Chaplain Karen Kaplan Speaks About Hospice, Book

Feb 11, 2015 | 0 comments

Encountering the Edge coverEncountering the Edge: What People Told Me Before They Died gives readers a look at the inner workings of today’s hospice services, as well as a glimpse at what people most care about in their final days. The author, Chaplain Karen Kaplan, was my guest on A Good Goodbye Radio and the interview is now available on

Chaplain Karen B. Kaplan was one of the first 200 ordained female rabbis in the world. She served as a hospice chaplain for seven years and now focuses on writing. She continues writing about spiritual issues and hospice care at her blog, OffBeatCompassion.

At her blog, Kaplan says, “The ‘prime directive’ for chaplains is to say little and listen a lot.” In Encountering the Edge, she has the opportunity to open up about the different attitudes she encountered in hospice patients and their families.

On the radio interview, we discuss what drew her to hospice work, the difference between hospice and palliative care, the bereavement support benefit all hospices are mandated to provide, anticipatory grief, and how she served patients and families of many different faiths as well as atheists.

From the book, this is how she described grief in one of her eulogies:

“Grieving is a complex process, not a linear progression from more grief to less grief. It’s more of a moving forward and a moving back, of taking detours and then suddenly discovering shortcuts, of passing through stretches of tiresome roadways alternated with interludes of peaceful countryside. It is the disorienting journey that will bring you of necessity to a new place, to a renewed place.”

In the book, readers will encounter odd, poignant, revealing and even amusing characters. Kaplan also illuminates what patients think will happen in the hereafter, as well as her own path and deeper motivations for entering this career. In the last chapter, Kaplan explores what it would be like to be a hospice patient herself, talking with a seasoned chaplain who gently lets her express her beliefs, regrets, sources of meaning, and hopes.

Encountering the Edge is a unique view of a topic that affects us all. Its humor and insight allows readers to feel safe in this unknown territory. Check out the interview with Chaplain Kaplan on

A Good Goodbye