The CEJ tackles a taboo with a documentary

The Center for Equality and Justice (CEJ) along with the graduate psychology department and Our Community House of Hope (OCHH) made it possible for Thousand Oaks residents to enjoy a free screening of a documentary about death and end-of-life care.

The CEJ kicked off this semester’s Reel Justice Film Series at Muvico with the screening of “Consider the Conversation: A Documentary on a Taboo Subject” by Terry Kaldhusdal and Michael Bernhagen.

The documentary was created after both Kaldhusdal and Bernhagen lost loved ones to severe chronic diseases.

The loss of their loved ones led to their desire to educate others about the struggle surrounding a loved one’s death and to open up the conversation about death before it is too late.

The filmmakers used testimonies from patients, family members, doctors and health-care professionals to provide an in-depth evaluation of end-of-life care.

“I think end-of-life care is an extremely important topic because it is something that will become part of all of our lives in one way or another,” said Elizabeth Barna, student program coordinator for the CEJ. “I feel that older Americans and those with terminal illnesses are often not given the attention and dignity they deserve, and talking openly about death and dying protects the rights of those at the end of life while demystifying death at the same time.”

The documentary was intended to help break the taboo and allow families to speak openly about death and their dying wishes.

It also demonstrated how planning ahead can facilitate the process for those who have lost a loved one or are days from doing so.

“Death and dying are a normal part of the life cycle,” said Jamie Banker, assistant professor of the graduate psychology department and director of counseling psychology marital and family therapy training program. “Most of us fear death because we don’t have the say of when death occurs so we feel a sense of loss of control. If you talk about death with your family and friends, you can regain that sense of control and normalize the process of death.”

Banker was a part of the panel that spoke after the screening and took questions from the audience.

Other panelists included Dr. John Horton, general practitioner, and Amyra Braha, a certified grief counselor and Fellow in Thanatology, which certifies people to be specialists in death, dying and bereavement.

The panel discussion was moderated by CLU assistant professor of religion, Colleen Windham-Hughes.

OCHH, which provides free end-of-life care to those who are terminally ill and cannot care for themselves, became involved in the screening as a way to fulfill their mission statements.

“[The documentary] teaches people to not be fearful and to be better prepared for our end-of-life, or for a family member’s end of life,” said Ann Sobel, executive director of OCHH.

“Don’t let [death] happen without doing the things you wanted to say or do before you die,” said Sobel. “Make amends with the best friend who you haven’t spoken to in years. People who make amends in their relationships have the most peaceful deaths.”

Those who suffer from terminal diseases are not the only ones who believe in the need for end-of-life care, but family members of those affected by those diseases also find it important for the accommodations to be taken care of beforehand.

“I think that people deserve to have someone by their side as they are dying,” said junior Michelle Bartley, a psychology major with an emphasis in child and family counseling. “Everyone says that hearing is the last to go and if you are alone in those last hours or minutes, it could be very sad.”

 

Mayra Ruiz
Staff Writer
Published Feb. 6, 2013