On this episode 23 of Living Tarot, I speak with Death Doula and Midwife, Nora Belal. As a teacher, writer, and guide Nora is dedicated to helping people make plans for end of life, engage with their mortality, and explore what that means on a practical and philosophical level. Nora’s deathwork encourages critical thinking, analysis, and action so we can shift the paradigm of grief, impermanence, and uncertainty in a constantly changing world.
- Nora discusses a lot of the misconceptions that people have about the work of a death doula and death midwife.
- We discuss the complexities of grief especially in a year like 2020 with massive death due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Nora explains her philosophy of being a life coach, just through the lens of death.
- We discuss how people have a tendency to limit and compartmentalize their grief because of the way that it’s handled in society.
- We also talk about strategies for having conversations with loved ones about such a serious and heavy topic.
2020 has been a really challenging year for a lot of people And for anybody who is dealing with the loss of a loved one around the holiday season, this is a great episode to find validation and support for your grief.
Connect with Sheila:
To get your Career Ahead Tarot Guide click here – https://starsagespirit.ck.page/products/diyyear-ahead-tarot-guide
To book a career tarot reading or distance Reiki session with Sheila click here – https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=18090641
Or on Instagram www.instagram.com/starsagespirit
Connect with Nora:
Find Nora online and get signed up for her Death Practice Journal now: deathpracticejournal.com
Find Nora on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nora.e.belal
Sheila M 0:05
Welcome to living Tarot. I’m your host Sheila Masterson. I’m a tarot reader and teacher, and energy healer and medium and creator of practical Tarot for everyday intuitives. Each week on this podcast, I’ll share my own experience of embracing and growing intuition and interview guests about how they heard the call of intuition, embraced the adventure and embodied the tarot along the way. Join us and learn how you can stop second guessing. Empower yourself through intuition and live intentionally with the Tarot. Welcome back to living Tarot. On today’s episode, I’m very excited to be interviewing my friend Nora Belal. Nora is a death midwife and doula. As a teacher, writer and guide, Nora is dedicated to helping people make plans for end of life, engage with their mortality, and explore what that means on a practical and philosophical level. Nora’s death work encourages critical thinking, analysis and action so that we can shift the paradigm of grief, impermanence and the uncertainty in a constantly changing world. Nora and I had a really beautiful conversation about how grief is perceived and in experienced in America. And this is a particularly potent conversation going into the holiday season, especially in a year, when as a country, we have experienced a great deal of death. We talk a lot about how Nora was drawn to this work, what it’s been like to do this work, especially this year, and how Nora’s really an embodiment of the page of cups, and the page of pentacles, bringing together a feeling of really supporting people to explore on an emotionall level, excuse me, and also on a practical level on how to think about end of life care for not just ourselves, but for the people around us, and how to really facilitate those conversations. So I’m absolutely pumped for you guys to get to hear this episode. Let’s dive right in. One more quick note on this episode. We realized after we recorded that we never really defined the difference between a death doula and a death midwife. So I asked Nora to share a little bit about her thoughts on the two different terms. So I’m going to read what she wrote from her perspective. I’ve been trying to find a gender neutral term for the work I do. I like death worker, but it doesn’t always flow nicely. I prefer the term midwife over doula because doula implies support for the emotional aspects, but my job requires a lot of practical logistical knowledge. I’m present for much of the process after death. With the active dying process looks like on a psychological level, how to procure permits to transport a body, who is allowed to care for the dead, how long the body can be kept on vigil, and how to do that. Of course, this all overlaps all the time. The first training I attended use the term midwife. So I want to honor that too. I’ve done training as a death midwife and a death doula. Both courses covered the same material. For me, the term midwife is just a more accurate significator of the role. I used to solely refer to myself as a deaf midwife, though at this point, I use them pretty interchangeably and I’m fine with both. I think the differences will come down to preference rather than semantics eventually, I’m at a point now where I see my role as that of a guide and educator. I’m a life coach more than anything because everything I do is in service of how we live better now. I just happened to use death as my lens for doing that. And now without further ado, my interview with Nora Belal.
Okay, so, welcome to Living Taro, Nora. Can you tell me a little bit about what it is that you do?
Nora Belal 4:42
Sure, I am primarily a teacher, but I’m a deaf midwife that kind of was a teacher before so that was the thing that like, pulled me into it, but I help people make plans for end of life and I make sure you know, people are actually looking at what death means to them, and engaging with their mortality and like how that affects them on a kind of philosophical, but also practical level. So my main goal was with working with people, and what I really try and have at the core of my practice is like getting people to consider what their relationship with death is. And then how, how that affects their life and kind of how they can like reverse engineer their life, once they’ve kind of realized that it’s finite.
Sheila M 5:38
Right, right. Yeah. I love this particular area of work. When we met online. My friends from the internet, and I had recently taken a class on becoming a death doula. And it was really interesting to me, because I’ve seen for years, and especially in what I do, how people have kind of a strange relationship with death, especially in the United States. And kind of what has caused that throughout history, which I thought was really fascinating. Um, but it’s been interesting to see your work and the way that you are trying to normalize having these conversations that we like to pretend aren’t necessary, but are like, truly, really important so that there’s not this like chaos after somebody passes away.
Nora Belal 6:36
Yeah, and I think that something you said that stands out to me too, is that, you know, these are conversations that we don’t necessarily want to have. But I’d add to that, like, when we do have them, we think that it’s just like, Alright, I made my will, I know I want to be cremated and like we’re good to go. And when I did my death, midwife training and death doula training, like, one of the things that I kind of like thought about all the time was that these conversations need to be had, and like, this mentality needs to be developed, like far before, you’re kind of approaching death or far before you’re helping someone else go through their own death. Because I think that, you know, what’s most likely for for the majority of people is that, like, they will kind of accompany someone on their path to the end of their life. And then they’re gonna have to, like, deal with their own but because those situations are obviously like, they feel so urgent, that trying to process it all and trying to get everything done, and also like, be present is almost impossible. So getting the idea of like, your mortality, and like, what that means for, you know, plans, but also just your mind. how you function in the world is like, I want to have those conversations with you now, you know, like, I’m 35. And hopefully, I have many more years. But if I don’t, like I’ve done a lot of… I don’t want to say over the work, but like the, the concept is not new to me. And that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to struggle with a death ever again, or that it’s going to be like, “Oh, it’s fine. It’s natural,” when like, my mother dies, but like I I just like to think that I do have some sort of framework with which she like function within if that were to happen.
Sheila M 8:35
Right, right. And I think that’s so important, because especially when we do have these kind of catastrophic, emotional moments, I think we underestimate the importance of having that support system already set up, or like having a plan already set up, because we don’t always have a lot of emotional bandwidth to try to figure it out in the moment.
Nora Belal 9:02
Right. And I mean, it doesn’t have to be just for a death, like you can kind of use the tools in any, any sort of upheaval or change. Because I mean, that’s one of the things I think about a lot too is that like, death is just kind of a different version of change, or like an extreme change, obviously, but like we, on a day to day basis are kind of functioning within like, the main pillars of what a death is, which is like a huge change, uncertainty, like the ways that we approach death or also like how we’re kind of forced to like, live our lives what we don’t make that connection again.
Sheila M 9:40
yeah, yeah, absolutely. I do think it’s interesting because there are so many examples of like thousands of small deaths that we experience throughout our lives, whether it’s, you know, letting go of a relationship or letting go of a career or just adapting to the day to day this year in particular, feels a little bit like a lot of small deaths and a lot of rebirth, but a lot of shifting and changing. So I think it’s such an interesting field of work. And I know a lot of people are curious about it. What led you to this interest in death work to begin with?
Nora Belal 10:23
I don’t have a very concise answer for that. Because I think that once I.. I’ll kind of work backwards, I guess. But once I decided to become a death midwife, and like, have that be my primary focus, I realized suddenly, like everything I had been doing prior to that, like, was very significant and very useful. And it felt like I just had a moment or everything just kind of slid into place, like when you’re watching a movie, where they’re like, breaking into like, an underground tomb, or whatever. And like, all of these different things, like roll and hit the other thing, and then suddenly, it like, opens and everything’s fine. But I think that when my grandfather died, and just seeing how horribly that went, and really observing, I think. I’m a middle child. So like, my first instinct is often to kind of like, step back and observe a situation and like, feel out what everyone else is doing. And so being audience to his death, but also like participating, it’s my family, like, I’m, it’s not like, I’m just like sitting in the hospital room corner, like, seeing what everyone else is going through. But like, there was very much this place where I felt like I was like, in it, and then stepping back and then in it and stepping back. And just seeing like, how poorly everyone was dealing with and like, the hospital and doctors, like nurses were amazing, like people were, it’s not like no one was helping us. But it was just so clear to me that he was dying, and that he was not going to wake up again. He was never going to be who he was. And that was obviously difficult, but like also fine. He was 80, and I knew that if he did wake up and was alive, that he would not be the version of himself that like he would have wanted to be. And he had taken all the steps, like he had a DNR, he had his will, like all these things, and it still was just a mess. And so after that, I think just realizing like, okay, you have this checklist of things that should be done, and then it still leaves a huge amount of space for what, what should be. I don’t want to say should be as in like, you know, my way is the best way, but like, there’s, there’s shoulds for everyone, and you need to figure out what those are. But, yeah, just the idea of like, the things that we do that we think we’re preparing for, we’re not actually prepared for at all. So how do we prepare for this kind of nebulous, but also like, very definitive moment? And what is that? What does that mean? And how do I do that? So I would say that, like, I had a lot of different avenues that I kind of walked down that led me to that path. But then after that, I think that was the first death where I’d like seen both sides of it, like I had as a kid, and prior to that experienced a lot of deaths where I was like going to funerals or going to wakes or like suddenly someone wasn’t there anymore. And so that affected me, obviously, but like, my grandfather was the first one where I kind of like had a 360 view of how how things were going.
Sheila M 14:08
Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s so interesting, because I agree with you, I feel like even with some of the work that I do, I see how much even when the quote unquote steps to prepare logically or even emotionally even people having conversations. When my grandmother passed away, she had a very, she was very old, so she was 95. And she lived a very long life and, and I’m very grateful that she also had a very, like strong mind. Like, I mean, she she had a better memory when she passed away than I do now. Truly. And could, I mean just an unbelievable memory. And she was very clear about what she wanted. And she communicated all of that stuff. And she had conversations with people. And she tried to have other people be prepared. But it was really interesting to me because even with all of that, and even with knowing logically that she’s 95 years old and having other steps in place, it was still, like, really, there was still a lot that felt unsettled or, you know, people still felt like unprepared in a way that I think it was clear that there’s something missing in our process. Do you know what I mean? And so, I do think that’s really interesting, what you’re saying. So from that, what do you think are? I mean, this is probably a bigger question. But what do you think are some of the some of the conversations that people again, we won’t say, should but could have that they’re not having? Or what pieces do you think you see, most commonly, that people could benefit from thinking about before? You know, it’s definite, you know, what I mean?
Nora Belal 16:13
Right? Um, that is a really big question, because to paraphrase, you know, but I think that, um, I think that having a conversation about your things, is, is really important, not because, you know, your things are worth anything monetarily, or like that they’re super value in that way. But I think that looking at the items that we’ve decided to surround ourselves with, is one kind of like, a stepping stone into, like, I don’t need to look at this straight on right now. I can tell you a story about this thing and why it’s important. And then I can ask you, like, would you like it or like, this is what I want to happen to it. And I know, that seems like, it could like devolve, but I often see with people that like the most, you know, worthless item is the thing that everyone wants, or is like, most attached to, and no one knows it until everyone wants it or, you know what I mean. And so I think that in some ways, like having those conversations now opens a portal to like, conversations about what’s important to you, and then the people that are with you. But also kind of gives you just a little step away from what you’re actually talking about, which I truly believe like being direct about the fact that you’re going to die is something we need to like hone in on a little bit more. But I also recognize that like, there are steps to that. And I think that, you know, just gradually having conversations about like, you know, why? Why is this thing important to me, can give us enough of a lens to like, have conversations that we need to have without, like, really diving deep into it, when we might not be prepared to do that. I also think that when we experience stuff, even if it’s someone not in our family, or even friends circle, like I see a lot of people like wondering why they feel so affected by like a celebrity death. When like, you don’t know this person, blah, blah, blah, like, why would you care. But I think that it’s because it does kind of like shake something foundational in us that like we know that we’re going to die, we don’t know how it’s going to happen, we don’t know when it’s going to happen generally, and so when someone around you dies, or when you like experience a death, whether that’s directly or indirectly, like having conversations about like how they were celebrated or memorialized, or like something that you would definitely want but, um, you know, you didn’t see happen for them or just like having very general conversations about like, you know, that was really beautiful. If that was my funeral, you know, like, I just I think that it’s very easy again, to have that like, just a little step away from what it is that you’re really talking about, which is your own death. But being able to have like, just enough space around it that you can kind of breathe and not freak out. And that’s something actually I talk to a lot, like one of the questions I get most often from people is not necessarily, you know, I’m dying. What do I do? It’s younger people that are concerned because they know that they’re going to be the primary caretaker for their their parent or their their elder, and they’re just like, I cannot get them to open up about this, like, they told me it’s all taken care of. I know it’s not. What do I do? Yeah. And I think that making your own plans again, like when you’re younger is also you get the benefit of like, having it be slightly hypothetical for a while. And then being able to say like, “Hey, you know, these are my plans like, What do you want?”
Sheila M 20:32
Yeah, well, I think that’s so interesting and what you were saying even about looking at things are happening at funerals, and then like having that conversation. I think it’s so funny, because I’ve seen people do it, like, all the time about weddings, do you?
Nora Belal 20:51
Sheila M 20:53
They’ll be like, “Oh, when we get married, it’s going to be like this.” And even you know, like those conversations have gone on, like, amongst my friends, circles and stuff that I’ve never heard somebody do it about a funeral. And I think that there’s like this strange like, morbidity that like hangs over anybody having conversations about this. But what I’ve experienced from people who I’ve worked with, in sessions, who are working on, like, healing grief and stuff, and also from talking to, like spirits, it’s, a lot of what happens is, the person who is experiencing, it doesn’t feel like they can talk about it for some reason, because they feel like they need to show up in a certain way for people or everybody else hasn’t had the opportunity to process it in the same way that maybe they have. Or, you know, even people who come in and are grieving feel like they should be at a certain place. I know, like, endlessly I hear, “I know, I shouldn’t still be sad about this. I know I should be over this, I know I should…” Like all of these ideas about what it is to grieve and to lose someone and what is normal, so to speak. And I think it’s really interesting, because if we could just have, if we could normalize having these conversations that are kind of morbid, and like, might feel a little awkward or a little weird to have, I think that I’ve heard with almost every single client I’ve had, how powerful it would be to be able to just have that conversation with someone, because quite frankly, they’re coming in and having that conversation with a complete stranger. I mean, these people could really use I think, like the facilitation of that conversation in their lives.
Nora Belal 22:51
Right. A couple of things. I love thinking about, like, what I’m gonna wear when I’m dead. Like what my last outfit is gonna be. Like, I was thinking about this the other day where I and I’m married, and like, we got married in a courthouse, and like, my friend sent me a dress and was like, do you like this? And I was like, yep, getting it. Like, I did not think about it at all. And I’m very happy in my marriage. Like, it’s not like something I was like, whatever, I don’t care. But like just the idea of like, someone digging me up and being like, Who was this bitch because she’s like, surrounded by all of it. Like, I really want to just like fill my grave with like weird things. And I want to wear like a crazy embroidered dress and like no shoes and just have people, one have fun. Like when you know, they’re at my ceremony of like putting me in the ground. Like, I want that to be memorable and weird for them. Because I think that one of the mistakes we make when we’re when we’re doing death, I guess and like planning funerals is that like, they’re all the same. They’re always weird. They almost never, like reflect who that person was. And I would like it to be like you were saying like, a wedding is a thing that people are, you know, excited about, but also like maybe a little judgmental, where they’re like, “Oh, flowers, huh.” And just giving the same, I guess respect or like attention to it and not making it like… I’m not saying that death isn’t serious, obviously. Like, I think that it’s important to like take it to heart and like think about it and grieve and not think that you’re not grieving long enough or too long or whatever. Like there’s so much that is very serious about it. But death is also like strange and we don’t know what happens after we’re dead. And like, I know that many belief systems like kind of have ideas, and people have many beliefs, which is great. I love that. But like, we, as humans, like, don’t know exactly. And what we do know is that like, whatever body we’re in now, whoever you are now, like, that’s not who we are after. If you believe in some sort of continuation, like this thing, moving my hands, you can’t see me but like this doesn’t continue, you know. Yeah, like, events are fun. Like, I used to work in production and I used to photograph weddings and work in restaurants. And like, all of these things, like I was saying earlier, kind of made me very equipped to, like, do the work that I do now. And part of that work is to like see the importance of ceremony, but also like making events important because of the effort that you put into them to make it special to make it memorable. And not again, like, not everyone needs to like, spend a billion dollars on their wedding to have a beautiful wedding ceremony, like I’m not encouraging everyone to like, blow their savings on their funeral, or their wedding. But just the idea that like, this is the last chance you have to kind of like, make an impact, you know what I mean. You’re not gonna be there. But like, make it cool. Or make it like, you know, make it reflect who you were and make it something that people can feel okay laughing at and feel okay crying at and feel okay like sharing who you were, and not just like, romanticizing everything about you. And then like everyone goes home, and they’re like, “What? What just happened?” Yeah. I feel that a lot like was with many of the ceremonies I’ve been to and funerals that I’ve been to, it’s kind of like stopped me from being able to grieve a little bit because I’m like, so unmoored by what happened? Where I’m like, “Is that what they wanted? I don’t think that’s how they would have done that,” you know, but everyone’s kind of doing the best that they can and we have kind of a formula for what a funeral looks like. And that’s what people will do.
Sheila M 27:35
Yeah, I think that’s so important, too, because I think there’s so much. There is so much humor that feels like we’ve been made to feel like it’s inappropriate. But one of the things that I’ve noticed that happens in almost every reading I do, and almost every, like, grief healing session I do is that there is always some element of humor, like, and I think it’s really important, again, like to grieve and to feel that, but I think that it’s much more complex than just feeling sad. And I feel like in, in America, in particular, everything has been stripped down to like, just sad. You should just be grieving, you should just be sad. And I think that people process everything so differently and especially what I’ve seen as kind of some of the most potent healing that people have done, either at funerals, or afterwards, are like having these conversations that are really funny, or things that they didn’t realize the person did until after the fact that they’re like laughing about where they’re like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this person was doing this this whole time. And I didn’t even realize.” You know.
Nora Belal 28:53
Sheila M 28:54
Hey there. I wanted to let you know that I’m currently accepting bookings for my career ahead tarot readings. These readings are designed to help you see the energy of the year ahead, to close out anything that’s been holding you back in the present year, and help you expand into your highest level in your career or business. Each reading happens to go through the year, month by month, talk about what you’ll be dealing with and how to best approach any challenges or hiccups that might come up in the year ahead. I have very limited bookings around the holidays. And I’m starting to get booked up into the new year as well. So if you are interested, please head on over to the show notes for this episode. Or check out my website at starsagespirit.com and if you’re more of a do it yourself kind of person. I’ve also created a DIY year ahead Tarot guide that will lead you through a very similar spread to what I do with my clients and help you to define what you really want out of this year and see any challenges and how to approach them through the year. It is an entirely personal reading, it is a very accessible price point, and you can use it over and over. So it’s not specific to next year and it’s not even specific to this time of year. You can use it for your relationship around your anniversary, you can use it on your business anniversary, or your birthday. The options are really endless. So if you are interested in purchasing your own DIY year ahead, guide, you can do that by heading over to the show notes today.
Nora Belal 30:38
Yeah, absolutely. And something you said was just really important to where it’s like, people think that grief is just being sad. And I don’t think that grief is the same kind of emotion as like, I’m sad, I’m happy, I’m scared, I’m angry, you know, like grief itself, I think is just an acknowledgment of like, something you’ve had to let go or you’re acknowledging something you’ve had to let go, whether that’s a job, or a relationship, or a house or a person, you know. And so grief itself isn’t the emotion, it’s like the container for all of it, where you’re like, when you say ‘I’m grieving’, that doesn’t have to mean I’m sad. And it is messed up because like, I think that people struggle with how they think that they’re supposed to be grieving, rather than just grieving. And I think if we can redefine grief and death in that way, where it’s like, that’s not the emotion necessarily, like that’s just the umbrella for everything that’s happening right now. And that like, there’s not a timeline for it. And it’s frustrating, too, because people often will say, like, “I know, I shouldn’t be sad anymore.” And it’s like, why not? Like this is a monumental occasion, this is someone that you loved, that you cared about, that you saw every day, or not, you know. Whatever the relationship is, like, why shouldn’t you be sad, you can be sad, and you can be sad forever, like, being sad or grieving too also doesn’t mean that you’re, like, completely non functional. And I think part of it is, I think sometimes if you’re like, I need to break down and like scream and cry for the next four days, like, do that. Don’t take that away from yourself, but also don’t think that like, at the end of those four days, you’re like, “Well, okay, grieving times over,” you know, like, I had a phone call with someone, very randomly. I was calling a car insurance company. And this was right when COVID was starting and the person that I usually talked to wasn’t there or answering and like, their voicemail was kind of like, someone else will get back to you. And I was like, man, I hope that they didn’t get laid off because of COVID and like, all of these things happening. And then they ultimately called me back and very casually was like, “Yeah, you know, sorry. My mom died two days ago.” You know, and I just was like, ‘What the fuck are you doing at work?’ You know. I know that a lot of people might want to kind of, like, get back into the routine and that can be helpful. But also, like, I do think that we don’t give ourselves space to grieve, and that we don’t give ourselves like, the amount of time or like the style of our grief that we should kind of figure out you know. The thing that you need is not what everyone tells you you need, it’s not like what you look up on the internet, like the internet can be very helpful, but it doesn’t tell you how you need to feel and what you need to like, fully process. And I think that in itself, like takes time to figure out so like, when she said, my mom died two days ago, I was like, Oh, wait, you don’t know. This go home. And that’s not a possibility for a lot of people to just like, financially and privilege wise and just like it’s, there’s so many different expectations coming from like so many different systems of society and like, oppression that we live in to where it’s like you don’t get to feel that because you’re XYZ.
Sheila M 34:38
Exactly, yeah. And I think that’s a really interesting point, too, because like I said, in learning about like the history of grief and mourning in America was very interesting to me because what ultimately drove what we all think of now as like the normal timeline for grief which is like you’re saying like a couple days, unless it’s like your spouse, was really driven by the fact that we were in wartime and needed people to keep functioning, basically. But then we never went back to, oh, no, like that needs to be processed and that became like the new normal. And so I think it’s so interesting because it is treated like a one size fits all kind of thing. Oh, well, when my mother died, you know, I only took this much time off, or I was over it in a couple of weeks, or, you know, I dealt with it. My favorite response that I ever got was, I dealt with it on the weekend.
Nora Belal 35:39
Right? So I took care of that I had on my to do list. I’m fine now.
Sheila M 35:43
Exactly. And it’s like, it becomes this, like checking off boxes and this again, like another thing that is driven by I think, like white supremacy and the patriarchy is like, okay, let me let me see how I can be more productive and like, check off boxes of my grief. Which is crazy? That is just not how it works. And I know exactly what you’re talking about, because not everybody does have that privilege. But I think it’s more normalizing the fact that you might be feeling that, like, you might have to work, but he might be feeling bad for months, or a year or two years. And to like, really normalize the fact that, you know, you might not, you might not even begin processing it for like, a couple weeks or a couple months, and it might come around in cycles. And that that’s okay. Like, it doesn’t it’s not a judgment on you, or how well or how poorly you’re handling it. And, like normalizing the conversations around it. And just saying like, ‘Oh, you know, I was just having like, kind of a tough weekend, or I was having a tough couple days there. You know, thanks for asking,’ you know, and giving people the opportunity to actually have the space to feel what they’re feeling.
Nora Belal 37:07
Yeah, and let it go in cycles. Like you think about every other aspect of our lives and how we’re allowed to like progress through a thing, where, you know, you learn a new skill or whatever, and it’s like, I’m a beginner, I have no idea what I’m doing. And then like, four years down the road, you’re like, I’m, I’m pretty good at this now. And I think that that could be a useful way to think about grief too, where it’s like, I don’t know what’s going on. I know, I’m grieving. I don’t know how that’s gonna show up in my life. I don’t know how that’s gonna manifest in like, three years or three weeks. But like, I’m figuring this out. And it’s not an event. And it’s not a thing that you can check off over the weekend. And maybe like, making lists and organizing the shit out of everything you own is like part of your grief process. But like, it’s not a like, you didn’t just deal with it and now you move on. Like we have to, we do have to keep moving through our lives, but the way that we move through our lives is now very different. And the grief is part of that and a loss is part of that. So yeah, I just, it’s so weird, because it’s like death is this very sure thing, like everyone’s going to die, everyone’s going to experience a death. Like, it is a universal like, that is a thread that ties us all together. But then we also have like, acted like it’s this individual thing that when it happens, it’s like oh, so and so’s Baba Bill died. And then it’s like this thing that happened that no one talks about and it’s just like, okay, let’s like wrap that up and move on. It’s like, why? Why!? And I do think that’s changing a little bit, like there’s so many cool like, death focused organizations and like conferences and more death midwives and death workers in general. And like, it is starting to kind of like slowly percolate through everything else which it needs to. But yeah, there is this weird, I don’t know, tendency to say like, okay, that’s like, that lives here now, and I don’t talk about it, and I don’t like visit it ever again and moving on.
Sheila M 39:28
Yeah, yeah. I love the way you said that too. What do you think are, kind of going along with that, what do you think are some of the misconceptions that people have about what death work is and like, what exactly you’re doing and when you do this work?
Nora Belal 39:48
I think some of the misconceptions are that you only do this like when someone is about to die. And like I said earlier, I think that’s kind of, I mean, it happens, people happen to realize they’re dying as they’re dying. But like, I think the biggest misconception is that it’s work that can wait. And I was at the hospital with my husband, he was getting a hand surgery and the anesthesiologist was asking me what I did. And I told him that I was a death midwife, and he was kind of like, what’s that? And then the nurse, he was like, they’re angels. Cuz he, I guess, as a nurse, like, you’re around patients in the hospital, like much more often than anyone else. And so he pretty much was the only person in the room that like, knew what a death doula was or a death midwife. I use those terms interchangeably. We can like talk about the actual differences. I just, it always kind of like depends on the audience. But, as, and this is only funny because like, my husband’s like, wearing his little like cap and gown, and like his hands all like, taped up and ready to go. And he’s like, getting wheeled away and the anesthesiologist, like, turns over his shoulder and like yells and is like, talk to you in 30 years. Like, okay…that’s…I don’t have time for that conversation right now. But nope. Be better if you called me a little sooner.
Sheila M 41:32
Oh, my God.
Nora Belal 41:34
Yeah, I mean, I think that is definitely the biggest misconception is that you can’t plan for it earlier. You can address it earlier. And then the other one, I think, is that it’s, it’s like, going to be painful or going to be really difficult. And I’m not saying that it’s not difficult, but I don’t think it has to be painful. And I think I’ve kind of insinuated, like, the inevitability of this is like, the one sure thing that’s going to happen. So planning ahead, like, it can be uncomfortable, but like, you’re not going to have to suffer through it. Whereas if you are waiting to make your end of life plans, and waiting to address it, because you don’t want to think about the fact that like, everyone you know is going to die, that like you will suffer through that at the end. And being able to, like, manage discomfort or manage the pain of like having to have that realization rather than like suffering through it. Do you get the difference I’m saying like, between like, pain and suffering, where like, I think that pain is inevitable part of the process, but like, you don’t have to necessarily, like suffer through your pain.
Sheila M 42:53
Yeah, it’s the holding on piece of it. That is like really where the struggle comes from. And when you try to force something to be in a way that it is not naturally, you know, like, it’s gonna hurt whether you have all the plans made or not.
Nora Belal 43:08
Yeah, and I mean, that’s also something I really want to, I guess, draw attention to is that like, my work is not you teaching you to, like not care about death, or like, have it not affect you. It’s always going to affect you. It’s always going to fucking like, rock your world when it happens. And like, it might not be in the kind of like, earth shattering like I don’t know what just happened way, but like, it’s always going to change you like it’s just it’s certain that like experiencing death and like going through grief and figuring out how you grieve is normal and like, inevitable, and natural and normal, but like, doesn’t mean that you..I don’t know..doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect you. Sorry, that was like a really bad way to put all of that together. But no, it’s true.
Sheila M 44:08
And I do think that I do think that differentiation is really important for people to understand. And it’s so funny because like it, it goes along with a lot of like, like yogic theory and stuff, which I follow and yogic philosophy about the more you try to hold on and control, the more suffering you’ll experience and the more that you can just kind of like, you know, surrender to the process. It doesn’t mean that it’s not going to hurt but it’s just, it’s the kind of follows along with that same path. And I do think that’s really important to differentiate for people because they, it is subtle, but it’s true. Yeah. So how do you think because this is an intuition podcast, how do you think what you do kind of intertwines with intuition? I mean, obviously, I can see some of the ways from what you’ve talked about already, but what do you find either personally, or working with clients is kind of driven by intuition and kind of connecting with your own personal sense of agency?
Nora Belal 45:22
I think that historically, my relationship with intuition has been very complex and like, complex in the way that I didn’t realize that I didn’t trust it, that I didn’t really know what it was, that I didn’t listen to it. And then, and realizing that, like, what I thought was intuition was often fear or like trauma, you know, where, and that’s, I think, also, like, shows up with, with people how they deal with death, and like, the expectation again, of like, how you should be grieving, or like, what you should be feeling is often overshadowed, but because we’re, like, Oh, my gut’s saying this, and it’s like, is it? Or are you nervous? You know what I mean? So, for a long time, I think I was like, misled by what I thought was my intuition. And now having actively, like, worked with it, and like, try to cultivate it, because that’s also something that, you know, intuition is this, like, innate ability you have, but it also doesn’t mean that you don’t have to, like, cultivate it and work out. Figure out what it is when it’s happening. And I think for me, that’s been like, the biggest realization of like, my intuition isn’t just the first thought that pops in my head. And it’s something that I need to like, actively, I always imagined like knots in like jewelry, you know what I mean? Where you have to kind of like, roll it between your fingers and like, pull it slowly and be like, Oh, that’s not it, you know? And then and then you kind of find it, and you’re like, Okay, that’s actually what my intuition is saying. And I think for a long time, it made me feel weird about what intuition was, or I like, brushed it off, because I did have this sense that like, intuition is just your gut telling you what’s wrong and what’s right. And like, that’s not true for a lot of people because of like what they’ve experienced in it. You know sometimes your safety has to override what your intuition is saying or like, just again, like systems of oppression and like expectations societally, where it’s like, you might know what your intuition is telling you, but like you are forced into this other direction. So I don’t know if that’s exactly answering your question. But like, I’ve had kind of a tumultuous relationship with intuition and feel like I’m just now and part of that was like, starting to do my own death work and like becoming involved in this thing that, you know, everyone has very strong opinions about, but also like, usually the very surface level. So having to kind of like, navigate my way through that. And then, like, realizing one of the tools that I have at my disposal that I’ve always had just like never really known how to wield was my intuition. And I also see it a lot with with people that are dealing with death, where they, and this is kind of like a specific type of death that people experience where it’s like you’re in the hospital and you’re being kept alive and like the family or the friends or, you know, the people your circle around you, like, they kind of intuitively know like, everyone’s saying, Oh, they wouldn’t want this or I don’t know that we should try that. But then everyone kind of goes along with keeping someone alive for as long as possible, whatever it means to be alive you know. Like, there’s just a lot of, I see you can like see it on people’s faces, like struggling with like, I don’t think this is what should happen, but I also don’t want to be the person that says like, this person just should die or like we’ve done all that we can and like, let’s move on, because it’s not, you know, like, we were talking about grief. It’s not just like, let’s move on, saying someone like reached the end of their natural life and like natural life is another like, weird concept when you’re in a hospital. And I’m not against dying in the hospital or like, I think that like doctors and nurses do the best they can and sometimes, like the type of care, sorry, this is a tangent, but like, the type of care you can get in the hospital is often like, not what can be replicated at home. Like people have a very strong aversion to dying in the hospital and I think there are ways to kind of like work around that if you are going to have to bring a loved one or you know, if you’re dealing with it yourself if you know you’re gonna die in the hospital like you can make that a more homelike setting and like, there are doctors and nurses, nurses especially like, that are willing to work with you on making that happen. But yeah, just this idea that, like, everyone in the room kind of like knows what’s happening, but no one wants to say it and like, everyone’s like, intuition, I guess is like, shouting and no one’s heeding it, you know? But yeah, I just, I guess, going back to the idea that, like, our intuition is something that we don’t often listen to, even if we can hear it. And then oftentimes, like, what we hear is not our actual intuition.
Sheila M 50:42
Yeah. I literally, I just did an episode because that’s one of the that’s one of the biggest questions that I get when I work with people and like developing intuition and everything is, how do I tell the difference between intuition and anxiety, and I literally did an episode just recently called intuition versus anxiety. And it’s so common, especially for people who do have a background with trauma, or people of color, who have a completely different life experience. Access to intuition is something that everybody can develop, but our experiences of getting in touch with it are different like and it can take a lot of, I loved your analogy of like untangling a piece of jewelry, because I do think that’s perfect, because if you can start to notice what like the first responses, like you said, it’s not always correct, like the first thing that comes up and like people saying, like, Go with your gut is not always the truth. Like that’s not always the, the most grounded, based in reality reaction to the situation because often we are having like a trauma response or an emotional response. And so I love that you, I love that you called that out as well, because I do think that’s really important for people to recognize, but it’s usually like, what happens when you get like, a little bit like, still for a moment. So like, that’s going to be there and it might be like squawking at you, and it might be like, don’t do this thing. And then right behind that is kind of this quieter, like stillness that’s like, no, this is what to do. You know, and I think it really does take a while to hone in on it. And usually we’re more aware of it when we’ve like, ignored it or somehow, like, you know, barked in the face of it, and then later been like, why didn’t I just do that thing. Like, I knew, like you said, in the hospital room when everybody’s standing around, they’re like, I don’t think this is what grandma wanted, you know, and they all know it like in that kind of like physical knowing. But nobody can like speak it because we’re so we do get very used to like ignoring it and pretending it’s not happening, because we don’t know how to deal with it basically.
Nora Belal 52:59
Right? Yeah, it’s very easy to discount yourself when you don’t have what the other end of that would be, which is like, you know what the answer to that is, you know what I mean, and I think that there’s a huge benefit in saying like, I know, it’s not this, but like, I don’t know, what the other option is right now, you know. Like, you can have plenty of time, like, again with grief, like you can have all the time in the world to like, figure out how you grieve or like what grief means to you, but just because, you know you’re supposed to be grieving or just because like, you know, you think you’re supposed to be having a certain experience like, doesn’t mean that that’s the experience you’re going to have or doesn’t mean that there’s like other options. You know, that there are other options available to you, if you can just kind of like get beyond that box of like, what you think you should do or what people have told you you should do.
Sheila M 53:58
Right. Absolutely. So I do want to give you the opportunity to talk a little bit about how people can work with you and what your work looks like but before I do that, I did want to talk a little bit about what card I really see you embodying in the Tarot, which I think is interesting, because I’m sure that some people were listening to this and thinking it must be the death card. And I think that there are some subtle and not so subtle ways that you do embody that card, because it’s very much about that death, life, death cycle that kind of weaves through all of our lives, not just that permanent death, and also this sense of like reinvention, and kind of composting something and growing something new. So I do think there is a lot of elements of that in your work. That’s why it’s called the death card after all, but I think that there’s a little more to what you do, right now, which is kind of seen in the page of pentacles, and the page of cups, and I feel like you kind of marry them both up because the page of pentacles is kind of the exploration and kind of initiation into this practical side of things, which is like, we’re all going to die. We all know this, we all know that most people are not getting either the end of life care or the funeral or, you know, that dying process that they really want. And then the page of cups, which is kind of the more emotional curiosity, which is like, how does it feel to you to talk about this? How do you show up in these conversations? How can you be vulnerable and as comfortable, comfortable is probably not the right word, but as compassionate with yourself when you’re having these difficult conversations? And what does it look like for you to get curious about these things that maybe you were avoiding? And to have the conversation kind of, like you said, especially for younger people, where you can kind of view it from from afar at first, and really be like, Oh, yes, that’s the thing that we’re going to have to deal with, but like, here’s kind of a gentle entry point into this thing, that we all have to deal with, at some point, whether it’s well, obviously, for ourselves, but also for someone around us as well.
Nora Belal 56:33
I’d love that.
Sheila M 56:36
But I do think it’s really interesting, because I, you know, I usually pull out like a few cards, because so far I’ve known all my guests, so it’s easy to do. And then as we go, I kind of narrow it down. So I really do think with everything that you do, and that we talked about today, those are two like really good ones. I love the pages.
Nora Belal 56:57
Yeah, I mean, that was like, just spot on to like, the framework that I have, like for my work is that.
Sheila M 57:08
Yeah, yeah. I love that. Oh, perfect transition. From that, I know that in January, you are reopening your death perception course. And can you talk a little bit about that and how people can work with you?
Nora Belal 57:28
Yeah, definitely. So death perception is a course that I created that I basically, like took all of my experience and kind of like belief systems and not like spiritual or like, you know, dogmatic belief systems, but like, what I think is kind of the framework that is most helpful to do your own death work, and then also be able to, like, kind of make that knowledge then part of like, just how you show up in your community. So it kind of starts out like very, you know, examining your own thoughts, your own beliefs, like lots of exercises, and we like do death meditation. And, you know, again, that like, philosophical kind of like emotional side of what death is, how it shows up what the different definitions are. And then once we have that foundation, we kind of move through making your own plans, like, what are the things that no one talks about that we should like what does it mean to have complete plans, like how do we make them, do I need a lawyer, can I do this online; like, all of the like, just little nitty gritty things that make a difference in how death will be approached in your community, or as an individual, or, you know, however, you’re kind of choosing to, like, use that information. And then it just kind of, really, I think, is like, a platform or a foundation for like, how then do you want to live your life. So it’s a lot of things like at its core it’s kind of like a practical guide, and like, you have access to me and access to other students. So it’s like, how do I do this, like ABC, but then it also becomes like a larger framework for like, Okay, well, if this is what I want for my death or my end of life care, like, what does that mean for how I show up now. So it’s four weeks, and it’s all delivered through like either reading material, but then I also record everything. So you can just listen to the whole course if you want to, which I really love and I was planning on doing this before COVID happened, but like, I don’t want to spend more time than I have to on zoom meetings. And so like this is basically delivered as a podcast, if you choose to, like, only interact with it that way, you’ll still like get a lot out of it and get all the information that you need, but then there’s also like fun workbooks and writing exercises and all that stuff. And then prior to the death perception course starting, I offer a free course called redefine death, which just talks about a lot of the things that we’ve been talking about where like death is not just this one thing. It is this, you know, definitive event that will happen, but it’s also like change, and uncertainty, and like how we navigate that just in our day to day lives, which I just think is very important. Now, more than ever.
Sheila M 1:00:49
Yeah, it’s so beautiful, how you said that too, because so much of these decisions, where you are going deeper, and you’re having these conversations, and you’re really thinking critically about something that we don’t often do, does then start to be kind of the lens that you’re seeing life through. So I think that’s so beautiful, how you described that. And really important for people to because it’s not just like, make the most out of every day, like you said, it’s about your ability to navigate uncertainty, which if there have ever been uncertain times, it is right now. So couldn’t be a more appropriate time for people to be coming face to face with that and gaining more tools to navigate that ambiguity, for sure.
Nora Belal 1:01:39
Yeah. And also, just like side note, my death perception course is like the only thing that you pay for, but if you like, follow me on Instagram, or get on my email list, like I am releasing a guide on like, navigating grief during weird holiday time, where you might be like separated from all the people you love, and so like, I do have some other smaller things in the pipeline, but the best way to kind of get access to that is either like, follow me on social media or just get on my email list. And I highly recommend the email list because I feel like everyone is kind of at their capacity for Instagram right now, where it’s like, how much content can I really consume. So I just feel like having an email where you’re like, I know that’s there. I’m gonna listen to it. I’m going to read it. I don’t need to scroll.
Sheila M 1:02:30
Yeah. Exactly. So where can people find you online, so on Instagram or your website, and I’ll share them in the show notes also, but just in case, people want to write it down real quick?
Nora Belal 1:02:43
Yeah. So my Instagram is nora.e.belal so it’s just my full name. And then my website is deathpracticejournal.com. And you can also email me at deathpracticejournal.com or @gmail. So basically, if you search death practice journal, I’ll pop up. Or you can find me on Instagram at nora.e.belal
Sheila M 1:03:12
This is so great.
Nora Belal 1:03:17
Yeah. This was fun. Thank you.
Sheila M 1:03:18
Thank you so much for taking the time because this was just such an easy conversation to have and I think especially with the holidays coming, it’s a particularly challenging time for a lot of people who are managing grief and anxiety and anxiety going into family situations where there has been grief involved in especially in a year with COVID-19 where there’s been maybe a lot of unexpected deaths as well. So I know people will benefit so much from looking that up. And I appreciate you so much for being a friend and also for being on today. So thank you so much.
Nora Belal 1:03:52
I appreciate you. Thank you.
Sheila M 1:03:56
Thank you so much for listening to living Tarot. If you loved today’s episode, please leave us a review and subscribe so that you never miss an episode. This helps us reach even more budding intuitives. Feel free to share on Instagram and tag me @starsagespirit and let me know what you learned, what surprised you, and what you’d like to hear even more of. As always, if you want to hear more about my courses, or book a reading with me, or for full episodes show notes you can head over to starsagespirit.com