‘Dialogue with death’ coming to Wellington West

Mary-Anne Bourque, Tara Tucker and Pam Grassau are hosting three free sessions to help local residents deal with death. Photo by Judith van Berkom.

What does a good death look like?

A Dialogue with Death, is an informal and intimate series of evenings designed to encourage conversations about a tough subject, with the help of three experts in the field of palliative care. These free sessions are for anyone who wants to talk to experts about death and dying, and are looking for support.

Kitchissippi resident, Pam Grassau, a palliative care researcher and social worker, will facilitate the conversation with her two colleagues, Tara Tucker, a palliative care physician, and Mary-Anne Bourque, palliative care spiritual counsellor.

Mary-Anne Bourque has been a hospital chaplain for the past 34 years. For the past 15 years she has worked in palliative care at the Elizabeth Bruyere.

“I love what I do,” says Brassau. “It’s always been key for me. I need to love where I land. I feel very at home on the palliative care unit both with the team and spending time with families.”

Tara Tucker has worked exclusively in palliative care for the past 12 years. Since 2003, she has had a practice in the community that supports people in their homes.

Tucker’s team of five physicians covers a wide catchment area that includes old Ottawa south, the Glebe, Little Italy, Vanier and the outskirts of Orleans.

Elizabeth Bruyere also offers physician consults to family physicians who would like to work with palliative care in their patients’ homes, but don’t quite have the confidence yet to do so.

Grassau is the so-called “newbie” at the table, having worked in palliative care for the last five years and focusing mainly on research and educational programs for residents and learners. She has just finished her PhD, which looked at the communication between mothers and daughters in palliative situations. Grassau started volunteering in Toronto’s Casey House before coming to Ottawa. She met both Tucker and Bourque at Elizabeth Bruyere and found two kindred spirits, women who “loved what they do and cared deeply.”

Tucker relates an experience she had with a resident who was studying to become a palliative care specialist. When a palliative patient attempted to open up a dialogue on death, on three separate occasions, the resident skirted around the issue stating that he wasn’t comfortable talking about death.

“I ask patients, are you afraid of dying?” says Tucker, adding that a patient of hers, with advanced breast cancer, had never been asked that question by anyone else before.

“We need to start talking about death,” she says.

All three women are comfortable in the field of palliative care. With a large cumulative experience, they are open to whatever comes up in conversation. “It’s people like us who need to facilitate the discussion. We have a responsibility to use the skills we’ve learned to move this forward.”

Bourque, Tucker and Grassau make it clear that the conversation will not focus on euthanasia or assisted suicide, although it may come up in the dialogue.

Participants are welcome to attend one session, or all three. Given the space limitations, sessions will be capped at 25 people. Participants are asked to bring their questions and their curiosity on March 29, April 26, or May 31 to A Thing for Chocolate, (1262 Wellington St. W.) from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

To reserve your spot, send an email to dialoguewithdeath@gmail.com.




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