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ACT 2020 Featured Capstone:

The Overlooked Participant:

Specialized Bereavement Assisted Suicide

Dr. Leslie Jane Aspis

Compassionate resources, community, and space for a specialized bereavement community -

those left to grieve after a loved one has ended their life by assisted suicide. 




Describe Your Capstone Project.

The Overlooked Participant focuses on designing a compassionate space for a specialized bereavement community - those left to grieve after a loved one has ended their life by assisted suicide. Creating the blog is an entry point to opening conversations for the family and friends left at an empty bedside. Bereavement packages will include a brochure inviting loved ones to visit and contribute to the site. The physician assisted death movement has been devoted to overcoming legal barriers and focusing on screening the patients. Unfortunately, the grieving loved ones (the overlooked participants) are often left rudderless in navigating grief associated with a potentially stigmatized death.

Describe Its Impact.

This project has been well received by members of the medical community involved in the end of life option. When my younger brother chose to end his life due to end-stage cancer, I could not comfortably share the nature of his death. Creating the blog has demonstrated to me personally the power of having someone bear witness to an untold story. The choice to end one’s life with dignity following the diagnosis of a terminal illness can be stigmatized due to societal and religious beliefs resulting in complicated, disenfranchised grief for the family and friends. This peer-supported community will serve as a safe and compassionate place to honor their loved one’s choice and reflect on enduring love.

How has the ACT Program helped you become an Ambassador of Compassion?

The Overlooked Participant Capstone Project was designed as a compassionate space for others who experienced the loss of a loved one by assisted suicide. After initially spending time in research and meeting with health care professionals, I began to write entries on the site. Unexpectedly the writing and sharing my experience expanded my compassion to a typically inaccessible place for me, self-compassion. Now I appreciate how self-compassion allows one to fully open one’s heart in responding compassionately to others’ suffering.

What advice would you give to someone who's considering registering for the ACT Program?

The community created at the Applied Compassion Academy and the Applied Compassion Training (ACT) gives me hope for a better world. We are all currently on a roller coaster of ups and downs due to the pandemic and social injustices in our country. The ACT cohort is a diverse global village with a common desire to elevate the human experience through being present for each other, caring and compassion.


Be the change!

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