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Taking the Fear out of Death & Dying with TikTok Sensation Hospice Nurse Penny

May 29, 2023

Once unsure about an "afterlife", it was through Hospice Nurse Penny's personal mystical experiences with the loss of her own dad, her personal "death anxiety", and then all of her experiences with patients she supported through their end-of-life processes as a hospice nurse that she changed her belief completely.
Hospice Nurse Penny goes deep and shares details of many of these experiences plus why it has become her mission to encourage open conversations about death and remove mystery and fear around death and dying. Her exploding TikTok and Instagram accounts are a good indication that she is doing a GREAT job on her mission!


Penny Smith is nationally certified hospice and palliative care registered nurse. 

She has over 17 years of experience working in a variety of hospice care settings and roles including inpatient, home case management, education, quality and regulatory. She currently works as a hospice quality manager for an organization in Washington state.

Penny is a passionate advocate for hospice education with a mission to normalize the end-of-life process to remove the stigma and fear around hospice care, death and dying. 

During the pandemic Penny found her way to social media where she discovered a unique way to utilize her death care expertise to provide education to a worldwide audience at a grassroots level. Using a variety of teaching styles including Tiktok trends, dark humor, dancing and storytelling, she has gathered over a million followers across her social media platforms. 

She can be found on TikTok, Facebook, instagram and YouTube @hospicenursepenny

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Episode Transcript:

Hey beautiful soul Welcome to spirits speakeasy. I'm Joy Giovanni joyful medium. I'm a working psychic medium energy healer and spiritual gifts mentor. This podcast is like a seat at the table in a secret club, but with mediums, mystics and the spiritual luminaries of our time. So come behind the velvet ropes with me and see inside my world is I chat insider style with profoundly different souls. We go deep share juicy stories laugh a lot, and it wouldn't be a speakeasy without great insider secrets and tips. You might even learn that you have some gifts of your own. So step inside the spirits Hey, beautiful soul, I am really honored to get to talk to our guests today. I'm a fan of hers and I follow her on social media. If you do too, you will know who she is. Her name is at hospice nurse Penny. And she creates these really fun and sometimes dark humor pieces, you know, reels and stories and and posts around death and dying and shares her experience as a hospice nurse with her own patients transitioning and also with, you know, people going through their grieving process and her suggestions. She works not only with patients and families, but also with other health care professionals. So she has so much wisdom to share on the death and dying process, the transition process both from a patient perspective and a family perspective and a healthcare perspective and the grieving process and all of the parts that go along with that. And so I was so excited when she agreed to come onto the pod and talk to us because you know, all of us either have lost someone that we have loved and have questions about that transition process. All of us will cross over ourselves someday. And I know it's so powerful this work that she's putting out in the world to try to help soften or break down fears, misunderstandings, misconceptions around death, dying the hospice process, and everything involved. So without further ado, I'm going to just bring you into my conversation with hospice nurse Penny welcome in and welcome back to spirit speakeasy. If you are a returning listener if you're a new listener, I am so happy to have you you have chosen a great episode to listen to. I'm going to just launch into our guests bio because I'm so excited to have her here and I have so many questions for her. Today we are with Penny Smith, who is a Nationally Certified Hospice and Palliative Care registered nurse. She has over 17 years experience working in a variety of hospice care setting roles, including inpatient home case management, education, quality and regulatory. She currently works as a Hospice Quality Manager for an organization in Washington State. Penny is a passionate advocate for hospice education with a mission to normalize the end of life process to remove the stigma and fear around hospice care, death and dying. During the pandemic, Penny found her way to social media where she discovered a unique way to utilize all of her death care expertise to provide education to a worldwide audience at a grassroots level, using a variety of teaching styles including tick tock trends, dark humor, dancing and storytelling. She's gathered over a million followers across her social media platforms. You can find her on all the platforms tick tock Facebook, Instagram, YouTube at hospice nurse Penny, which of course I'll link in the show notes, but help me welcome nurse Penny. Hi, I'm so happy to have you here with us.
Hi, there. Thanks for having me.
It's I just am so excited to hear your stories and your perspective. I'm a medium so I talk to people maybe on the other, the other side of their transition, but you're with them in those very amazing and special last moments of their life. Yes, yeah. I want to understand a little bit about you and your journey. Now. You said you've got more than 17 years experience what led you into palliative care or hospice nursing?
Well, first of all, I was a late bloomer when it came to becoming a nurse. I didn't go to nursing school until I was 40. And when I finally did, I wanted to do something that had to do with service work. My ex husband's mother stepmother had been on hospice, and I was just so impressed by the nurses I loved their compassion, their autonomy, their ability to practice, you know with so much at home Anatomy knowledge. And I felt like that was service work. So I didn't go into hospice right away, because you do have to have some experience under your belt if you want to be a hospice nurse. But I was fortunate enough that after about 15 months of being a nurse in a clinic, and then, for a short time at a hospital, a hospice care center was opening up in the neighborhood, and they happen to be hiring at that time. So I went and applied and I got the job. And I was able to learn everything, you know, there in the inpatient center. So I was, you know, I always say I was at the bedside of the dying on the regular, you know, it was just very in your face death and dying. And I worked with other really experienced hospice nurses who helped to train me so
well, let me just take a moment to thank you for all of your service. I think nurses sometimes are the unsung heroes, and certainly the glue in medical facilities, I've had a no lot of nurses in my life, and you guys do amazing work that is not highly rewarded enough, in my opinion, as you transition into this work, doing, you know, hospice care, how did you find ways to manage your own grief or the the, your overwhelm as a professional,
you know, I have never really felt like, I mean, there were times when I was with family members, and it was kind of sad, you know, but as a nurse, it's my responsibility to be taking care of the patient and the family, the expected outcome is death. It's not like I was working in a hospital where the outcome is curative. You know, you're trying to save people, you know, when you're a hospice nurse that that is what is going to happen, that person is going to die and you are there to support them, you're there to make sure they're comfortable, you're there to make sure their family is educated, they know what to expect, they're not afraid of what's unfolding for them. And when the person dies, if you've done all of those things, it's a job well done. So I have never really experienced a lot of grief around my role as a hospice nurse, there's been times when it was emotionally taxing or stressful if I had, you know, some dynamics that were challenging, but it wasn't ever, like a real sadness from from losing these people. They are my patients, they're not my family. So it's, it's a different emotional attachment that you have with them. It's not like, you know, when my dad died, I grieved over my dad's death. But, you know, these are not my family. And so I think that's really important. And I think that as a hospice nurse, if if you work in hospice, and you're unable to have that emotional boundary, that's what I call that as an emotional boundary, then you you won't last you're not able to do it, because it can be really, you know, traumatizing and sad to people who can't separate themselves in that way.
Yeah. And I would imagine, it could be, like you said, emotionally taxing if someone isn't holding that boundary, which is probably a large part of your work on the education side with other hospice care nurses, right?
No, yes, definitely.
So I love that you have been able to maintain this boundary and and be in the space supporting the family supporting your patient, obviously, without being primary, like you said, Would you mind sharing some of your personal experiences with people that are in those last phases of transition as it relates to you have one, okay, I have to tell you, I'm a social media fan of yours. I really enjoy all of the reels that you put out, I'm thinking of one in particular, of a patient that you have that was starting to become aware of his wife, and that was talking about her coming to retrieve him.
Yeah, that's what that say, I don't cry. When I get sad. I get cry. I cry when I get choked up. And that's one of my very favorite experiences working in hospice. I had been working in hospice at that point for over five years. So I had seen visioning often, when people are at the end of their life. It's very, very common for them to vision deceased loved ones and even pets. Usually, it's people but I have had patients who saw pets, and I was at the nurse's station, and His room was right next to the nurse's station. And I heard him yelling, and I went into the room to see what was going on. And he was looking up at the corner of the room and he was crying. He had tears just pouring down his face, and he was yelling, Ingrid, Ingrid. And I stood there and watched him for a minute and then I said, was angry to your wife? And he said, Yes, Yes, she's right there. I see her. And I said, Is she coming to get you? And he said, Yes, yes, but not today. Tomorrow. All, I said, okay, and I'm thinking, well, that's specific. He didn't die the next day he died the day after that. And then when the caregiver who had taken care of so Ingrid died a year before my patient did, the caregiver who had taken care of Ingrid and my patient came in to pick up his belongings. And I told her the story and without missing a beat, she said, Oh, was always like Ingrid to be late.
And I love that story when I saw it, too, because it's for me, part of the way that I practice mediumship is those validation. So it's just that extra validation of like, oh, yeah, that's so much her personality. How frequently do you see this with patients? I hear it a lot, or, you know, from the from the Spirit side, they often will articulate or express to me exactly what you're saying that someone was there to receive them that they they didn't experience, you know, that fear that we sometimes might assume? Is that pretty commonplace?
Yes, definitely. It's common. And it's, I mean, after you've seen it enough, you sometimes don't even you're not even asking them about it anymore. There's just very, it's, it's so profound to see somebody visioning, it's like you think there's something wrong with you for not being able to what they see. And sometimes people so people can have visions, weeks before their death. So oftentimes, when I might do my real is my stories about this, I'll have people in my comments saying it's just hallucinations. It's caused by the drugs, it's caused by their disease. And I always say it's not these are people who are not necessarily even taking any medications, yet, it's weeks before their death. They're completely cognitively intact, they're aware, they can tell us what they see. But oftentimes, when a person is closer to the end of life, and they're not communicating with us verbally anymore, we see people reaching into the air, or reaching up to the corner of the room, it that's really very common. And I have come to believe that they are seeing those visions, they're reaching for those visions, they're just not able to articulate, that's what they're doing, because they're not verbal anymore.
Well, and I love that you express that like, hey, there are people who challenge and say, you know, oh, is this the medication? Oh, is this? You know, the, the hallucination of the mind? And so I love from your medical perspective that you're saying, you know, no, in fact, yeah, you're often not even on medication. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Yeah. And also, another thing people say is DMT. I get that a lot. It's DMT. It's dimethyl. Try something I don't know can be released in the brain. You mean? Yeah. Yeah. And so my, my take on that is always before I knew what DMT was all about, I would just reject that out of hand when somebody if DMT? I'd say no, it's, it's it's not. There's no studies that have been done done on humans that can prove that it's DMT. And again, it's not medication, patients are not necessarily taking meds, they don't necessarily have a disease that involves their brain. They're clear, they're cognitively intact, they're not confused at all. But as I started to kind of dive into DMT, what it is, there were some studies done on rats that show that rats that were provoked into having a heart attack where releasing small amounts of DMT in their brain. So I, I started looking at, you know, different information about DMT. And I read that DMT is naturally occurring in plants and animals. And that historically, DMT has been used by Native Americans, or any other what's the word I'm looking for? Tribes, you know, in other, like indigenous groups, indigenous groups, thank you, indigenous groups, yes. And practitioners will consume plants that have DMT to elevate their, their consciousness and their ability to communicate with the spirit world. So I now have taken the stance of maybe it is DMT. But that does not necessarily rule out the fact that they could actually be communicating with spirits. It just makes them able to. So it just
may be a little clearer for them or a little more part of their experience than it would normally be enhanced like you're saying,
exactly, yeah. So so they're not necessarily mutually exclusive. Yes, it might be caused by Ti but that does not cancel out the fact that isn't actually, exactly there could still be spirits. They're just now able to communicate with them because of that heightened level of awareness
on I love having the scientific understanding behind it because I'm just not a medium who puts everything immediately to the spirit world either. I want to know like, okay, like you're saying like, what is the validity of this? What do we know scientifically? A I like that, I have to tell you it like that there's, you know, it's not mutually exclusive. The one doesn't preclude the other. So that's, that's really nice to know on the medical side, do you feel like through your years of experience, your understanding has changed? Or did you always believe, you know, in the spirit world are in something after this?
No, no, I didn't. And I wasn't raised with religion. So I had just no concept of afterlife. I didn't and don't believe in heaven or hell. I wasn't sure if we're reincarnated. I didn't know. I had death anxiety severely when I was in my 30s. And it really wasn't until I became a hospice nurse and started witnessing people visioning at the end of life. I had never heard about that. I never heard anything about that prior to working in hospice. And then once I started to see that I kind of developed my own feelings and beliefs around an afterlife. You know, I think that we, there is, there's something and, and then my dad died. I was, I had been a hospice nurse for five years, and my dad died. And he actually came to me after his death. And that was like, that sealed the deal for me was like, Yeah, I knew it. I knew it.
I'm so sorry for the loss of your dad. I'm sure that was profound in and of itself. Would you be open to sharing a little bit about that visitation from him?
Sure. Sure. So my, my little bit about my dad and my family, my dad got idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis from lifelong smoking. He was a jet mechanic worked around his best dose. And his, his death came really quickly. He was on hospice only for 12 hours. And that was after I had to call the pulmonologist and say, We need a hospice referral, because they were trying to pick up telling me oh, no, we know what it is, we're going to be able to treat it, we're gonna fix it. And then he ended up in the ICU, and I was like, This is not good. So my dad was very resigned to his death. And, you know, most of the time when people die a natural death, it's a progression towards the end, like there's a dying process. People don't just drop dead, they don't say their last words, and then close their eyes and they're dead. There's a process, you know, they become unresponsive, and then they slip away. Every now and then you get people who do just, they're gone like that. And I heard a saying once that in order for death to occur, the spiritual side and the physical side have to meet. And then when that happens, death occurs. My dad was physically ready, and he was just spiritually there. As far as I know, my dad was was an atheist. He never talked about any belief in afterlife, but he was just reading. He was just like, I'm done. This is good. We all had our time with him, even though he was only on hospice for 12 hours. It was a fantastic day, we got him his favorite meal. We each one of us had time with him. And so it was really good. And he literally said to the what, let me tell you that so this is what happened. So we had been at the hospital with him after we got him his last meal. My brother and I went back to my mom's house and stayed there because we both lived far away. And we had we had come, you know, to stay with her while my dad was in the hospital. i My dad had a hospital bed in the downstairs room. And he was supposed to come home on hospice the next day, and I was going to be his nurse. So he has this bed downstairs. And we get there and my mom goes up to bed, and I'm laying in this hospital bed and my brother is on the computer in the corner of the room, same room I'm in and my dad was a collector of things. And he had hats. He had this collection of hats. And on a beam above the where I was laying in this hospital bed. This was in a family room had like all these hats hanging up there. And I was just laying in bed looking up and really, really late and looking up those hats. And I'm thinking look at all those hats hanging up there. He's got so many hats hanging up there. And the phone rings and it was the nurse and she said you need to come now. And I didn't even ask. I was like, okay, yeah, got my brother got my mom, we get in the car and we start driving to the hospital. On the way there. The nurse calls my brother's phone and I answered it because he was driving. And I said, Yeah, we just talked what's going on. And she said, your dad just died. And I said, Oh, okay. So we get to the hospital and she knew I was a hospice nurse and she said, Do you want to know what happened? And I said, Yes. And she said he was getting pretty short of breath. So I gave him some morphine and went back to check on him and he said, I'm about ready to hang it up. And she said, I went and got him some Lorazepam and when I came back, he was having agonal breasts and he died a few minutes. It's after that. So that was my first kind of like, wow, I felt like it was a shared death experience. I was laying in that bed looking at those hats up there thinking, look at all those hats hanging up there. And he was telling the nurse, I'm about ready to hang it up, which was totally within my dad's character to say something like that. So after that, we all stayed at my mom's house for several weeks. We were we were very, we're very tight family. We were putting together a DVD planning the memorial service. And my husband who had been watching my my teenage daughters. His stepdaughter's brought them down for the weekend, because they were in school. So he brought them for the weekend. And we went over and stayed at my sister's house, and I was sleeping. And I always like, I always have to say, this wasn't a dream. But I was asleep. And I, my dad came to me, and he was warm and brilliant, bright, bright, orange, energy. And it was his voice. And he said, It's time to go. And I said, Oh, okay. And then I said, but I'm going to have to say goodbye to my kids, they're really going to miss me. And he said, No, no, it's not time for you to go. It's time for me to go. And I said, Oh, okay. And I said, I love you, dad. And he said, I love you. And we just said, Love you. Goodbye, goodbye. And he just faded away, and the warmth left and it got dark, and I woke up crying. And my husband said, you were talking to your dad? And I said, No, my dad was talking to me. And it was just like, you know, you can't, when you have an experience like that, you you just can't even do it justice by talking about it, you know, like, unless somebody else has
had the experience. No, I mean, exactly. And it's, it's, we call it the mystical experiences, right? And it's, I complain about it constantly, that the language is just not matching up. And so I think that's why a lot of people have misconceptions about what it is and what it isn't and how it feels just because the language is difficult to translate this powerful experience of your dad, you know, showing up in the way that you would need and giving you that closure that you would need, like how beautiful is that so amazing.
You know, I love the way you just said the way that you would need because my sister also had an experience with my dad, my brother never did that he tells us but my brother is very much an atheist has no belief in the afterlife whatsoever. And my mom had a different experience. So my sister was going through a really hard time with my niece who was a drug addict at the time. And my sister was just going through hell she had been, she had bought a house for my my niece and her husband to rent. She was faced with having to evict them, she was faced with having to get emergency custody of her granddaughter. It was really, really rough. And then she started to meditate. Her husband taught her how to meditate. And my dad was coming to her on a bench with a dark figure and saying to her like you know what you got to do, and guided her through this whole thing. It was amazing. My sister who has never been religious, she's still not religious, but never been spiritual, never believed in God now does, you know it was very, very life changing. And then my mom who's agnostic has always said I don't believe in an afterlife. But she kept telling me about how she was seeing these wisps. She calls them wisps. She says, I see a wisp every now and then at the corner of my eye and I hear dad's voice. And usually he's telling me like I need to be careful or do and she finally and I was like, Wow, it sounds like you're being visited. And she finally had to admit, you know that she had to get past this stigma of believing in a spirit to be able to say, Yeah, I do. I do think it's dad. And she recently told me it wasn't happening as much anymore. But you know, it was so interesting, because she said, I just see this Wisp and then I'll hear dad's voice and he says, Be careful with that. You know, like if she's out working with tools or something.
Well, my favorite thing about thank you for sharing those amazing experiences. One of my favorite things about it is it does show the intelligence that they still have you know that we're soul. I know you believe this because I love your favorite quote, you can share it with us, but we're still having this human experience. And then our soul leaves and continues on it just shows the intelligence of your dad being able to know how each of you might need to hear from him what's going on in your lives. And I think it's funny with your mom too, that we often have these experiences and just kind of like dismiss them or think like oh, it's just a whisper. It's just and you're like, Oh, what is that? Like what do you mean it's just a wisp like but we just something In US, it resonates with us. We know it's true. And then we just sort of dismiss it based on our cultural norms. It's like an interesting thing that happens, I
think. Yeah, yeah. And I
love that your dad's still communicating with you and saying hellos in different ways to, to each of you just so special.
Yeah, he hasn't for a long time. I mean, after everything resolved with my niece, who, by the way, has been sober, clean and sober now for seven years, got custody of her kids back from my sister, and they have a fantastic relationship better than ever, and, and my sister really felt like the, as this whole situation moved forward. My dad started to fade, the dark being was still there. And then eventually, they were both both gone. For me, it was just the one encounter. And when my family questioned me and said, Why you and why not us, in the beginning, before any of them had an experience? I said, I think it's because I'm really connected to death through my work, very connected to death. And I think that's why I was able to receive that. But he said goodbye to me, he left and they've never been back.
I think it's interesting, too, because sometimes, from my perspective, anyway, I feel like sometimes it's just where we are in the grieving process, because they know that we, it's a transition for us who stay behind as well. So maybe you just like you said, you have a little more experience with death. Maybe you're just in different place with your grieving process.
Yeah, I think so too. And that's true. Everybody has a different way that they process grief. And I think that it could be something that, and I think some people like my mom, probably, if that didn't happen for her for years, my dad's been dead for 12 years. And it didn't happen until probably about four years ago, that she mentioned it, it might have been happening sooner than that. But I think she was in too much grief, to be able to experience that I think that can be a barrier to having that experience. If you're grieving too much. You can't you can't receive that you're not ready for I think,
for my perspective anyway, I think they one element of it is them honoring the grieving process and knowing we need to continue to process and then the other thing is that I'm sure you experience a lot, sometimes our human emotions are so loud, or you know what our grief is so loud, are processing that we might not be as aware of those subtle experiences,
right? We're not receptive to it, because you're exactly true that that the grief is just it's overwhelming everything else, you can't, you can't rise above that to receive any other information, because you're trying to process everything that comes with grief, which can be very complicated.
Yes, and I feel like I have so many things I want to say right now. One, I love that that was the experience, you know, with your dad that shifted your perspective and kind of opened you up to maybe more of understanding around those experiences that I want to hear more about. But another big part of what you do in your social media through your platform is educate people who are experiencing the grief of the transition process. So I would love for you to eat the talk about that a little bit, or just give any any tips or things that you feel like people should know who are kind of in that transition process from this side.
One of the tips that I like to give people is for those who are dealing with people in grief, which is let people grieve, they have to fill their fields I so many times, we'll have somebody reach out to me, and they'll tag me in a video and they'll say, can you help this person? They're really grieving. And my response is, no, I can't, you know, people have to go through what they're going through, you have to allow that you can, there's no words I can say that's going to make them not grieve. You can't fix it, you have to work through that grief, you can't just avoid it. And if you avoid it, it's just going to come back, you know, with a vengeance, you have to really work through it. Yeah. Feels it really feels.
And that actually was going to be one of my questions is for people, you know, maybe they're a little bit outside of that circle. Maybe it's not their loved one that's passed, but maybe it's a coworker or a neighbor or friend. What are some good ways to let them know that you're caring about them, but not trying to tell them it's okay and quiet down their grief? Is there some? I don't know. Are there some words that you suggest or what's the best way to approach it?
Well, you know, we don't always have to have words. That's the first thing people think there needs to there needs to be something they can say. And it's not necessarily you know, if you feel like you have to say something, it's a good chance you're not going to say the right thing or it's not the right time. Sometimes you can just sit with someone quietly and hold space. with them, something that I've learned a lot about as far as grief since I've been, because I dealt with grief during my my role as a hospice nurse, and, and now through social media have learned a lot more about it as well, because people asked me about it so much. And I have access to Grief Support Services through my agency, but asking somebody to tell you about their person is helpful to people who are grieving, tell me about your favorite memory. Of course, always offering to help those somebody in grief might not accept help. So sometimes saying, I'm going to do this for you or, you know, I think that's even more helpful than, it's definitely not helpful to say, I know how you feel he's in a better place, at least he's not suffering. It's okay, if the person who's grieving says something like that, like, at least he's not suffering anymore. That's okay. But I feel I would feel that way about a person who was dying, that was close to me if they were in a lot of pain or whatever. But for someone else to say that is it's not helpful at all. It's just, it's better just to say nothing. And just to let people know, you know, I'm here for you. What can I do for you? Or if you know what they need? I'm going to do this for you.
Yeah. Well, I think that's so important what you just said, because I feel like sometimes saying, you know, even though it's our human nature to want to offer some comfort, it can feel dismissive and can feel all kinds of things that is not intended, right. feel about I've noticed that sometimes I feel like people that are grieving, appreciate, like, if you did know, their loved one who's crossed over for you to share a story about how that person touched your life.
Yes, that's another that's another thing you can do definitely, is to say, I remember when, you know, Mr. Johnson, you know, saw me down the street and waved me over and gave me some oranges off his tray or whatever, like some like, nice little memory. That's, that definitely is something else. That's if you're familiar enough with a person that has died? And you can do that. Absolutely, absolutely.
I had a good friend who lost her dad. And she said, when people would do that, it was almost like getting little slivers of him almost like a little gift of a new memory that she didn't know about, but could feel his personality in that kind of like you were saying, How would be such your dad's personality to say, I'm gonna hang it up? Like it's just that little sliver of them again?
Oh, yeah. And I mean, that's what meant so much to me. When my dad died, she could have said, I'm sorry about your loss every every hour for the next, you know, 24 hours, and it wouldn't have meant as much to me as validation. This was Yeah, exactly. How and it's and just and it is okay to to say I'm sorry. You know, some people say Don't say you're sorry, it's not your fault. But I've spoken with many hospice social workers who, who also say, it's totally fine to say I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm so sorry to hear about your mom. That mean, that is simple. And, you know, I always feel like you can't go wrong with that.
Yeah. Thank you. I think that's great advice. I want to circle back to something that you said about your own death anxiety is, I think what you called it, which I feel like is so common for so many people, would you talk a little bit about death, anxiety, and maybe some tips or tools you have?
Yeah, and I had no idea how common that anxiety was, until I got onto social media, I kind of thought I was probably the only person who had it, because when I had it, I was, you know, not a nurse. I wasn't working around people who died. And I didn't know a lot of people who died my only I wasn't close to my grandparents they grew up far away from from me, you know, like they were in Canada and Texas, I really didn't see them very often. It wasn't close to them. So their deaths didn't impact me. The only death that really impacted me was my cousin who killed herself. She jumped off a bridge when she was 25. And even that it wasn't really around when that happened. We were living kind of far from each other. And I hadn't seen her for a couple of years. But I just in my 30s started having this, you know, anxiety about what happens after we die? What is it like to die? What? You know? How about when your family who you're close to dies? What happens that you know, like, it would keep me awake at night. It was really overwhelming. It was crippling? And I remember my husband at the time, who was no, my ex husband would say, well, it won't matter if there's nothing after you because I'd be like, what if there's just nothing after we die? And he'd say, well, won't matter because you won't be aware of it because there's nothing and that was unhelpful to me. You know, like that was not what I was looking for. And it really wasn't until I started becoming a hospice nurse that I started to have this relief about my My anxiety, and it was through, I used to think it was because I saw people visioning. And that started to form this belief in an afterlife for me. But it was more than that. And I didn't realize that it was more than that until recently. It was more about being around people who were dying and being exposed to it, and not being awake to turn not being able to turn away from it not being able to deny that it exists, it's there, it's inevitable, it's going to happen to all of us. So as a hospice nurse, you know, my death, anxiety was relieved. And then, a few years ago, I stopped doing patient care. And I went into Hospice Quality, so I now manage quality for hospice. And I don't have any direct patient contact anymore. I still did a lot of education with nurses in our volunteers about end of life care, I'm involved in complex case reviews, but no direct patient interaction. I started to feel probably about four years ago, I started to feel this death anxiety creeping back up in me. And my, and my thoughts about it, where I'm not doing patient care anymore, and I'm feeling disconnected from death. I'm not feeling connected to death anymore, like I was, once I got on social media and started really interacting with people on a regular basis about death and dying, educating about it retelling stories that I've experienced, it went away from me again. And I realized that it's, it really is that feeling of acceptance, like if you can get to a place of accepting your mortality, you can get over anxiety, because, you know, once you're like, yeah, it's gonna happen. And there's nothing that I can do to control that it lives in the background. And it even if it just starts to creep up every now and then, which it rarely does, but when it does, I'm able to stick out, you know, because I just can't control that. So it was something that I was able to let go of, but it was through comments from people who follow me who say, Gosh, ever since I've been following you, I don't have to think xiety anymore. I get that all the time. Like, the more that you talk about it, the less I have fear around it. It's a taboo topic, people don't want to talk about it. And when that happens, it's a very unknown subject. And we're always going to have a fear of the unknown,
when you make such a good point, because especially in the US and in several other places, culturally, it is just a taboo or something that we just kind of look the other way with blinders, like somehow it doesn't exist in that's very as we know, anything we can't talk about or talk about our emotions around is very anxiety producing or fear producing, which lends itself so beautifully to your mission as an advocate for hospice education to normalize end of life process and remove that stigma and fear around it. Is that was that your mission? Before and then through your experience with social media? You kind of doubled down on it, or did you realize that that was your calling?
I realized, you know, when I first got on Tik Tok, I had no intention of talking about death and dying. I was trying to learn how to shuffle dance.
I heard you say the honor reel, and I just love Penny.
Yeah, I never did learn how but I just one day told a story about a hospice patient. And it went viral. And I realized people want to know about about this. And I've always been a passionate advocate for hospice, having been a hospice nurse for so many years, and for normalizing death and dying because I've been with so many families who were terrified of what was unfolding with their dying person until I said, that's normal. And once I said, that's normal. They're like, Oh, that's normal. Yeah, it's normal. You know, and so I knew that was something like I started using the hashtag normalized death. Like it's probably in the first video I did about hospice because I knew that was the angle that I wanted to take when I decided that that's what I was going to do. But the unfolding of the death anxiety, being a part of all of that and helping people with that anxiety, that that is something that organically started. I had, I did not like I said I didn't even know other people suffered from death anxiety,
showed up as a common thread in the feedback that you were in the question you were getting, which is so fascinating. Would you mind sharing the story with us that went viral?
Oh, yes. Okay, so that was when I was a new hospice nurse. It was probably within the first year. You're that I became a hospice nurse. And we had a patient. I was in a care center. We had a patient who was an elderly woman, and her daughter was a nun. And so there were lots of nuns that were coming to visit my patient. And it was in the evening, it was Sunday night. And I was at the nurse's station. And the last visitor came out of the room and she was a nun. And she walked up to me, and she said, she's gone. And I grabbed my stethoscope. And I stood up and I said, Oh, and she said, No, no, her body is still here doing the work of dying, but her spirit has left, you can see it in her eyes. And I was like, wow. And so she left. And I was like, I gotta go check this out. And so I went into the room, and my patient was, you know, actively dying, unresponsive. And she had what we call like, the death stare, or the heaven stare, or the gods stare, where the lights are on nobody's home. Like they're just staring. They're not focused on anything there. They just have a very blank stare. And I loved that explanation. And to me, that's how I feel. Now that, that that's what's happening, like our, our physical body stays here and does the work of dying. But the spirit leaves, yeah, and you can you can see it in their eyes.
And how beautiful that you're kind of to go back what you were saying before that you're able to share all of these experiences that you've witnessed and collected, because it's different. We don't gather in our village or tribal group and, and witness the passing of elders anymore. And so it's scary. We don't know, you know, until you get to this place, like you're saying, where you have a person that's in hospice, or where you're a hospice nurse or caregiver in some capacity, maybe you haven't seen these things before to know what's normal, and what's scary. And so what a profound education you can give people. So amazing. One of your other reels that you did recently that I found, so moving was someone had, I think, sent you a video, or you had seen a video of someone sharing that their mom had become really sick and and was in that end of life period. And they didn't. They wanted to be with her, but they didn't want to overwhelm her emotionally. And I felt like you gave some really profound guidance, which I see so many regrets around that last part of someone's life. So I would love for you to share a little bit about that. If you remember which one I'm talking about, which I think you do. Oh, well. I
think it's the one where she said I don't want I just she said something about I don't want to cry when I'm with her. I just need to move on. Yeah, I tried to get her or whatever it was. Yeah, exactly. And I said you do you cry. It's okay to cry. You're sad. Your mom is dying and it's okay for you to cry, and you're not ready to move on because it's not time to move on. Your mom is still here she's living and you need to be with her and hold her and hug her and cry on her and cry with her and that's okay, you be you. When you're with her. You don't need to hide your emotions because your mom knows your heart. And she knows you know who you are. And you can be who you are. You don't have to try to be strong you don't have to try to let go you know it's you'll move on when you're ready. You know what you'll never stop breathing you'll always grieve your loss. It's that's the thing about grief. You know, people don't just get over it you don't ever get over it. You know, I still from time to time I still feel sad about my dad's death you know, it's normal grief is it's not linear and it never goes away it's always with us but we learn how to live with it.
That's such a good point. We talk about it here a lot just because I feel like it's our cultural or maybe human nature to say like okay, I'm going to move past this or get over this check this box and then I'm going to just leave this behind me and as we know with grief it's not like that actually the the helping parents heal group taught me this amazing analogy that they use which is that we're standing in the ocean you know of grief and some waves are big and knock you down and over time you learn how to stand in some of the smaller waves but the waves always continue to comments just they might affect you differently, you know at certain times and just being able to you know be we do have to continue on in some way in our in our human life. You know, we've got groceries to buy and things to do but still honoring that grieving process and not expecting it to just somehow be something we're ticking off a to do list right?
Yeah, I love that analogy the waves I might I might need to use that in a real
shut it's it's it just made so much sense and to hear the way that they express it you know, because I I would imagine I don't know that loss is measurable because I feel like any loss has gravity to it. But I feel like sometimes it's could just feel different if it's more time to prepare for it versus less time to prepare. err or just different
I hear that. I hear that from people where they, they'll ask, you know, is it better to die suddenly? Or is it better to have a an expected death over time? And, and you could make a case for either way, you know? Because, yeah, it's just, it's different. Like if you know that your person is dying, and then they die, you're planning for that it doesn't make it easier than if somebody dies suddenly, and you weren't planning for that both situations or have the same outcome, your person is dead. So it's hard to say like, is one better than the other? I think, yeah, I don't know if he's dead. One
is, yeah, I don't think one's better. I don't think one's easier. I think it's just diff different different circumstances and different. Maybe maybe some different elements to consider. Either way, I feel like it's, you know, there's challenges no matter what, and I think it's so important what you just said that still giving someone or allowing ourselves even to have permission to feel like we have equal, you know, permission to grieve, whether we were expecting someone to pass or not.
Right, right, exactly. So
important. Well, I want to talk about shift gears a little bit and talk about a retreat that you have coming up in the fall. So I feel like it'll give plenty of time for people to investigate it. I know you said it's in Boone, North Carolina coming up in September, we share a little bit about that with us.
Yeah. So myself and hospice nurse Julie, who is another social media hospice nurse, are hosting a retreat at The Art of Living retreat center in Boone, North Carolina, September 15, the weekend of September 15, it's going to be a lot of fun. It's a beautiful, beautiful location, the there's going to be yoga and meditation and things like that, that that we are not in charge of. But we will be facilitating discussions about death and dying, caregiving grief, and we will be helping people to fill out five wishes, which is an advanced directive that people can have to take home with them and will guide their loved ones to know what they want. If they're in a position where they're, they're dying.
Wow, sounds like such a powerful retreat experience. Who is this retreat for? Would you say?
It's for anybody, it's for nurses, it's for non nurses. It's for somebody who has a person who's on hospice, it's for somebody who is facing, you know, a life limiting or even terminal disease. It's for anybody who's interested in attending and learning more about death and dying.
That's amazing. And how powerful to have such a mixed group of people. The truth is, we all know at some point, we're all going to know someone who passes away at some point, we're all going to pass away ourselves. So there's always lots for us to learn and explore about and I think,
yes, so I can send you the link for you to put in your show notes for that. interested.
And I'll put it in show notes. And also, I know that you've got in your Instagram page, or on your Instagram page, I should say at hospice nurse kind of you've got a link tree in the bio where they can find it as well. So I'll link all of that in the show notes. So no one has to worry about memorizing it. I want to shift gears again and shift into the spirit speed around which are four really fun questions. I'm so curious to hear your answers about them. I think we all have a little bit of different different answers. Are you game Are you up for the speed round?
I am okay. With the speed round.
Nurse Penny share one thing that really shocked you or was unexpected about your work in hospice care as a nurse.
I would say what really shocked me and was unexpected was seeing that people overall who are going through a naturally dying process go through many, many, many similar symptoms, if you will have dying. That was a surprise to me. I mean, I didn't know anything about the dying process. When I became a hospice nurse, I knew nothing about it. But to find out that there are these Hallmark signs that people have when they're dying, was pretty shocking to me, like we, we kind of all die the same when we die a natural death.
That's so interesting. So there are actual markers that you as a healthcare professional are kind of tracking and looking for the same kind of group of similar symptoms or things that are happening.
Yeah, and some of them are physical, some of them are physical, and some of them are, you know, more I guess. Spiritual, if you will. And people speak in metaphors at the end of life. They talk about going on a trip Going home, and then the visioning, you know, in the reaching and that is something that is not a physical medical thing. But it's so common that we actually use that as part of our assessment when we're trying to decide if we think somebody is getting close to the end of their life.
Wow, it's so fascinating. I had no idea that that was part of the assessment. That's it. That's an amazing, I love your answer. If you got to spend a day in the spirit world, you know, based on whatever you believe is, is there, you got the full tour got to spend time with everyone you've ever known who's crossed over. And it's almost time for you to come back and return to your life. And your guide tells you you have one hour left and you can spend it with anyone at all. Who's on the other side, who do you choose why
I would choose my my cousin who killed herself. Because I think my dad's good, like he's fine where he's at, but I have always felt really bad about my cousin. You know, people who, who commit suicide or, you know, in their own lives, clearly are suffering. And so I'd want to to be with her and let her know that I'm there for her. And
you know, so beautiful
that I care about her because she I don't think felt that she was cared about.
Wow, that's really profound. Thank you for sharing that. Even though we have spiritual gifts and and gifts of helping other people, we have very human lives, sometimes mundane. What's one quirky thing about you that people might be surprised to learn?
A quirky thing about me is that I, I talk to myself all the time, if nobody's around, I actually will have arguments with people in my mind, like actually talk and say out loud if I have conversations with people, I love it at art here. I just I don't know why. And I talked to my cat too. So
let's talk do you do both sides of the conversation or just your side?
I do. I speak I speak out loud my side of the conversation. But in my head, I don't speak out loud their side. But in my head. I'm definitely thinking about what they're saying to me, because I have to know how I'm responding to that. So I do outloud say what I'm going to what I would say, but I only hear I'm not like a split personality. It's
funny. I feel like I feel like I do that sometimes. And I'm writing email 1000 times in my mind with all the possible twists and outcomes. I like that. Leave us with a pearl of wisdom. What's one piece of advice or wisdom that you wish that you had early on in your understanding of death in the dying process?
Death is inevitable. And the best way to have a good death is to get to a place of acceptance.
That's really profound. Do you feel like there's anything that people can do at different stages and phases in their life to be more prepared? Are there certain things that you will do?
Yes, definitely. I always say legacy work is something that can help you to get to a place of acceptance. And that would be even if something is, you know, benign, is looking through a photo album and pulling out pictures that you don't want to live on after you like if you're intentionally thinking, Oh, no, thank you. Once I die, I don't want people to see this photo. It's not a very good one of me. Or like one thing I used to do. And my daughters were teenagers when I started doing hospice, and so it drove him nuts. But a song would come on the radio, and I'd say hey, if I'm ever dying, I want you to play that song for me. So like, that type of little thing that you can start to think about. And then of course, as you get older, doing the five wishes is really helpful. And that is, you know, Advanced Directives not just do I want CPR or to be on a ventilator, whatever, but it's, I want to be treated with joy. Or you know, like, I want people to be quiet when I'm dying. I want harps playing or I want people to be laughing and telling jokes, that type of thing. Wow,
I didn't even know this was a thing that you could make five wishes that we've talked more about this Five Wishes? I'm so I'm so interested.
Yeah, the five wishes is five And it's, it's really easy to fill out. It's it's actually I think 48 states now recognize it as a legal Advanced Directive. You just have to get two witnesses to sign it. And it does have like I said, Things About to feeding things about events. later if you are found to be, you know, in a condition where you are not likely to recover, do you want to be on a ventilator? And then it has things like I want prayer at my bedside, I want this, I want that. And what I want my family to know about me, and it's got where you can write things in. And it's just very, I always say, I've talked about it a lot on on my social media. Even if you don't live in a state where it's illegal, Advanced Directive. It's such a great guy to help you. Oh, you know, and while I'm talking about it, too, here's another thing if people are wanting to start getting to that place of acceptance and wrapping their brain around death is the death deck.
Oh my gosh, that was on my list to ask you. I made a sticky note earlier today. I'm so happy I brought this up.
And they have the AOL deck now. So yeah, this is a game. It's a card game. And it's fun. And it's funny. It's got dark humor in it. Oh, a
couple of cards from there. Just because we get a vibe of it. Where do we get get this deck deck? I'm literally so happy you brought this up. Because there's a sticky note on my kitchen right now with your name.
It's the website is the death The death And they can order it from there. Oh, here's all you're gonna love this. This is a very first card that just came up. Do you believe mediums communicate with the dead? Oh my gosh, how hilarious is that? It's got multiple, multiple choice. This is where I'm like, we can't make this stuff up. A Yes. I've heard about or experienced some amazing insights from a medium be not sure. But it's at least good for some entertainment value. Or see no, they deliver nothing but fictitious news. So funny. Yeah, so it's got all? Yeah, it's got all kinds of multiple choice questions in here like that, then it's got some fill in the blank type questions? Would you attend a pet funeral? If you had to choose one of these classic gruesome movie deaths, which would it be, it's just a fun way to start having a conversation about death and dying? Yeah. And all of those things, just open your, your awareness to the fact that you know, we are going to die someday and, and if you can just get to that place, you will have a much better death. You know, I've had patients who were okay with dying, they were writing their own obituary planning their own memorial and their deaths went so much better than those who fight it and are afraid to even say the words. Yeah,
and just, you know, you make such a wonderful point about especially like the Death deck, it's it is bringing a little bit of dark humor and a little bit of ease to hard conversations that maybe feel challenging to start or, you know, it's like, alright, let's just pull some of these cars and make silly answers or, you know, kind of normalizing it, which I know is a huge part of your whole mission.
Yeah, I have found that, for a lot of people, you know, bringing levity to death and dying, is the best way for them to learn from me. And not everybody likes mice, I get lots of comments from people who think it's mocking them, or it's inappropriate or making fun of death or whatever. But then, you know, I've got many, many more than that, who appreciate that. As a matter of fact, I don't know if you know who Perez Hilton is. He's? Yeah. So he said, he shared one of my videos yesterday. And I said, Hey, thanks for sharing. You said, oh, what you're doing is so great. And I love that you make it light and funny, because it's so much easier for people to be able to learn from you because you do it that way. Oh, for
sure. It's it's more, more palatable. Definitely. And, and as someone who works a lot with people grieving on the other side of a loss, I can tell you, I know lots of my clients would say how powerful it would be for them to receive, you know, the five wishlist stir? You know what I mean? Just things from their person, because it is such a common worry of people, did I give this person the end of life experience they wanted did I you know, honor them in a memorial in the way that they might have liked. So this is really just helping your loved ones potentially on the other side of it, you know, who are left behind?
And know what the irony of that is? And I've heard that before, too from from other mediums psychic medium. John Edward has said that, you know, people want to know, like, if they did the right thing for their dying person, that's what they want them to ask. And I always think, why can you ask this before they were dead? That's when you should be asking the question. When we're there to try and they can't see the forest through the trees and we're trying to tell them it's okay to give them morphine. It's not going to cause them to die faster. It's okay to tell them that they're dying that you know that they're dying so that you can have a conversation and closure you know, you miss out on so much. If you don't have that, that conversation, you ignore the elephant in the room. And it's ironic that that's what they want to know, after it's too late, when it is so interesting out there to be able to help them with that if they would just, you know, accept that conversation. Yeah.
And it's it's having the conversation doesn't doesn't make it more scary. I'm not having the conversations always.
Were I yeah,
I have. I have one more question for you about those final visits sometimes where, you know, you're encouraging people to say the things. What would you say to someone who either their loved one wasn't conscious when they said the things or that they didn't actually say those things? Do you have any any, like bits of wisdom on the grieving side? For them? I mean, I'd have my own feelings about it. I'm curious to hear yours.
Well, there are studies that show that people can hear up until the time of death. So we always encourage people to say what they need to say to their person, whether they're conscious or not, as far as if they've missed saying something that they wish they would have said, you know, that's a hard one, you can recommend that people write things down and burn it up and let the smoke go into the air. That's more of a that's I think more of the Grief Support Services side of things. They work with people on that type of thing. But that's why we encourage those conversations ahead of time so that people don't regret that they didn't say something they wish they would have said,
wow. And thank you so much for the profound work that you're doing with people as they transition and then supporting just on the advocacy side, and on the compliance side of you really are doing amazing work. And I'm so grateful that you're in the world. Thank you so much for being here with us today. And again, you could find nurse, hospice nurse penny on all of the social media platforms at hospice nurse penny, and we will link the retreat that she's got coming up September 15, in Boone, North Carolina and all of her contact points in the show notes. Thank you so much hospice nurse, pet
Well, what did I tell you, that was a great conversation, I feel so blessed some lucky to have gotten to have this conversation with hospice nurse Penny and just get a medical understanding and someone from the insides perspective on death and dying and that process and how generous of her to share her own personal stories of how she came to understand and have belief on what might be waiting for us on the other side, so to speak, through her own personal experiences, you know, as she mentioned, with the passing of her own dad, and then with her patient experiences, so I feel like we are very fortunate. And I'm so grateful to nurse penny for sharing so openly, such profound emotions of her own and stories of her experience. Again, as you know, I will have all of the information and contact points for hospice nurse penny in the show notes of course, you can find her across all social media platforms at hospice nurse Penny, but I'll put those links below. And if you're interested in her retreat, coming up in September, I'll have the links for that as well. If you are someone who is wanting to continue conversation with a loved one in the spirit world after their death, of course, you can work with me privately. But I also have a free gift that I've been offering which is my sign magnet three day free video mini course. And the last lesson in that course is teaching you how to set up signs with a loved one in the spirit world. So for example, if you don't feel them around or you don't feel like they've been visiting you, you can actually go through this process that I teach you in this free video workshop this free video course and learn how to set up specific signs in the world with your different loved ones in the spirit world so that they can start saying hi to you in a new way whether they've been doing it all along or whether you haven't felt them in a while or never at all. This process is simple and easy that anyone can do it and totally free just go to my website joyful right on the homepage, you will see sign magnet which is the free three day mini course just drop your email in there and then you will also be on my VIP insiders list. So you'll get the link to my free monthly community healing to the weekly talks that I do and so so much more. So thank you for being here with me today. Let me know how this resonated with you let me know if you learn something from nurse penny. I am definitely going to get that death card duck and let me know if you decide to get it too because I think it's All Powerful to open the conversation about death and the dying process. And I feel like it can take so much fear and misunderstanding out of it. So hopefully this conversation was valuable for you. I feel like it was immensely valuable for me and I feel like it will be for so many big thank you again to hospice nurse penny for the time she spent with us but also for all the amazing work that she puts into the world. Again, I'm a fan and a follower of hers, so I highly recommend checking out her platforms. I really like her style. Thanks again for joining me. Big hugs. Bye for now from inside the spirit speakeasy

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