Season 3 EP#79 Anam Cara Academy: A Journey of Exploring Death and Celebrating Life with Mary Telliano
In this episode of Your Story Medicine, we explore the disconnection between people and death and how it has led to fear and suffering with our guest, Mary Telliano. This episode invites us to reflect on our own mortality and examines death in a new light that allows us to connect with ourselves and our loved ones, and to celebrate the sacredness of the moment. Mary has a mission; to rebrand death. Through training other death doulas, to education on grief, as well as the Anam Cara Podcast. Mary is midwifing the rebirth of dying well. In order to rebrand death we must first normalize it. Mary is connecting people to the universe that resides within them, and serving as a reminder that death is here, it is something we get to experience and it is ready to be carried in a new light.
Main Topics Discussed:
- Death as our greatest life coach (and preparation for our own)
- Honoring the choices of our loved ones in transition
- Healing our relationship to loss
- When to call upon a death doula
- Choosing our legacy as future ancestors
What are you celebrating about yourself today?
The madness. The madness when we got on this call before we hit record. The madness of how much I love doing what I do, how it inspires me, how the work that I love to cultivate and I'm exploring in my meat suit gives me more energy and it gives me inspiration, and it enlivens me in a way that no other job or career or calling has done. So today I'm celebrating the absolute love that I have for what I'm doing.
How would you describe your medicine and what it is you do?
If I was to strip away the title, what it is that I'm doing is, a soul being another friend of the soul, a soul recognizing self in some way and befriending it and rising and falling with the tides of that soul as they transition from this realm to the next.
How has your ancestral lineage influenced the path that you walk on today?
Yeah, I am a native Hawaiian born and raised and so I'm from the island and I think that my culture really has a beautiful way of honoring the cycles in a very spiritual and subtle way and one that's incorporated with nature and that was my upbringing. And my first experience with death was when I died as a little girl and I think that was my initiation into exploring what it is to bounce from one space and then come back into the body. And as far as the lineage, I think there was something really on purpose about me choosing to be in Hawaii and to have a near death experience as a little girl that shaped some of my curiosities as I got into my teen years. And in my teen years I would volunteer for elderly homes and I liked it. So from twelve to 17 that's what I was doing during my summers and I enjoyed being there with the elderly and I found this innocent curiosity and awareness that there was more life happening in these places than what the outside world was necessarily perceiving it to be. A lot of stories, a lot of raw emotion, a lot of realness, a lot of truth. And I think in those spaces I became really activated. And then throughout my twenties I just had a career and I was working as a finance and insurance. And as I did that for 16 years, towards the end, my finance career started to change and I started to feel confident to give people readings as they're sitting there buying a vehicle. And how I'm like, oh, your grandpa walked in with you and you're getting this car. Congratulations. And so it started to really get confident as I was doing this and my grandfather died and I knew after his death that this was my calling. This was something I was supposed to be doing. So that's kind of like the little subtle umbrella way of describing it in my experience with becoming an end of life doula.
What has your experience been like with restoring ritual and ceremony and some of the ways that you have experienced the reclamation?
Ritual and ceremony gives a purpose and a meaning to the things that have no words. Losing somebody we love, there's not enough words. I can stand and tell you about how much I love this person and how much I care about them. There's always something that feels a little incomplete, and that is the act of ritual. And because we're creating something with the grief, we're creating something with the joy, and we're creative beings. We're here to create and to destroy. And that's the same thing in death. Death has destroyed something in the physical, and now we get to create something from the ether and bring it back into the physical and have some kind of way of honoring and being respectful and really representing the care and the influence that this person or thing that we're honoring has been in our life. And so whatever that ceremony and ritual is, as a doula, I kind of just rise to the family's traditions, what the person has asked for.
What are the parallels that you see between birth work and death work?
Almost the same. I've had three children and I've gone through the initiation of birth and I see so many parallels as far as the support. It's really focusing on the sacredness, focusing on the intention. And that's the same thing with birth. The intention is to bring about this baby and there's different ceremonies and rituals that you can do in the meantime to honor the changing of the family dynamic and the changing of the mother and the welcoming in some of the techniques. Sometimes a doula will get behind a mother and support her back so that she can just rest back into the space and open up her hips and lean into the delivery. Same thing with somebody dying. Sometimes they're very agitated and nowhere in the bed has it been comfortable for them. And sometimes sitting them up and having them lay against you in the same way creates a flow of energy and ease in the body. The breath is changing. When we're in delivery, we're at the end of breath. We go to the end of life, we go through the same breathing changes. I think it's the same coin just in reverse. When we're born, we're born from the inside out. When we die, we die from the outside in.
What does it mean to start thinking about ways we can create our legacy?
Our legacy is in everything that we're doing that has any kind of connection to our dharma. I think it's my dharma to be a mother. It's my dharma to be a part of rebranding death. Those are the things that I'm connected to that are my truths in this lifetime. And so anything that connects you back to that dharma, back to the path, back to what it is you're really here to create, whatever that is. I think that's where the legacy is born and that's where it lives and that's where it will always live.
When would you say it’s a great time to consider having a death doula in your life?
I would say a good time to incorporate a death doula would possibly be if you're in diagnosis is a great place to hire. Whether that diagnosis you do become healthier and the treatments are working, sometimes having a doula there to hold that space is important because death is definitely coming up. That's a great place to start.
What are you learning to let go or release?
I think I'm just reframing a lot of stuff. So anything that would maybe be framed as like, release, it's not like necessarily leaving me or going anywhere. That's not a part of me because everything I see is me and everyone I see is a part of extension of myself. So where could it really go? I'm just constantly reframing what is being told to me and what is my truth.
What is the wisdom that your future ancestral self would have to share?
Love everything like it doesn't belong to you.
Conclusion: Death is not the enemy; it is a mystery to be embraced. We can use our understanding of death to live life more fully. Cherish the moments, be present, and create a life that you want to be remembered for.
Action Integration: Reframe the way you view death, and seek to establish that death is a natural part of life that can be approached with clarity, intentionality, and care.
Learn more about Mary Telliano:
Follow her on Instagram: www.instagram.com/mary_telliano/