Conversation With Kelly Grosklags- LICSW, Oncology Psychotherapist & Documentary Film Co-Producer of "Dying Is Not Giving Up".
Kelly lives in Minneapolis Minnesota, and is the proud mother of 2 children and 2 dogs. She is happily married and feels grateful for a meaningful career. For 28 years, Kelly has worked in the field of oncology, palliative care and hospice. She has also worked both, inpatient in a large hospital system, and in a private psychotherapy practice, focusing on grief, loss and oncology. In addition to, Kelly is also an author of the book, A Comforted Heart.
Dying Is Not Giving Up ~ A documentary that Kelly co-produced:
Recently, Kelly has had the incredible honor to co-produce the documentary, “Dying is Not Giving Up”, which features Judy, who is dying of metastatic breast cancer, and her intimate talks with her psychotherapist, Kelly. Judy's beautiful spirit and poise, brilliantly illustrates the importance of openly talking about dying, even though these are very difficult conversations to have.
Kelly, and her team, originally produced this film for educational training for future medical providers. However, they have quickly learned that Judy’s wisdom and light goes beyond just this particular outreach. In addition to, current practicing providers are also seeing the benefit in this film, which is hopeful, because society will learn to advance their willingness to talk about death and dying.
Judy’s beautiful legacy is reaching far beyond Kelly's team original intent. It is so powerful that audiences are often in awe after viewing. If you have the opportunity, please see this documentary, and then begin having your necessary conversations!
Kelly's Inspiration For Her Work:
The death of Kelly's mother, Sandy, when she was just 11 years old, is the driving force to a career in grief and end of life. Sandy was only 33 when she died, and Kelly knows her medical team was incredibly hopeful that she would recover from her heart attack. However, because of their need to remain hopeful, and the inability to consult with an end of life team, the medical staff focused only on “saving her life.”
Kelly, witnessed her mother "code" a couple times, and this too, has certainly been the impetus for Kelly's continued advocacy to create a different end of life story than her mother and her family experienced. In the 80’s, the world was not good at end of life discussions and wishes, so the medical staff were not aware of what Sandy's medical wishes were.
Kelly noted that it was her family, that had to ask the physicians to stop the inappropriate actions to try to save her mother's life. Kelly's family felt that the continued focus of saving her mothers life, at any expense, would at best, end up with a once fiercely independent woman, that would become completely dependent on others for all of her cares.
Conversations With Kelly (CWK):
A platform founded by Kelly, where individuals, families and loved ones, can go to heal from loss, and to gain wisdom, through Conversations With Kelly.
Kelly understands there is a certain heaviness that is associated with human suffering, and that none of us want to sign up for this. However, as scary as it is to talk about things that feed uncertainty, Kelly's missions at CWK is to minimize suffering. It is her hope that others will get involved in her online events or on her page, and that people will feel less alone and more supported. Kelly shares that "it has been so beautiful to watch others connect, without ever meeting in person (during this pandemic). We are born for connection".
Kelly believe that people will have a safe place when they visit CWK, both online and in person, when the events are eventually live. Kelly and her team are encourage that people that visit her site, are able to form connections in a like-minded community, that embraces each other, no matter why they come.
Kelly says "since my patients have been my greatest teachers over the years, it has been a privilege to learn from the best and share these teachings with a larger audience".
"Vantage Hospice in Houston saw substantial growth in its patient census during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the company in part attributes to a rising number of patients with advance care plans. Vantage is now calling for initiatives to make advance care planning a standard medical practice".
"The company’s administrator Nicole Knight contends that expanding advance care planning would help bring patients under the wings of hospice earlier in the course of their illnesses".
When most people hear the words "Hospice", they tend to think dying is right around the corner. This is simply not true. What is true is that doctors and health professionals tend to mention hospice at the very end. Thus by the time someone enters hospice, they are at the very last stages of dying.
However, if more people would start having Advance Care Planning conversations with their families and loved ones, it would most often make clear that most would want to have care that brings comfort and aid to the dying and their families.
“Advance care plans provide direction to physicians and loved ones in the midst of a medical crisis,” Knight said “So many patients could have had the opportunity to die comfortably at home instead of alone in the hospital if advance care plans were a standard practice.”
In addition, most people would prefer to die in the comfort of their home, surrounded by loved ones, all while being comforted and in limited pain.
"Advance care planning has been shown to have a significant impact on the quality and experience of life’s final stages, yet broaching these conversations with patients and families involves breaking down walls around end-of-life care. Advocates nationwide are calling for improved strategies to bring the conversation of death into a new light and shift the culture of dying in America".
Please seek out a professional, possibly a Death Doula, that can help to discover what is truly important when nearing the end of life, and what the wishes of the dying are.
The more knowledge we gain from having a necessary conversation, the more we feel in control and fear is lessened.