About Pittsburgh Community Deathcare

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 Pittsburgh Community Deathcare formed in 2017 from an awareness that the services provided by the current healthcare system are not always enough to support a person and their family throughout the dying process. We are an alliance of death-positive practitioners who offer a layer of support that complements conventional healthcare. Our group includes death doulas, holistic healthcare practitioners, educators, social workers, funeral directors, celebrants, and grief counselors. We are all passionate about reclaiming and reimagining end-of-life care: during the planning stage, through the dying process, immediately after passing, and in bereavement.

We want to open the conversation many people dread, to begin to ask, "What is a good death?" We want the people around us to face the end of their lives with honesty and courage, to realize that this moment, common to all living beings, holds great possibilities--including the chance, perhaps, for strengthening spiritual connections and deepening relationships with those we love. Whatever your unique challenges, needs, and wishes, we would like to help you co-create a death that is full of dignity, meaning, and integrity.


We support and educate dying persons, their families, and the community.


OUR MISSION

“I learned about a lot of things in medical school, but mortality wasn’t one of them. Although I was given a dry, leathery corpse to dissect in my first term, that was solely a way to learn about human anatomy. Our textbooks had almost nothing on aging or frailty or dying. How the process unfolds, how people experience the end of their lives, and how it affects those around them seemed beside the point. The way we saw it, and the way our professors saw it, the purpose of medical schooling was to teach how to save lives, not how to tend to their demise.
— Atul Gawande, Being Mortal

Inform the community on end-of-life issues by sharing stories, experiences, and knowledge

Promote awareness of choices in end-of-life and deathcare by:

  • Offering non-medical support as a supplement to conventional healthcare

  • Connecting to practical services, emotional and spiritual support, and alternative therapies

 

WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO

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When someone in our culture is faced with advanced aging or a terminal illness, their own or that of a loved one, they are usually confronted with important decisions around healthcare. Often, we are so focused on medical issues that we don't think about other aspects of the dying process. Also, unfortunately, our collective fear of death leaves us completely unprepared and prevents us from encountering the reality openly. We may try to maintain a sense of normalcy and may not ever openly discuss the things that are most important: our relationships, our legacy, how we want to die... And too often, in an effort to do everything possible to preserve life, people end up in situations that are not at all what they would have chosen had they consciously faced the prospects earlier and made their wishes clearly known.

Available Services

Our members provide a diverse set of offerings to support dying persons, their families, and the community at large.

Learn more about the services below to better understand the ways in which we can be available to you.


Advance Care Planning

Advance care planning is a valuable process of understanding and sharing personal values, life goals, and preferences for future medical care. Engaging in advance care planning, which can be done by any adult regardless of health stage, helps ensure you receive care that matches your values, preferences, and goals throughout a chronic or serious illness and at the end of life. We work with you to explore what is most important to you and to help you document your wishes and communicate them to your loved ones and care providers.


Bodywork

There are different types of bodywork that a person can receive at the end of life throughout the dying process. Bodywork can involve touching the body (massage or comfort touch) or not touching the body (energy work).

  • Massage Therapy  

    • Massage is done by a professional licensed massage therapist who has been trained in hospice massage, geriatric care or special needs.  This would be a light touch massage at the parts of the body requested by the person receiving the massage.

  • Comfort Touch  

    • Anyone can offer Comfort Touch, simply touching the person in a loving, nurturing way.  Light touch/stroking of the hands, feet, arms, legs, neck. It’s often helpful for supporting uncomfortable areas

  • Energy Work

    • “Energy work” is a term that refers to a variety of different techniques that the practitioner may be trained in. Some energy modalities include: reiki, touch for health, access consciousness body process.

    • Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation. It is administered by placing the hands on or near various locations on the body. The word “reiki” is made of two Japanese words: “rei” which means "God's wisdom” or “the higher power"; and “ki,” which is "life force energy" — translated as "spiritually guided life force energy." During a typical reiki session, one might feel a sense of deep relaxation, tingling, warmth, or nothing at all.  Studies have shown that Reiki is beneficial for stress reduction,

Comfort touch, energy work, and massage therapy, have all have been shown to reduce pain, reduce anxiety/stress, and increase a sense of well being.


Celebrant Services

Celebrants help friends and family celebrate the life of the deceased. We work with you to create a funeral or memorial service that honors your loved one and acknowledges their unique gifts.


Death doulas are here to help you and your loved ones through the dying experience. We are often asked what we do that hospice does not. And while the answer to this is multi-faceted, one of the most important jobs a doula does involves the many profound issues that come up around death—issues that hospice agencies often don’t have the time or resources to address. Hospice may only be able to deal with the immediate medical needs. 

Death doulas, like birth doulas, offer support in a variety of non-medical ways. Most people close to death are facing deep emotions—possibly regrets, fears, unfinished business, or worries about those they are leaving. Doulas can assist with processing these feelings when there may be no one else who is able. We might also help someone explore the meaning of their unique and precious life while they come to terms with their death.

Doulas encourage people to take control of the dying process and help them plan for their last days. This may mean thinking about how the space will look, feel or sound. It may be deciding who they would like to be present. It could also involve creating rituals to be performed before death, soon after, or perhaps at a memorial celebration.

We also attend to the family of the dying. Often, there are difficult decisions to be made, or there may be some kind of conflict. Doulas are able to listen, and to help with the many feelings that come up around the death of a loved one. At the end, we can be present during the vigil, to accompany the one who is dying, and to provide respite for caregivers. We can then help close friends and relatives reflect and process when their beloved is gone.

Death Doula Services


Coming soon!

Funeral Services


Coming soon!

Grief Counseling and Peer Support


Meditation is a method for synchronizing mind and body that can bring deep and lasting peace of mind. It does not need to involve a lot of effort or concentration. When we are facing mortality, meditation can help us to manage anxiety and pain and to process difficult emotions. It can help us be present for what is happening in our lives in a deep and meaningful way. Meditation can be helpful for caregivers, those who are facing terminal illness, those who are dying, and those who are grieving.

Meditation


Human beings create rituals around important events. Rituals are a way of marking meaningful events, of really noticing that we are here, alive, even when we’re nearing death. They help bring our attention to what is happening in the present moment and allow us to actively participate.

Rituals can be large group ceremonies, small acts done in private, or anything in between. They can be traditional, or unique to each individual. With contemplation, special rituals can be created to reflect a person’s life and values.

Ritual


When facing the end of life--our own or that of someone we love--it is important to tend to the spirit as well as the body. Most of us need to feel we are connected to the world in a way that goes beyond our individual, mortal lives. Spiritual care, whether associated with a particular religion or not, is a way of making sense of our existence in a larger context, of sensing that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Having someone to listen, and to reflect with, on spiritual matters, can often ease distress and bring feelings of peace and acceptance.

Spiritual Support


 

Ways to connect

 
 
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Member provider directory

Read more about our members, the services they provide, and ways to contact them for further information.

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resources

An ever growing list of resources that may provide education, support, or comfort.

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Community

Want to learn more about becoming a member of the collective? Have a specific question? Click here to reach out.