know, it’s not, it doesn’t have anything to do with your death that has to do with your life.
Speaker 1 (23:45):
Speaker 2 (23:46):
And that’s the, that’s the mindset that, you know, we are, you know, as the doulas and end of care doula end of life, doulas, that we are educating people for mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, is that this is your life. Yes. And so I do advance care planning. Um, I do trusts, I do, uh, living wills. I help people navigate that space. I have a legal paralegal background as well. So that comes naturally to me. Um, I am working on all of my assets, you know, as we speak, I have my website now, which Ising and infinite passage is the name of, of my, um, infinite passage, LLC. And it’s infinite-passage.com.
Speaker 1 (24:37):
Speaker 2 (24:38):
And, and I’m, you know, just sharing what I’m doing. And I just had a patient that my, I was just talking about. I don’t even know if I like that word patient. I don’t know if I like the word client. I just call her my person <laugh>
Speaker 1 (24:52):
I think for, for our purposes of education amongst us and amongst public, cuz they don’t know about this. I think it’s, it’s okay to use that. I would never use that in the home. No. Um, yeah. So, but I understand that for sure. But I think for clarity it’s helpful now. And may I ask, are you able to do, um, visits for tele doula? And are you able to take people for doing advanced directives by the zoom and things of that nature, right?
Speaker 2 (25:18):
Yes. Yes. I, I do. And, and I’m, you know, as you know, I’m slightly technologically challenged, so I’m also learning in that space, but I’m so much better than I was. Is it?
Speaker 1 (25:29):
You’re doing great. Look at you here on this zoom doing, doing your, um, interview, which is beautiful. I just wanna say that I honor you, your heart is so bright. You shine so bright and I love having you in the doula giver family and being a part of this because that’s the ripple effect of change that we’re making in the world that you all are. And it, you know, you said it’s not, it’s not death, it’s life. And right now we need to get back to life. We need to get back to life together, judgment with compassion, with empathy, with kindness and with presence. And you all out in this world are that ripple effect. That’s changing this world. So I, I thank you. And I thank you again. Um, thank you from all the people that are going to be helped by your services. So once again, people can get in touch with you via your website, which is infinite passage.com will have all the information for you. Here. You are available to do things over internet, or you can meet in person and tell people where you’re physically located. Please.
Speaker 2 (26:35):
I am located in Calabasas, California.
Speaker 1 (26:38):
Beautiful. Well, good for you. That sounds great. Well, Terry, I wanna thank you so much for being here on the, again, the art of doula, giving the spotlight of the graduate series. You are absolutely amazing. Thank you for your heart and soul. All you do. Thank you so much for having me. You’re so welcome. All right, everyone. Thank you for being here and we’ll see you in the next video.
About this episode...
How do we reduce the fear of death? – by learning the truth about it. In this episode of Ask a Death Doula, I have the great pleasure of sharing the Art of Doulagiving Graduate series with Certified Doulagiver Teri-Portugal Gooden.
Teri’s first experience of death was with her beloved Gaga. When alone in the room as Gaga with transition, she sat up and exclaimed with excitement to Teri “Not to be afraid because its beautiful!!!!! And showered Teri with red kisses all over her face just moments before she took her last breath.
In this episode, you will hear:
- When Teri first knew she had the calling to be a Doulagiver [3:06] – Teri had always worked and volunteered with terminally ill patients and even wrote a paper about it in the fourth grade. She always felt strongly about holding space for elderly people. She was profoundly moved by sitting with them and hearing their stories and their conversations at the end of life. Teri had a gift of feeling comfortable in this space and it empowered her to become a Doulagiver. We always encourage anybody who has this innate ability to step forward and answer their calling because so many people out in the world need you and it is such a special way to put love back into the world.
- The importance of talking honestly with children and bringing back the sacredness surrounding death [5:25] – At Doulagivers, we believe one of the best ways to bring back the awareness of death and its sacredness into the natural fold of life is to be honest with children. There are age-appropriate ways to engage with children in the truthfulness of end of life rather than shielding them from that inevitability. One of the greatest gifts you can give children is not removing death from their understanding of life but teach them that it is a natural part of the human life cycle instead.
- Gaga and the gift of community taking care of community [6:36] – Teri’s grandmother that she refers to as “Gaga” came to the United States from Ukraine when she was a young girl. Teri’s mother had her when she was young and was divorced when Teri was only two years old – this led Teri to spend a lot of time with her grandmother as she was growing up and they would bond over stories from her grandmother’s journey to America. Part of these stories were about the importance of community – there was a network of immigrant women making sure their entire community was taken care of during that period of her grandmother’s life. They made sure people were fed, provided medical care, birth care, and death care, as well as about anything else that was needed. Not all of these people were Ukrainian either – it was a mixture of people who had immigrated from every corner of the world in search of a better life. The wisdom and the lessons of how giving back is so important from listening to those stories had a huge impact on Teri at a young age and shaped her desire to work with those at end of life.
- Death teaches you that we are connected to something so much greater [11:44] – It is almost indescribable the peace, the serenity, the connection to something so much greater than what we normally think of when working with those at the end of life. It solidifies that there is an omnipresence of us all… and it is love. It’s dropping the physical, human part of us, and having that spiritual part that is so full of light and shine that exists forever. When you feel that and know that – you know the person is no longer with you, but it brings incredible peace to us when losing a loved one. We want people to know that death can be beautiful, that it is sacred, and that it is natural – and teach people the practical skills to be prepared for and to handle end of life well because we know we are all going to get there someday.
- How becoming a Doulagiver has led Teri to live a “purposeful life” [18:08] – Teri had worked in a demanding business for thirty years and felt depleted when she decided to close that chapter and take a new direction in life. She wanted to be of service and to live a purpose-filled life. Teri says that once she became a Doulagiver she felt “completely home.” It allows her empathic nature to be fully present, celebrated, and offered to those who need it most. Being a Doulagiver has shown her so much that she says has improved her quality and understanding of life by letting her live in complete authenticity and freedom to be herself. When you’re able to be yourself and not try to fit into other things, it really makes life so much better, and it is a beautiful thing. It allows you to shine out in the world and share your gifts with others.
- “There are age-appropriate ways to engage with children in the truthfulness of end of life rather than shielding them from that inevitability. One of the greatest gifts you can give children is not removing death from their understanding of life but to teach them that it is a natural part of the human life cycle instead.” – Suzanne B. O’Brien RN
- “It is almost indescribable the peace, the serenity, the connection to something so much greater than what we normally think of when working with those at the end of life. It solidifies that there is an omnipresence of us all… and it is love. We want people to know that death can be beautiful, that it is sacred, and that it is natural – and teach people the practical skills to be prepared for and to handle end of life well because we know we are all going to get there someday.”- Suzanne B. O’Brien RN
Take the FREE End of Life Doula Training HERE: https://www.doulagivers.com
Please rate, review and share this podcast and free training to help us reduce the fear of dying for people all over the world. xoxoxo Suzanne