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.

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The books I picked & why

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

Why did I love 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. 

By Joan Halifax,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Being with Dying as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Buddhist teacher draws from her years of experience in caring for the dying to provide inspiring lessons on how to face death with courage and compassion
The Buddhist approach to death can be of great benefit to people of all backgrounds—as has been demonstrated by Joan Halifax’s decades of work with the dying and their caregivers. A Zen priest and a world-renowned pioneer in care of the dying, Halifax has helped countless people face death with courage and trained caregivers in compassioante end-of-life care.

In this book, Halifax offers lessons from dying people and caregivers, as well as guided…

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

Why did I love 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!

By Anthony De Mello,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Way to Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the international bestselling author of Awareness, a pocket-sized guide that will bring you to new levels of spiritual awareness.

The Way To Love contains the final flowering of Anthony de Mello's thought, and  in it he grapples with the ultimate question of  love. In thirty-one meditations, he implores his  readers with his usual pithiness to break through  illusion, the great obstacle to love. "Love  springs from awareness," de Mello insists, saying  that it is only when we see others as they are  that we can begin to really love. But not only must  we seek to see others with…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Harriet A. Washington,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Medical Apartheid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER • The first full history of Black America’s shocking mistreatment as unwilling and unwitting experimental subjects at the hands of the medical establishment. No one concerned with issues of public health and racial justice can afford not to read this masterful book.

"[Washington] has unearthed a shocking amount of information and shaped it into a riveting, carefully documented book." —New York Times

From the era of slavery to the present day, starting with the earliest encounters between Black Americans and Western medical researchers and the racist pseudoscience that resulted, Medical Apartheid details the ways…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Stephen Jenkinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Die Wise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Die Wise does not offer seven steps for coping with death. It does not suggest ways to make dying easier. It pours no honey to make the medicine go down. Instead, with lyrical prose, deep wisdom, and stories from his two decades of working with dying people and their families, Stephen Jenkinson places death at the center of the page and asks us to behold it in all its painful beauty. Die Wise teaches the skills of dying, skills that have to be learned in the course of living deeply and well. Die Wise is for those who will fail…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Victoria Sweet,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked God's Hotel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Victoria Sweet's new book, SLOW MEDICINE, is on sale now!

For readers of Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, a medical “page-turner” that traces one doctor’s “remarkable journey to the essence of medicine” (The San Francisco Chronicle). 

San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital is the last almshouse in the country, a descendant of the Hôtel-Dieu (God’s hotel) that cared for the sick in the Middle Ages. Ballet dancers and rock musicians, professors and thieves—“anyone who had fallen, or, often, leapt, onto hard times” and needed extended medical care—ended up here. So did Victoria Sweet, who came for two months and stayed…

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