Virtues Project Founder Shares Practices for Navigating Death

by Elizabeth Nolan
Gulf Islands Driftwood
Published: October 31, 2012 9:00 AM
~an excerpt from this article~

bookBest-selling author Linda Kavelin-Popov has been acknowledged by the United Nations and Oprah for her work helping people lead purposeful lives through The Virtues Project, but her newest release focuses on what happens at the end of a life. Graceful Endings: Navigating the Journey of Loss and Grief is a practical and moving guide for those who wish to die consciously and the people who love and sustain them along their path.

As a past president of the hospice and its former spiritual care director, as well as a psychotherapist and inspirational speaker, Kavelin-Popov has been well-situated to understand both the challenges and the gifts that come when facing death. But even with her experience, the author’s understanding of the process became much deeper when her beloved younger brother John Kavelin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

The story of his conscious passage, and her own emotional roller coaster as she dropped everything to become his companion, fill in the strong backbone of helpful information with a moving and easy-to-relate-to account of love and grief.

“John shows how to face death open-heartedly and consciously. He’s a great example for the rest of us,” Kavelin-Popov said.

“It was a real gift to me to be his primary companion. There are lots of surprising gifts from that loss.”

People who know they are dying go through an amazing complexity of emotions in a short period of time. In addition to the inevitable questions, they usually review their lives and seek closure on a number of issues.

“In a way it’s a blessing for people who do know so they can get ready,” Kavelin-Popov said.

“One of John’s biggest questions was ‘How do you prepare to die?’”

Answering those questions for someone else is not possible. The most important thing, Kavelin-Popov said, is just to be there with the loved one while he or she goes through it. Graceful Endings contains useful strategies for coping with grief, a guide to how men and women grieve differently, sustaining virtues to practice and even the Seven Deadly Sins of the Well-Meaning.

Having hospice services available and putting them in use early in the process is of crucial importance, Kavelin-Popov said. Connecting with hospice’s well-trained volunteers, many of whom have counselling backgrounds, brings ease to the dying person and the companion. “You need to lean on the people who know. It doesn’t mean giving up on life — it means having the best quality of life right up to the end,” Kavelin-Popov said.

Kavelin-Popov found that even though she was on the board [of Salt Springs Hospice] when her brother died, hospice services provided an unexpected lifeline that helped her deal with her grief. She hopes her book, and the continuing support of hospice on Salt Spring, will do the same for others. “I feel like the book is a gift of everything I’ve ever learned,” she said.

About Linda Kavelin-Popov: Bestselling author, Linda Kavelin Popov is an inspiring international speaker on personal and globallinda_300x400 transformation. She is co-founder of The Virtues Project, a global initiative that inspires the practice of virtues in all aspects of life. The project is a catalyst for the renewal of kindness, justice, and integrity in more than 95 countries and was honored by the United Nations during the International Year of the Family in 1994 as a “model global program for families of all cultures.”

Linda has been an organizational improvement consultant to clients such as Arthur Young International, Hallmark Cards, the United States General Accounting Office and General Motors. She has keynoted at conferences and conducted in-depth retreats and workshops throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Pacific helping individuals, families, schools, governments and communities of all cultures to restore virtues such as forgiveness, integrity and kindness. She facilitates healing and community development with indigenous peoples such as the First Nations of North America, aboriginals in Australia, Maori in New Zealand, and Pacific Islanders, encouraging them to reclaim the virtues at the heart of their traditional values. She has been referred to as a “cultural creative”, and in 2001, received the YWCA Women of Distinction award for Education, Training and Development. Here is a video clip of The 5 Strategies in Personal and Global Transformation.

Linda was the first Spiritual Care Director of Hospice Victoria in British Columbia. She was a psychotherapist for many years, and developed suicide and violence prevention programs used in U.S. cities. She is a member of the national Think Tank on Character for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. She has been on many talk shows, including Oprah, and had her own 19-episode documentary series on VISION TV in Canada, entitled “Virtues: A Family Affair”. Visit her blog, Graceful Endings.