Over the last 20 years, in Europe and most English-speaking countries, there has been a rise in the interest of death and dying education and related issues. There has also been more focus on a return to person and family-centered care that existed before modern medicine and continual interventions.
Even though Mexico’s Day of the Dead is dedicated to celebrating one’s ancestors every November 1 and 2, and family tradition is to be at home with the dying, there is a movement for more community outreach, open discussion of the subject, and a return to indigenous wisdom which may complement current customs.
U.S. educated transpersonal psychologist Wilka Roig, a Puerto Rican based in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, founded the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation of Central Mexico in 2019 to meet this growing need.
“Whatever we can do to shift the paradigm, normalizing death, normalizing grief, that’s our mission,” comments Roig.
The Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation in Mexico is a non-profit organization inspired by the work of Swiss psychiatrist, humanitarian and hospice pioneer, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Kubler-Ross’ seminal books (23) have been translated into more than 35 languages. On Death and Dying is her best known title (1969).
To meet the growing interest Roig hosts seminars (currently Zoom gatherings on-line in English, Spanish, and Portuguese) about serious illness, compassionate care, models of hospice care, green burials (Roig is dedicated to establishing a model in Guanajuato state), loss, grief, and more. The umbrella title is “Preparing for a Thoughtful Death” or “Preparandonos para una Muerte Cosciente” in Spanish.
Recent seminars have featured Ken Ross, Founder and President of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, and Dr. Christopher Kerr of Hospice and Palliative Care Buffalo, author of Death is But a Dream.
Roig also hosts Death Cafes, Death Over Dinner discussions, and trains end-of-life doulas (non-medical professionals trained to care for psychosocial and spiritual needs of seriously ill patients and their families during and after the death process).
Roig is an end-of-life doula certified through INELDA, the International End-of-Life Doula Association based in New Jersey. Roig’s work as a doula is all volunteer.
According to Roig, she has been “accidentally” moving toward this work since childhood. “I’ve been listening, connecting, dreaming, embracing dying and loss, noting how the influence of the dearly departed is healing. Any work we do to be in touch with ourselves is end-of-life work,” adds Roig.
Since the beginning of time doulas, known as parteras (midwives), have been present in Mexico for births and deaths. There is a lineage of grandmothers, mothers, and daughters who do this work throughout the country. In many areas, where superstition reigns, end-of-life doulas are not spoken of, as they are sometimes associated with witchcraft.
During the pandemic Roig created an on-line 14-week doula course to teach compassionate accompaniment. She envisions community care that “encompasses teaching gardeners and housekeepers in different towns and states of Mexico how to be doulas and/or support end-of-life.”
Last year Roig trained doulas for Hola Hospice in Morelia, Michoacan. See article here:
Roig currently has three doulas in practicums.
“The Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation is now an official place to begin the support of community death care in Mexico,” says Roig. Roig is moving closer to her goal of normalizing death and grief one person at a time.
Wendy Jane Carrel, MA, is a Spanish-speaking senior care specialist and consultant from California. She has travelled Mexico for several years researching health systems, senior care, and end-of-life care in order to connect Americans, Canadians, and Europeans with options for loved ones. She has investigated hundreds of senior housing choices in 16 Mexican states. Her web site is http://www.WellnessShepherd.com