Peaceful Passages: The essential guide to navigating the emotional storms and daily logistics of an at-home end-of-life journey by Kim West is a great resource for those who are caring for their loved one in the last days of life. I am honored to present my review of this book for you here.
About the Author
Kim West holds a PhD in Clinical Pastoral Counseling and a M.Div. in Counseling and Family, but when her own mother became ill with terminal cancer she found that she had no hands-on knowledge of how to take care of her.
As a counselor she knew to journal her own experience to help her process her grief at losing her mother and she knew how to help her mother finish her life well and be prepared for the life to come. But the day-to-day of taking care of her mother as she died would require learning a whole new set of caring skills. And learn she did.
After completing her own journey with her mother she knew she had to help others who would travel this same path. Peaceful Passage is a merging of her years of counseling experience and the new skills she learned caring for her mother combined with her heart to help and to heal.
You can learn even more about Kim and connect with her too at the following links:
Kim’s author page at: http://www.peaceful-passage.com/about-the-author.html
Kim’s website: http://www.peaceful-passage.com/
Kim on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peacefulpassage
I was drawn to this book mostly due to my own ministry to the grieving. Peaceful Passages navigates you through what will become some of the most difficult days in your life as well as the one that you are caring for in their last days. Many times we learn of a terminal illness and because we have never been through anything like this before we bounce from day to day with all the ups and downs; ins and outs. This is a very difficult task, it is emotionally draining, physically challenging and sometimes very ugly. On top of this, we must also continue in our own life as we prepare for in the death of someone near and dear to our heart.
Peaceful Passages is truly a love offering from Kim to us. She was blessed with the opportunity to help her own Mother peacefully journey through a terminal illness; a tumor in her brain. She calls it her “great and amazing blessing” (pg. 217). Chapter fifteen details her “Passage with Mom” as she moved her Mom out of the her 22 year home into her own home to live and die with Kim and her family there. She shares how after only 3 weeks she was totally exhausted from the endless questions and lack of sleep. She cared for her Mom from the time she got up at 6:30 AM to 11:30 PM every day. Her Mom’s dementia caused Kim to constantly worry about her well-being. Kim shared some of the intimate details and her day-to-day struggles. She was able to do this because she wrote this stuff down when it was happening. Journalizing is not only a great way to relieve the stress of the every day; it is a wonderful thing to look back upon. Through this journey with her Mom, Kim realized how important it was to take care of her own self so that she could take care of Mom too.
Kim has thoughtfully included pages for notes as you read through the book and many, many resources that you might never consider when you are embarking upon a journey like this yourself. These journals and workbook sections of the book make it a resource you will want on your bookshelf, able to be referenced and used at just the right time. At the very end of the book Kim even includes an entire Resources chapter that includes things like Hospice Organizations, Advanced Directives and Estate Planning, Caregiving information, Funeral Planning and more.
Through it all Kim did a great thing to help in her personal grief healing process — she used her own life experience to help others to prepare for the reality that death brings. As I read through her personal testimony of her Mom’s passing I was reminded of my own Mom and Dad who have gone before me. I remembered the pain of losing them. When Kim said her stomach hurt — I felt that. I rejoiced in the fact that Kim placed her trust in the Lord.
Peaceful Passages is a book that you will read and re-read because it is so chock full of great information and moving “real – life” circumstances. Kim did a great job to compile some much needed information while sharing her own testimony of the peaceful passage of her Mom.
- Favorite excerpt: “We had lots of laughter in the house that week. It filled the nooks and crannies and told death that we neither fear it nor wish to fight it. Love was the biggest force in our house.” (pg. 204, during Mom’s last days)
- Love the definitions of terms. The last thing you need is to hear are terms like “artificial feeding an hydration”, “DNR/CPR” and “Advanced Directives” right after you have received the news that your loved one has little time to live. Learning these things now will educate you now. It is overwhelming and next to impossible to learn when you are in shock.
- Chapter One Workbook: What does your loved one want? Sometimes we miss this in the midst of our own emotions. Write it down!
- Chapter Three — What you AND your loved one might be feeling on this journey. Emotions such as anger, fear, grief, loneliness and lack of control are very normal.
- Be willing to change EVERYTHING when you take on the role of full time caregiver for your loved one. Remember that it is about them and not you, but don’t neglect to care for yourself too. You can not be the caregiver when you need your own caregiver — STAY HEALTHY .
- Favorite Chapter — 6 “The Basics of Caring”. I am blessed to have a husband who was a nurse and I have learned much from him regarding the basics. This is not the case for many — you may be that one who never had to clean up an adult bowel movement. Hints and tricks – excellently documented.
- Clever use of nautical terms throughout the book remind you that this is a journey and you are the captain.
Not So Favorite Parts
- The liberal use of subtitles sometimes cluttered the pages and confined my thinking too much as I was reading. They took away from the natural flow of Kim’s great writing skill.
- The quotes at the beginning of the chapters were of some that I have never heard. This book is about a Peaceful Passage, why not use biblical quotes? There is no peace outside of Jesus, the Prince of Peace — I would have liked to see more emphasis on the spiritual side of things. Maybe that is just me.
- Chapter Ten was entitled “The North Star will Guide You”. I understand that this is in keeping with the nautical theme and I know how important the North Star is when you are sailing (I am a sailor myself) but I truly believe that God in the journey is THE MOST IMPORTANT relationship that your loved one can have. Waiting until Chapter 10 to bring God in was too long; especially since Kim herself holds a Masters of Divinity in Counseling and Family and a PhD in Clinical Pastoral Counseling.
- On page 143 of Chapter Ten (the God chapter) Kim says “Sometimes God does not answer”. Careful study of the following Scriptures might prove this statement untrue: Ps 34:17; Ps 66:8; Ps 143:1; Prov 1:28-29; Prov 15:29; Prov 28:9; Matt 6:12, 14-15; Phil 4:6-9. We must consider whether or not the person offering prayers is a believer or nonbeliever.
If you purchase this book for no other reason, get it so that you too may prepare a peaceful passage for your loved one by being prepared for this tough journey. These tools will prove to be invaluable and you will want to share them with others also. I know of no other single book that includes all of these rich resources — having them under one cover is a blessing. True to the subtitle, it is the essential guide.
You may order Kim’s book from the Amazon link below:
ISBN-10: 0984052666 ISBN-13: 978-0984052660 | List Price: $16.99 | Format: Softcover | Page Count: 240