Thank you, Loyal Readers, for your support and enthusiasm for my work and words.
I have shifted to a different website, so you can find me here from now on:
Thank you, Loyal Readers, for your support and enthusiasm for my work and words.
I have shifted to a different website, so you can find me here from now on:
You can listen to Professor Allan Kellehear from the UK talk about the role EOL Doulas can play in individual lives, as well as our role in death literacy.
If you are wondering if an End Of Life Doula is a good fit for your compassionate community then please do not hesitate to get in touch. I am an EOL Doula who specialises in information transfer, client advocacy, consumer rights, vigilling, and after-death support.
I am incredibly sick at the moment, the colds and flu this winter in my area have been relentless and vicious. I don’t tend to get sick readily, but when I do I often get quite sick – and this time round it is so bad I have actually taken time off work, farmed out grocery shopping to a good friend (thank you Dawn!), and had to stay at home while other people walked Cully for me (thank you!). So, as I am housebound and quite horizontal with illness I have also had time to catch up on my pleasure reading. These are the books that I read for fun, because I enjoy them as opposed to the books that I read for work, because I enjoy them. And so I genuinely wasn’t expecting to be sitting down today whilst sniffling madly and fighting the vestiges of a fever to write a book review, but most unexpectedly here we are. Fair warning, I will probably not be too academic, but enthusiastic nonetheless.
I refuse to call romance novels (the second biggest selling genre of books beaten only by self-help, by the way) a ‘guilty pleasure’ because I concur with USA author JR Ward: why feel guilty about something that you enjoy? Frankly, life is too short to be stupid about apologising for what we like in life (what we like that is harmless, let’s not get too carried away!). One writer I enjoy is Lauren Blakely, and her latest Unbreak My Heart was looking like a great convalescence novel so I sat down in a sun puddle in bed this morning, Cully at my side, pillows propping me up, tissues and tea at the ready, and was fully prepared to be entertained with some well-crafted, enjoyable escapist writing. Fast forward to later this morning (yes, I read three times faster than average; there are good reasons I devour books of all sorts and make a brilliant researcher…) and I had smiled, nodded, and wept a fair bit because Ms Blakely has written about grief and some of the effects, as well as some of the ways we bring ourselves through the worst and begin to live in the ‘after’ of a death.
What moved me in particular is that this book takes place well after the death, four months to be exact, and the central characters are moving towards the periphery of the space where the initial numbness of grief and loss is all that is felt and experienced. I appreciate the way that the characters in this book work towards trying to catch themselves and each other – not always successfully, and not always well, which is pretty much how we move around in grief, mourning, and loss in the real world – in the aftermath of a death. There is a simplicity and directness in much of the phrasing and writing in this book that made me stop and take a breath to acknowledge what was on the page. Each of the individual characters are permitted their own relationship and story with Ian, the man who has died. Each of the characters is permitted their own space, time to express what is important to them, and time to come to their own conclusions and realisations.
I like, too, that there is an acknowledgement of what ‘strangers’ generally will or will not ask/say, and what a relief it is when someone comes out and asks a direct question or talks about the dead person. We are still in the middle of August: Dying to Know Day #D2KD, and I did smile quietly to myself when I reached the end of the book as there are many conversations about death, dying, grief, and loss in this book; therefore making it a weirdly appropriate read for me after the Australian Grief and Bereavement conference presentation I gave a week and a half ago, and with me hosting the final of three #D2KD events this Saturday.
Yes, this is a romance novel so there is a happy, tidy-ish ending (that’s one of the reasons I enjoy this sort of book in my spare time), and yes, we could argue that there has not been enough time that has passed in the arc of the book for the characters to have grown, connected, and realised all that they did. But let me hold something up for consideration of fiction here – this book is a reflection of an idealised life because that is essentially and hopefully what novels do for us… we are given permission to consider the world and our experiences throught the lens of other people. Unbreak My Heart allowed me to emphathise, consider, laugh at, roll my eyes at, and stop and think about relationships with the dead, with the living after the dead are gone but we have material connections that are happy ones, and how our personal and intimate communities shift, grow, and change our lives after a death. This book may not be your cup of fiction tea, but there is an extraordinary depth of observation and food for reflection if you are wondering what grief and relationships may look and feel like after the first wave of loss begins to recede. I had not expected an enriched morning, and I am happy to have been wrong. If you enjoy accessing alternative perspectives on the subject of grief rather than doing the scholarly read, then I highly recommend this book.
If you are working through your own loss, or preparing for the death of someone you know, please do not hesitate to get in touch. I am a former somatic psychotherapist who specialises in information transfer, consumer advocacy about your rights around End Of Life, and an exceedingly good listener.
Rather than have me bang on about the beauty and importance of advance planning, especially Advance Health Care Directives (AHCD), there is a wonderful Guardian article here that is really worth while.
The article is from a UK legal and medical practice perspective, but the essence of why advance planning saves time, effort, grief and heartache is international.
Would you like to have an AHCD in place for yourself? Please do get in touch, I am an End Of Life Doula who specialises in advance planning.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all of the different aspects of my knowledge set that clients are interested in, and it seems to me to be a good time to write about who comes to an End Of Life Doula – or Death Doula… You know what, I don’t care what you call me, as long as you do call me, and just don’t call me late for the glitter cannon at your funeral (but I digress). So here is a potted overview of what sorts of questions I hear from the Doula-curious amongst us, what my client demographic includes, and how normal our ideas for final wishes and funerals really are.
After the #D2KD events that I ran last Wednesday (there’s one on the 25th as well, August is by no means over, People!) I had a lot of interest from people concerning the death/End Of Life Doula side of things. This interest was quite distinct from although in tandem with the consumer advocacy and information transfer that I offer, and I realised that there is a general sense amongst the community that either A) people plan EOL just before death, and/or B) we only engage the services of a Doula when we are just about to die. The response to both of these notions is, ideally, no, it is much better/easier to plan in advance – but you can do a lot with your last minute if required – and an EOL Doula is great to have in your life long before your last moments. It is just honestly more sensible to do what medical practitioners, nurses, and health support staff do, and to plan well in advance in order to live life to the full.
Therefore, in no particular order, is some information about the kinds of people who come to an EOL Doula, and some of the sorts of things that I get asked.
Firstly, arguably most importantly, clients want to know what kind of cake will I bring to our planning session? In a nutshell the cake types vary, and I can take orders, but today was a nice Nigella Lawson fruit cake which always goes well with tea. Fair warning: all cakes are GF, because I like to eat cake too.
Who uses an End Of Life Doula? In all honesty, business owners, retirees, young parents, entrepreneurs, casual workers, CEOs, middle-aged people, single people, married couples, de facto couples, individuals, families, LBGTIQA+ people, heterosexual people, pet owners, new home owners, renters, migrants, ‘Australian Royalty’, parents, grandparents, godparents, and almost anyone else you can think of has talked to me about death, dying, and final wishes. Anyone can engage the services of an EOL Doula, so if this post helps to normalise and take away some of the shyness around talking to me about death then I’ve done what I set out to do.
A question I’m often asked, frequently by young people who are beginning to think about death in a more ‘normal’ fashion around me, is how old is your average client? This is a piece-of-string question, because I can work with people of all ages. Yes, I do have ‘older’ clients, but young people need to think about advance planning, younger people get sick and die young, and young people also have unexpected deaths which family and friends need to grieve and mourn over… The real question underlying the how old layer is generally something like: I’m thinking of coming to talk to you, is that ‘normal’?? My answer to that is an unequivocal: Yup. Very normal. Yes.
Another area that people want to ask about, and often do so but obliquely, is about how soon is too soon to plan? This is a really easy one, because it is NEVER TOO SOON to plan, to talk, to make your wishes known. Shouty caps may seem excessive in a chatty blog post like this one Gentle Reader, however the biggest mistake in planning, the one that causes the most heartache and regret, is to think that we have more time. One thing I have learned over my years of study, working with people, and observing the world is that we always think we have more time than we do. Life is incredibly, breathtakingly brief and precious… do your planning now, because we don’t know when we will need to have documents, wishes, and arrangements in order. You can, by the way, engage my services for planning without making arrangements for me as an EOL Doula, but you can ask a LOT of additional questions whilst we walk through your paperwork and that sounds like a true bargain to me.
Do I have to be dying to start working with you? I’m not dying yet, can I start to plan??Good question, and no – actually a lot of people work with an EOL Doula well before active dying. And for your second question here you really should start to plan as early as possible, so yes you can!
“Um, this may sound odd, but…” (or a variation on this theme) is something that often comes up in funeral planning – and this phrase alerts me that I have a client in front of me who is prepared to be very honest, and therefore vulnerable with me, telling me important information about what they value in the world. I am always careful to listen attentively and take good notes at this stage, because although we may try and brush our ideas off as ‘nothing much’, these ideas frequently speak to the true heart of who we are, and what kind of messages of love we would like to leave the people closest to us.
Clients often think that their wishes or ideas may be ‘weird’ or strange, but the only thing I’ve really noticed about the planning ideas of my clients is how beautifully they reflect the personality of the clients I see – in all honesty death and dying is like sex. If you like it and want it, and everyone who needs to consent has consented, then there is nothing weird or strange about what you want for your final wishes, funeral arrangements, or Advance Health Directive. Truly. I can promise you that most of us would like to be remembered for what we loved most in the world, and our passions and interests will be just right for our EOL planning. For instance: a memorial service in a community garden for the person who loved to grow food, a book-shaped cake at a funeral for the avid reader, a disco playlist and mirror ball in your room during your final hours because you loved the nightlife? Perfect! And perfectly appropriate for you – and there is nothing weird here, despite many clients feeling some shyness about expressing what they would most like for their advance planning and last wishes.
Why use a death/End Of Life Doula? Because it can be incredibly useful to have a well-informed, calm, objective voice and presence at times when emotions run high, when we are not dealing well with stress, when we feel overwhelmed by circumstances, and because at one of the most awful and difficult times in our lives it is essential to have someone who supports you, laughs with you, or sits in silence with you. EOL Doulas can help you retain some perspective on death, be better informed, and be less isolated (death can be lonely, so it is good to know you are not alone). An EOL Doula can help you delegate tasks, focus on taking one step at a time, and remind you when you need to be reminded that healthy self-care can be modelled and practiced even at the worst of times.
Have more questions? Please do not hesitate to get in touch – I am an End Of Life Doula who specialises in helping you better understand your choices and options.
If you haven’t yet seen Mamma Mia 2 and do not wish to know about a central aspect of the film’s plot please return for either my next post, or when you have had a chance to watch the movie.
Hubs and Self went to see the film last night, and we really enjoyed it – and we had read a fair bit of negative press, mostly complaining that the film lacked the ‘exuberance’ of the first one. And, yes, I can confirm that the sequel does not have the relentless, driving energy and breathless pace of the first. And this is sensible for a few good reasons…
When someone we love dies we are changed. Even though we still feel love, joy, sorrow, exuberance, happiness, fear – all the things that make us human, sentient, and complex – we feel them through a new lens of experience. We have an ‘after’ now, which informs our responses and our understanding of the world. The film also takes place at the first anniversary of Donna’s death, and many of the characters respond with tears and sorrow to this date – it is not uncommon in real life for the full force of grief, loss, and mourning to take effect after a year has passed, taking many of us by surprise, so as an EOL Doula and sociologist I liked the honesty of the writing.
I could write for hours about how well I think the filmmakers compromised between happy music and a full perspective of emotion after a death, but I think I will leave this post shorter than I had intended. Just like our lives…
May your day be filled with music, laughter, joy, and enough bittersweet memory of all the people and times you have loved to make it a rich one.
If you are experiencing your own anniversary of a death and would like to know more about your own End Of Life options, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am an End Of Life Doula who will help you find the right soundtrack for your advance planning and funeral.
Picaluna funeral disruption model offers consumers a genuine alternative to the corporate (generally rushed, frequently impersonal, consistently overpriced) after-death funeral business model in Australia. Much of the focus for Picaluna is working with clients to genuinely serve and service their needs, and this is much more effectively achieved when people have planned in advance.
This panel event, with six specialist individuals who all have particular areas of expertise within the death, End Of Life, and funeral fields, will sit on a panel and answer your questions on Wednesday 29th August at UTS Aerial Function Centre, Sydney. Participants are able to email their questions for the panel in advance, offering everyone a chance to listen, explore, and consider what ‘funeral’ and the personal are for each of us, and how this might be expressed in a funeral designed by, and for, you.
See the link below for tickets – and in the meantime, if you have questions do not hesitate to get in touch. There is an email link on the landing page for the event information and tickets here: