Podcast #97 Bonus Episode #1 – Extra Material from Theresa Brown, Barbara Karnes and Avani Dilger

In this Bonus Episode #1, I tell you more about why I interviewed these people, and they each share more about themselves and their work. Hear more from Theresa Brown #62, Barbara Karnes #64, 65, 27 and 28, and Avani Dilger #69.


Hi, I’m Diane Hullet and welcome to the Best Life Best Death podcast. This episode is my first bonus episode, and if you’re listening to it, it means you’re a subscriber to my podcast. So I wanna start out by just saying thank you. I’m so grateful. To have found this passion of having conversations on podcasts and to my many listeners who’ve been really supportive and equally enthusiastic about kind of my casual style, the questions I ask, the curiosity I bring, and the incredible guests that I’ve asked to be on.

The. Podcast who have so graciously said yes. So in this bonus episode, I’ve got three segments and I’m gonna talk a little bit about why I chose each person to come on the podcast. And then without further ado, we’ll get into the first, and then with each section I’ll tell you the name of the person and their website so you can kind of track that.

The first person is Barbara Carnes. Barbara Carnes. On some level, maybe to you needs no introduction cuz by now you’ve probably heard a couple of my podcasts with her. But I’ll just say that Barbara Carnes is a longtime hospice nurse. She was one of the early founders of hospice in our country in the eighties, and she brings just an enormous wealth of resources to the.

Question of sort of how do we do end of life better? And her motto is really that what she says over and over again is knowledge reduces fear. And I think that that’s really powerful. It sounds very simple, but the more you sit with it and the more you learn about the end of life, you realize how much our fear is based in not knowing what to expect.

In the uncertainty that is inevitable and in the fear of just having not done this before. Like one person in a class said to me recently, she said, I can’t believe that the first time I was part of a birth was when I was giving birth to my own child. And she said that just seemed crazy to her in hindsight, because after she attended, A couple of additional births of friends and a sister.

She said, you know, that would’ve made so much more sense if I’d been a part of birth before having to do it. And she said, I think the same thing is true of death. She said, how can I be a part of some deaths before my death comes upon me? So I think this is a great kind of concept that knowledge reduces fear.

So Barbara Carns, that’s my first guest. I’ve talked with Barbara four times now and the most recent episodes I put up when we were done recording those, we went ahead and stayed on for a few minutes and I asked her to talk about her blog. She has a blog called something to Think About. It comes out every week and you can subscribe to it.

And I think it’s a terrific blog. If you like Barbara Carns approach and kind of her no-nonsense style and her very direct kind of clear voice. Her blog is a great way to follow that. So that’s the first. Section of this podcast. The second section is with Teresa Brown. Teresa Brown. I got to she kind of came across my plate because somebody mentioned her book to me called Healing When a Nurse Becomes a Patient, and I got the book and I read the book and I was blown away because not only is she a former nurse, And a former English professor.

She’s a really good writer, and so it’s one of those compelling stories that’s both a good story and a really good read. And I have not yet read her another book that she wrote called The Shift, but I’m really interested in that one too. So after Theresa and I recorded our episode, we’d stayed on a bit longer.

We talked about the columns she had written because before becoming the author of. These other books. She wrote some columns for the New York Times and they, I think, are really compelling as well. In fact, I kind of said to her, Hey, there’s your next book. Compile your Columns, because I think that right there would make for a really interesting read.

So we laugh about that. Let’s see, the third person. In this episode is Ivani Dilger of Natural Highs. I talked to her and put up the podcast in late December. So this is perfect because this bonus episode is going up in January of 2023 and it’s as I said, the first bonus episode. So this is kind of fun for me to have recorded these snippets with people and now be uploading them.

Ivani Dilger runs a program called Natural Highs in Boulder, Colorado, but it’s also widely available online, and she’s just a powerhouse in terms of her belief that what is at the base of addiction is really this longing for connection and engagement. And how do we do that differently than through the kind of Substances that people use to fill that void.

So she’s got a lot to say and is, is really interesting. So you’ll get to hear us kind of squeal as we finished our episode recording because we were both just so excited we could have kept talking for another hour. All right. Welcome to bonus episode number one. Here we go with first of all, Barbara Carnes and Barbara Carnes.

You can learn more about her wo**@bk*****.com. Do you mind if we keep recording for just a minute and we do a little minute of bonus? Okay. Okay. So bonus gosh, what do we wanna talk about in the bonus time? We 

covered so much. I mean, we went, went way beyond holiday. So 

you’re, I love your blog. Will you talk a little about your blog?

You know, I started write, I, I get people that email me all the time. Every day I get emails with people that have questions and concerns, and so in writing them and responding to the individual, I realize. Other people are, are experiencing the same thing. We, humans are all alike. Our problems are all the same basically.

And so I, I wanted to reach out and give people something to think about and that’s why title it something to think about. I don’t love that. Have. The right answers are the wrong answers. I just have ideas and wanna put ’em out there for people to then determine if they like it or don’t like it or if they can apply it.

So the blog is about. Something to think about 

and because I love it. And, and say a couple of recent titles, if you can think of ’em, like if somebody’s listening and they’re not familiar with your blog. I’m trying to think of what the recent one was. It was something like your personality will affect Your Death.

It was something like that. Yes. Really? Yes. 

Yes. I mean, we die the way we’ve lived and according to our personality. So most people don’t know that. So I wrote a blog on it. There are just two ways to die, gradual and fa or fast. Most people don’t know that. So I wrote a blog about it. I have a lot of blogs about narcotics and morphine because people don’t understand and so I’m educating, I’m giving them something to think about dying.

Taking care of someone who’s dying. Taking care of someone at end of life is different than taking care of someone who’s going to get better, but most people don’t know that. And so the care that people are receiving is judged. By how people get better. And so whoever’s taking care of this person is gonna fail because the care is different.

So I wanna give some people something to think about that it’s different and here’s why it’s different. Here’s how it’s different. 

I love that, Barbara. I, well, I think I’ve always said, you know, your book is accessible. Your books, your videos are very accessible, your booklets are accessible, and I think your blog is just that.

I mean, I read it every week and it’s, it’s, it’s just a little something to think about. It’s not super long. You can get more information if you want to, but it really goes along with your whole piece. That knowledge reduces fear and that that’s, There’s so much fundamental knowledge that families and individuals aren’t aware of.

We, we keep death so at arm’s length, and then we’re shocked and surprised by it because we just, we didn’t just, we just didn’t, I don’t know, take a step into that garden and walk around and have a look before we needed to, and, and I think we do ourselves a disservice. But so many people are so afraid.

And so I love your blog because I think it, it brings these topics forward every week that are just something to think about. And I love just your casual style. You know, it’s like, Hey, here’s something to think about. You don’t have to agree with me. You might have a different take, but something to think about.

Yeah. You know, grandma used to live at home and. And grandma died in the upstairs bedroom and we were there. It was a natural, normal part of our lives. Today, grandma is probably in a senior citizen high rise or in a nursing facility, and we get a call and we come and we are with her. Two days and grandma’s dead.

We didn’t learn how to die because we didn’t see how normal dying progresses. Yeah. So we’re, we’re totally unprepared for the normal natural life process. Of dying. And that’s why I think my materials are so important because we are not prepared, never prepared. We’re not knowledge based right? On how people die, right?

Because we’re not there. And so 

I loved, there was a great article I read that really talked about how the queen showed us a normal death, and I thought that was really a beautiful way to put it like that. She withdrew from a lot of public activities. She pulled in, she did less and less. She hung on until she met the new prime minister.

Like there was this incredible sense of like waiting for this important thing. She went to one location, her family gathered. And she died. And it was just a great article about like, this is what happens. This is the process. This is what we go through if we die. A gradual death of old age, not really a specific disease process per se.

And and I loved that. I loved that explication on the, on the Queen. 

Oh, I do too. I mean, she was a great role model and because we don’t have role models except television, in the movies and that’s not how p people die. She was a great role model for all of us. Yeah. On, on how death approaches. 

Well, thanks Barbara, for this extra little bonus piece and we’ll we’ll talk again soon.

I hope it’s great to see you and hear you. Oh, thank 

you for inviting me. And yes, we’ll do it again. 

Part two of our three parts is with Teresa Brown. You can look more up more about th*****@te*********.com. Theresa spelled with an H. Awesome. I wanted to ask you about your columns, because you were like a columnist before you started writing a couple of books.

I started to call them novels, not books, not novels, books. What, how did you get into column writing? I. Well, let me say 

also it, it’s a compliment if someone thinks a nonfiction book you wrote is a novel, so it means that it reads well. So it does 

read, well. I’ve been reading a lot of books in this kind of field, and yours is, yours is like, this is an author and a writer, you know, not just, oh, thank you.

Not just like a put together. Not, not like a, like a telling of what happened, but actually a super cogent story that is riveting. Yeah. Oh, thanks. 

Yeah, so the writing, the columns kind of happened. I mean, I, so my background is I have a PhD in English. I taught English and college had kids, decided I wanted a different career, basically, went back to school, became a nurse, and then I discovered I had a talent for writing much more like journalism.

Than academic writing, which I didn’t like at all. And it started because I had a, a patient die suddenly. Just a really, really terrible experience, which I think is pretty common for healthcare people. Wow. When you’re still pretty new and someone dies who isn’t supposed to die, and it’s bloody and shocking and and I couldn’t put it behind me, so I thought, well, I’m gonna write this down.

And then I liked what I wrote and I thought, well aim high. I’m gonna send it to the New York Times. And the Science Times published it. And that’s how I got the contract from my first book from that column. And what people said is, this is a voice we never hear. The voice of a bedside nurse. Wow. And that was a very powerful message I really took to heart.

And then I thought, wow, this is a privilege. To try and make our work intelligible to the general public. And that’s what I really wanted to do was show what nurses really do and how important the job is. 

Yeah. So yeah. How many, how many columns did you end up writing? I haven’t gone back and looked at 


Oh my gosh, I have no idea. So I was writing for the Well blog at first, and then I switched over to Opinion. And now then they recently kind of rearranged an opinion and but I, I did just have a short piece come out on cnn. Terrific. So I’ve written for them to, there’s something about that 800, 850 words that its.

It’s sort of just the right length for me. Yeah, 

it’s like, it’s like you have to be pithy and intense and precise and say it. Yeah. 

So I, I’m actually one of the challenges I’m giving to myself now that the third book come out, I’m trying to figure out my fourth book, but it’s to try and write some longer magazine length pieces because I’m so comfortable in that column length.

Space. Wow. So stay tuned. Maybe I’ll write a great magazine article and you and I can talk about that too. I’d love 

to. I would love to. I feel like also, I mean, an obvious book is a collection of your columns. I mean, that wouldn’t even be all that hard to do. Oh, that’s true. Yeah. I mean, that seems like a no-brainer.

Even if it’s just a slim volume, that’s a companion piece, because if people like your writing, I think they’d be really interested in that. I, I mean, I, for one, would love to read like a whole bunch of different things from the point of view of a nurse. Oh, that’s, that’s an interesting idea. All right. I love it when you write it, you can, ok.

It’ll be like the idea, start it here. Exactly. Yeah. Someone said to me recently, oh, well Diane, get another year of podcast behind you. And then you could have a book that was like the best of podcast quotes and like, it hadn’t even occurred to me because it’s sort of like work that’s already been done, you know?



Yeah. Neat. Well, I love it. You said your third book, what’s the book I’m missing? You did the the first book is called 

Critical Care. Oh yeah. And yes. Yeah. So that was a book about my first year of being a nurse. So it starts with my very last clinical as a student and then takes me literally through.

The whole first year including the first time I gave chemo and just, 

wow. I think it’s so fascinating that you went from a PhD in English and teaching at the college level back to nursing school. Is there more like behind that story or just. 

Really? No. And I mean, so this is the irony that now I’m returning to teaching after thinking I wouldn’t, but not teaching English.

Right. I’m actually teaching at one of our local universities, Carlo, in their Master’s in Psychology program, a class called Healing Through Writing and Storytelling. So there is still a teacher. And that’s probably where I’m gonna land, but not, not doing the same kind of teaching and, but also not with the expectation that I would produce academic articles.


no, yeah. That sounds like an amazing class. The, oh, thank you. I’m stuck by, like, one of the things I talk with people about is kind of an end of life circular thing, is that sometimes people want to story tell as part of a legacy project, right? Yes. This kind of interesting thing. One woman I know who.

Has a difficult cancer diagnosis. She got very inspired after we spoke to, to she, she had like a whole spreadsheet of topics she wanted to write about that mattered to her. And, and she just started ’em like in a non, like, she got out of the idea that it had to be this narrative kind of tail of her life.

Hmm. And realized she could just write like vignettes or sas you might call ’em. And, and that I thought was really, really exciting. And then my dad has been writing this year with this program called StoryWorth. And StoryWorth is just this online thing where he gets an email every week. It’s a prompt, and then the response that he writes goes to him and to me, and then Oh, wow.

Into a book at the end of the year. So we’re just at the process of saying, okay. He said, I think I’m done. So now I’m putting in pictures and kind of polishing it. But so like a really simple way for a p a a layperson to write, you know, and Oh wow. Something about their story, because there’s something about stories that are so healing and so powerful.

Yeah, that’s, that’s 

exactly right. And, and what you said about writing these little vignettes, that’s what my book Healing is really doing is telling all these little stories about me having breast cancer and me thinking about being a nurse to cancer patients. And you know, they say that trauma kind of fractures your memory and your narrative and.

That’s how my thinking about my cancer came out. Just in all these little pieces. 

Right? Like fractured. Yes. But you, but you knit it together with, you know, research and the compassion ons. That was just the one thing I pulled out. But like things like that. Like here’s another source and what they say about this or here’s this.

Mm-hmm. And why it matters. And that’s why I think it knits together as both your story, but also much bigger than your story, which I think is why it’s really neat. I also almost went off on a tangent about my friend who had breast cancer who had a double mastectomy and she went ballistic on some of her hos hospital people.

And at one point they had some kind of a. You know, thank you to the breast cancer people of the past year or something. And she went to that. She went and found the director of the hospital and she just said, you need to have a conversation about, with me about what my experience was like. She’s a nurse.

Wow. And she’s, I’m gonna tell you exactly what was wrong with it, and exactly what was good about it. And she said he was very taken aback, but I think he heard what I had to say, you know, because she just, she just, a, ballistic probably isn’t the right word, but you know, she just, She’s so honest and so forceful and she was like, it’s not okay.

Some of the stuff I went through was simply not okay. Yeah, that’s great. 

And I, that is, that is the ideal phrase to use, I think. Like, this just is not okay. Yeah. Yeah. And 

you can do better. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I thank you tons for your time and your experience and your writing. I can’t wait to read the shift.

Oh, excellent. Well, you can tell me what you think. 


Yeah. Thanks, Theresa. Okay. Bye bye. Have a great day. You too. And finally, part three. In this bonus episode, Ivani Dilger of Natural Highs and Natural Highs. You can find out more about th**@na**********.org.

We can just keep talking recording, but actually can I, can I hit record again for a second? Sure. Okay, great. What did I do? I think I thought I stopped it. Hadn’t stopped it. Oh my gosh. So interesting. One of the things I’m thinking about doing is adding some little bit of behind the scenes videos so I can say, you know, Ivani and I just stopped our recording, but now we’re still both going.

Ah. Because I just think it’s such a huge, rich topic. I love the way you’ve got this like, Ability to both see this huge like giant societal problem. And then also just like make it completely real with one person in front of you and that, you know, do you remember the Starfish story? That great old Starfish story?

That’s right. Saving one, right? Yeah. Is that how it goes? People walking on the beach and the starfish are all stranded and they say, you know, they throw one back and the other person says, well, that WA doesn’t make a difference. You’re barely doing anything. And the person says, well, made a difference to that one.

You know totally. Yeah, it strikes me as that kind of effect, but, but how to kind of have the, like chutzpah and the vision to be both in the, kind of, in the weeds and also really big picture. And I love that you brought up that TED talk. Yeah. Well, and I, you know what keeps 

me going cuz people ask me, they’re like, how can you do this?

Like, how can you keep doing this? 

The reason I do it is because it’s 

so much fun. It is so much fun to be with other people and speak about these really important topics. I mean, you see it even in our conversation, right? Yes. It’s super fun. And see, I hate small talk. I can’t deal, I cannot even, I even be in it, right?

So, See, I don’t have to do small talk because I immediately go into deep conversations with people. So I like it. Right. You know, and people say, oh, dealing with trauma and addiction. Isn’t it just terrible and depressing? Right? And I’m like, no. It’s like it brings out the best in people when 

you talk about 



challenging things. Well, you figured out how to like harness the like Yeah, it’s dark. And what’s the wisdom in that? And it’s dark and how do we change it? And I love your thing that it’s like we have to be the ones to change it. And, and at the same time, I mean, I know, I can think these, the heroine addicted young people I’m thinking of both started with trauma.

You know, that’s where it started. And what I don’t know is, You know, what might we do differently? You know, when, you know somebody’s had a, a traumatic sexual encounter in seventh grade, I. You know that that child needs some therapy, but how, but what therapy? Which therapy? How do you actually break out of the cycle of the fight, flight fear, freeze kind of space, and, and get something that really does shift it so that two years later they’re not in an addiction addiction cycle.

Yeah. I recommend that people have 

to get a therapist who’s trained in EMDR or brain spotting. Yeah. Right. Because those are the only. Treatments now that actually resolve trauma. Right. You know, and, and give people their strength back because everything else, managing symptoms, you know, the energy is just blocked.

Yeah. And so when, when this is not unlocked, people will never get their strength back or their joy back. 

They move anxiety. I mean, they just get stuck in the anxiety place. That’s that’s the biggest thing I’ve seen with young people. Yep. Yep. And we started 

an initiative called How to Turn Anxiety Into Your Superpower, where we teach people the neuroscience of anxiety and stress and trauma and that it’s not a mental health disorder.

It’s not something that is wrong with you. It’s actually 

right. It’s 

just as a culture, we don’t teach people how to get out. Right. So that’s what we teach now. In communities, in schools, in classrooms, for teachers, for students, for we teach how? How can you do this? You don’t need a therapist. Always. Yeah. I mean, yes, in severe situations it’s good to work with a trauma 


Yeah. But. In general, you 

can learn that, how to do that in your family and for yourself and for your friends. We need to make this more a community approach, you know, less 

pathologizing. It’s like, I kind of joke like we need a death doula in every family. Like really? You need an natural high consultant in every family.

You know? You need someone who’s saying, let’s go to the woods. Let’s go deep. Let’s have these conversations. Let’s grapple with our human existence beyond just. I don’t know. Just lip service or something. Yeah. Yeah. Well, hmm. Thank you. Awesome. You’re welcome. It was fun. Really, really interesting. I love that you’ve got young people involved.

I’m dying to have you come. One of my kids has just gone to boarding school at Interlochen. If you’ve ever heard of Interlochen. It’s an arts boarding school in Michigan. Oh. And it’s, oh, it’s incredible. It’s an incredible place. But, and they’ve got a lot of really good things going on, but like, I immediately go, oh my God, why isn’t this in the curriculum in Interlochen?

You know, but really it’s like, yeah, you need to be in the curriculum at every school. Yep. We are 

now working with kids in school. Actually, I go 

today. Where we sit 

down with students and ask them Yeah. What they think the biggest need is, what they think a cool project would be. Yeah. Right. Because anything that is put in front of kids, yes.

By adults in terms of substance prevention or even suicide prevention or mental health, kids just roll their eyes because it’s not connecting 

with them. Right. Well, I’m, I’m, I’m even struck by my other daughters at the University of Michigan, and she’s been like, oh my god, mom, like the binge drinking party culture that’s here.

She’s like, you would think they never taught anything in school. You know, I, I’m like, I’m like, I did that in the 1980s. I thought that had moved on. Like, we’ve been talking to kids about it. She’s like, oh, no. People are going to like blackout drunk parties. She can’t bear it. It’s been awful for her, unfortunately.

Yeah. Yeah. So. Wow. Cause it’s cause of the, 

yeah. It’s a disconnect between adults and teens. Right. And that is put on young people and that’s totally not fair because it’s not true. Yeah. Young people would love to speak with adults. Yeah. Young people have a total craving 

to be seen by 

adults. Yeah. It’s just adults are not connecting with young people, you know, 

because adults are doing this.

I didn’t say it, but like one of the things that just sickens me is when I go to a restaurant and there’s a parent staring at their phone with their little kid across from them, I just lose my mind, Ivan, for what’s gonna happen in the future. I just think you’re out with your kid. You’re on your phone. I mean, I understand you have a text you have to respond to, that’s logistics or whatever, but I’m talking about like moms scrolling through Instagram or dad’s watching sports.

It’s just like, oh, what are you showing? This is what you’re showing. Get one of these things as soon as you can and be addicted to it. You know, it’s just wild. That’s why, you know, the, the, 

if you can listen to the podcast did with 

with Huberman lab. Okay. Because 

it’s actually better than the book is the two hour conversation she has with Andrew Huberman.

So the podcast is, podcast is Huberman Lab, right? It’s episode 33. It’s very powerful. It’s one of the most powerful things to be aware of right now in this culture. Yes. She says, we’re basically screwed. She said, I think we’re screwed. It’s so bad that it’s so bad If we don’t, yeah. If we don’t wake up now, it’s, we’re already 

totally screwed.

So I think we’re totally screwed. I mean, it’s a really interesting time to be a super awake person in our culture, but it’s also terrifying. I just, I’m like, wow. Yeah. Yeah. 

And I do think that this is why podcasts like this, right, where people can connect and, and get inspired to look in a different direction and think in a different direction Yeah.

Are very important. Cuz otherwise, it’s like the mainstream culture 

can just really get you down. Oh God. Right? Yeah. Wow, Ivan. Okay, well I can’t wait to do this. I’m gonna figure out when to put this up and then I can’t wait to also just stay in touch and do this again. Yeah, happy to. Yeah. Cause I think we just have a similar like, I don’t know, I mean I go like in the weeds and then super big picture really fast and I love people who do that and I’ve always admired your work and now I’m so happy to be in conversation in a new way.

Yeah. Fabulous. Have a great rest of your day. Thank you. Thank you. 

Thank you. Take good care. 

You’ve been listening to the Best Life Best Death podcast with bonus episode number one. I hope this was interesting for you. I would love feedback on the layout or the format or how to best bring you additional information about the really interesting guests I’m having on my podcast.

Thanks so much for listening. Have a wonderful day. 

Diane Hullet

Diane Hullet

End of Life Doula, Podcaster, and founder of Best Life Best Death.