Death By Design
Jennifer O’Brien helps people talk about caregiving and end of life. She encourages compassionate, real conversation through her book, The Hospice Doctor’s Widow: A Journal, where she shares her story of caregiving through collages and writings.
After years of caring for people with serious illness as a physician, Jennifer’s husband, Bob Lehmberg, was diagnosed with a stage IV, metastatic cancer. But caregiving for the man who had made a 40-year career of caregiving as a physician was not easy. When Jennifer’s husband was diagnosed and later after he died, she turned to what had brought her comfort for years—art journaling. She documented and depicted the raw, honest, beautiful and exhausting reality of caregiving through collage, tableaus, notes and observations. She included much of the wisdom and perspective she learned from her husband in his years as a physician.
When the book was just a stack of pages, she took it to a friend who had just been diagnosed with a rare, advanced bladder cancer. After reading the book and knowing his own prognosis, he said, “You need to give this to my wife. She needs to understand what is ahead and feel supported as my caregiver.” After seeing how much that stack of pages helped them in his final months, Jennifer knew that what she had created might help others.
Having been a practice management consultant and educator to physicians for 30+ years, an executive administrator for two large medical practices, in administration at three major academic medical centers, the wife and now widow of a physician, Jennifer has a unique and thorough understanding of healthcare. Still, with all of this experience, caregiving for her dying husband was both the greatest honor and challenge of her life.
Now Jennifer works to help caregivers feel supported while caring for others and taking care of themselves.