"It is my mission -- and my deepest honor -- to guide and support you in your journey with death."
- Ginny Farney, The Passing Wisdom Founder -
My Journey To This Work
As a child, I always knew that I would be a nurse when I grew up. It was a natural instinct to care for others. I assumed that I would spend my career working in traditional nursing roles. Life has a way of directing us down paths that we could never have imagined ourselves. This is the journey behind my passion to ease the fear and support a more conscious experience with death and dying.
Growing up, I had a curiosity and comfort with the concept of death. My mother had major depression and was often suicidal; I adopted her belief of death as a “sweet release from the pain of life.”
After becoming a Registered Nurse, I worked in a hospital setting for 25 years. Our medical system is focused on keeping people alive at all costs, including financial and human suffering. Conversations around realistic expectations of treatments, quality of life, palliative care and end-of-life choices rarely took place. I believe people have the right to make informed decisions about their life, having full understanding of their condition, their options and the anticipated outcomes. Despite the intense avoidance of death and the best attempts of medical care, we are all going to die. Why is so much suffering endured in the attempts to avoid it?
In 2003, I had the honor of caring for my mother. She had lung cancer, then began experiencing symptoms of brain metastasis. Knowing that she was failing rapidly and time was short, she asked me to make a list. This list included everything she wished to accomplish with the remainder of her time. Of course, the final legal and financial details made the list but most of the list included people she wanted to contact one last time. Many friends and family visited. I helped her write letters thanking people for their contribution to her life, some included apologies or words of forgiveness and love. After six weeks, we completed the list. She stated, “I’m tired, help me to bed.” She slipped into unconsciousness that night. I cared for her several more days with hospice support. Watching my mother’s life slip away was the most painful experience of my life.
I busied myself with the funeral and settling all her affairs, selling her house and returning to “life as usual.” I thought that I was doing OK but had increasing difficulty functioning due to severe depression. Years of unprocessed grief was rearing its ugly head. I received minimal relief from psychotherapy and was determined to find some measure of peace. I began making changes in my life trying to ease my discomfort: cutting back on hours and later resigning from my nursing career, going to massage school, and eventually getting divorced. Massage school opened my mind to alternatives that I had never heard of before like Reiki and energy healing. My first Reiki/intuitive healing session changed my life. It set me on a path of self-healing and growth. I felt a sense of greater purpose and a need to understand the larger picture of the dynamics of human life and suffering. I became a Reiki Master in 2009.
I also returned to nursing as hospice nurse in 2009, becoming a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse in 2010. Having a deeper awareness and understanding of energy, I observed with new eyes and became intimate with the dying process, not only physically but also noticing the unique energetic changes that occur throughout the process. When working with my patients and families, I created a sacred space where inner reflection and personal healing was encouraged. I intuitively began to practice energy techniques to ease the passing of my hospice patients.
My path of personal healing continued. I learned several energy healing modalities. I also took a strong interest in heart-centered indigenous spiritual practices and was drawn to the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition, a shamanic tradition from Peru. In 2011 I completed an apprenticeship that took my understanding and application of spirit, energy and death to a whole new level.
I love hospice care. However, I found myself wishing I could serve my patients in a way not allowed in the traditional hospice setting. Time restrictions limited the depth of relationship I could develop. Too often spiritual care meant religious or Christian-specific support, which I feel leaves the soul adrift in the process and doesn't address so many aspects I find essential for the person and their family to find peace.
Life continued to throw me curves and opportunities.
My hospice work became part time. But more significant than that, death was about to take me through yet another initiation.
Since my mother’s death, I had been guardian for my mentally and physically challenged sister. She had many needs and our relationship was often difficult. She blessed me, teaching me true patience. Gina’s health began to decline without a clear cause. Conservative treatments failed to provide any quality of life. I cared for her in my home, with hospice, the few short days before her transition.
I promised myself that I would stay present and attend to my grief this time. I took time for myself, read books on grief, cried, journaled, did ceremonies, and shared my grief with others. I took a long overdue vacation to Sedona, Arizona in search of healing. There, I was spiritually guided to a “chance meeting” with one of only three Soul Midwives residing in the US. Later that year, I traveled to Chideock, UK to study the art of Soul Midwifery with Felicity Warner, who pioneered the concept of holistic and spiritual care of the dying. It was a validation of everything I had experienced and intuited. The pieces were falling into place.
And yet, life would throw me another care-giving curve. My Aunt began to have health problems and needed my assistance. I had agreed years earlier to be her Power of Attorney when she needed me. Over four years, her care, complicated by the fact that she lived five hours away, became a full time endeavor. My 94 year old Aunt was a reclusive hoarder, very stubborn, and an endless complainer. Witnessing and attempting to support her journey as she suffered and fought against losing her protective structures and surrendering her perceived control over her life taught me so much. During this time, I continued my spiritual work, becoming a certified Spiritual Healer and an Ordained Minister. I trained as a Certified Death Midwife in Chicago, Il. This training added the home funeral guidance piece to my toolbox.
After my Aunt made her transition, again, I took time to care for myself. One piece of my self-care was to attend a training with the Center for Loss and Life Transitions with Dr. Alan Wolfelt in Fort Collins, Colorado. The course, Companioning the Mourner, was deeply healing as well as educational. I have also completed his training on Counseling Skills Fundamentals.
I continue to work hospice cases occasionally for a staffing agency.
I am a volunteer board member of the Funeral Consumer’s Alliance of Greater Kansas City, a non-profit organization that seeks to educate and support individuals and families in making informed decisions about death-related services, consistent with their values and lifestyles.
It is my mission -- and my deepest honor -- to guide and support you in your journey with death.