The best books on love through deathcare

Anne-Marie Keppel Author Of Death Nesting: Ancient & Modern Death Doula Techniques, Mindfulness Practices and Herbal Care
By Anne-Marie Keppel

Who am I?

To care for the dying is not only strenuous physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but it is a challenge in self-care and a constant call to remain non-judgmental. As someone who struggled financially as a single mother for many years, I discovered that compassion and empathy were needed not only for my children but also myself—indeed self-love was at the core of all. Working with the elderly in residential care, in hospice, and with individuals and families I now teach community deathcare with an edge of social activism to help the vulnerable feel safe while living and while dying.


I wrote...

Death Nesting: Ancient & Modern Death Doula Techniques, Mindfulness Practices and Herbal Care

By Anne-Marie Keppel,

Book cover of Death Nesting: Ancient & Modern Death Doula Techniques, Mindfulness Practices and Herbal Care

What is my book about?

Death Nesting incorporates ancient and modern death doula techniques, mindfulness practices, and herbal support to physically, emotionally, and spiritually care for the dying. The focus is on "whole being" caregiving for home deaths but can be implemented into other settings such as acute care to create a more holistic experience. Basic physical care for bedridden individuals, anecdotal vignettes, and glimpses into the world of spirit emphasize the poignancy, yet lightheartedness, of the dying process.

The mindfulness practices, while profound, are also simple and can be done by anyone new to meditation. Throughout the book, references to nature inspire the understanding that death is part of life—a part which we all experience.

The books I picked & why

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Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death

By Joan Halifax,

Book cover of Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death

Why this book?

This book rattled and awakened me in a place that seemed taboo to tickle. Studying death and dying can be driven by ego (what are you going to wear at your funeral? Do you have your music picked out?) Not to say there is not some good in the ego-driven work-- contemplating that can be done no matter what angle you study. However, Being With Dying cuts to the chase. If you feel ready to dismantle your illusion of living forever (or, if think that you’ll only die on your own terms, but only when you’re ready) this book is for you. 


The Way to Love: The Last Meditations of Anthony De Mello

By Anthony De Mello,

Book cover of The Way to Love: The Last Meditations of Anthony De Mello

Why this book?

If you want to love, want to feel loved, want all things love, but it’s evading you… perhaps you feel depressed or unseen or you keep *trying* but there are no satisfying results or answers… you need to look no further than this very tiny little book. As a death educator, I have found the work in this book paramount to my own self-love, love for others, and love at the time of death—at which time we all could use a hefty serving of loving support. The Way to Love aims to unravel all that you have been programmed to believe is true that has led you to a place of longing that can never be filled. This little book changed the course of my life—I’m not exaggerating. If you are not ready to dive deep, this is not your book. If you’re ready to experience love knowing that it will take a bit of work, I highly recommend it. 

PS. You don't need to be religious or Christian to appreciate this book!


Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

By Harriet A. Washington,

Book cover of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

Why this book?

As a community deathcare educator and (white) death doula, it is crucial for me to understand how racism shows up in end-of-life care. Without understanding the history of medical care in the United States and how people of color have been tested on, mistreated, and lied to, you could not understand the depth of the many challenges that still exist today. This is not a light read, but it is a necessary deep look into the atrocities that have been inflicted on people of color in the medical system over time. If you are studying death and dying, and especially if you are white, this is an essential read.


Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul

By Stephen Jenkinson,

Book cover of Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul

Why this book?

When I first started studying death and dying, I was shown a lot of educational books on “good deaths” and there was a lot of talk about the “death positive” movement. I trained in a program to become a death doula and Home Funeral Guide so I could serve the dying and dead, and I trained to become a Celebrant so I could help the family through the final disposition. My death education was all about me. It was this book that awakened me to the us, the community, the part where we incorporate and live life alongside death as a community and the okay-ness of not knowing and not controlling absolutely everything—all of the places where we are ruptured as a society. This is a primer for all studies on death and dying.


God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine

By Victoria Sweet,

Book cover of God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine

Why this book?

This book offers a glimpse into the world of medicine and healthcare and how it has changed over the years. The kind of slow, careful, full examination and extended care that Dr. Sweet (author) was introduced to at Laguna Honda Hospital (the last almshouse in the US) shows the importance of whole body, indeed, whole system, care. I deeply appreciate the references to the work of Hildegard von Bingen of the 12th century who was a Benedictian abbess, philosopher, and medical writer and practitioner, and how Dr. Sweet implemented ancient care and philosophies into modern practices.


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