Death Midwifery is similar to birth midwifery but it’s support through the dying process. I’m also called a death doula. Many cultures actively process death through various rituals to release grief. I’ve noticed that American culture hasn’t quite embraced the dying process in what I consider a healthy or balanced way. I’m here to help change that. Death is inevitable. We are all going to die, regardless of the anti-aging serums we use, or the vitamins we take. Our Divine exit could be from a prolonged illness or a tragic car accident. As horrible as it may seem to the people left behind, we each have our Divine timing. I believe this and hold this for you and your family. I embrace dying and death, remembering the sanctity of both life and death. I empower you and your family through this sacred process and support you to gracefully move through it.
My strong beliefs and experience that you are a special individual also apply to death. The process of dying is unique for each person and family. It impacts everyone differently and it’s important to understand and honor this process with compassion, patience, and love. I have training through the Rudolph Steiner institute in Death Midwifery. I have learned how to holistically support both the individual and family through the dying process. Sometimes this happens at home and other times it happens in the hospital or hospice facility. This work doesn’t contradict hospice, rather it compliments the work hospice support offers. I customize this work to meet the individual and family right where they are in their process and then lovingly walk them through their unique dying process.
Some families feel strongly about celebrating the life of their beloved before they die, others prefer to wait until afterward. Some families prefer to die at home, others need the support that a hospital or hospice facility provide. I’m here to share options with you and help find the best fit for your situation and family.
What to Expect
First, I meet with the person dying (if available) and their family to discuss their intentions, religious beliefs and desires, and the legacy the dying person wishes to leave behind. We will work with healthcare providers and or hospice to make sure you understand what your loved one’s death process may be like. We will inquire about time and space for the transition to unfold. No one can totally predict this but we will have clues from all of our past experiences and what their specific medical condition is. I will offer you options as they arise. For example some people want to remain at home to die. We invite relatives and friends over for a celebration of life party. Others desire quiet and contemplation. Some families desire to decorate a casket at home and have all of their family and friends involved. I will guide the family in appropriate, non-denominational rituals to honor your loved one. This may be holding a vigil around the clock with volunteers, family, and community members; burning candles, reading the deceased’s favorite spiritual books (bible, poetry, novel), playing their favorite music etc. If it feels right, after your loved one passes beyond the veil, I will guide you in cleaning and anointing their body, This is an incredibly sacred time and will be held in reverence and honor.
Remembering in Gratitude
It’s important, when possible, to remember your loved one and all the gifts they’ve given you, other family members, and the community. I like to encourage story-telling, sharing memories, and fun about your loved one before they die. If they are able to participate that is wonderful, if not then sharing around them (even if they are in a coma) can be a powerful experience during the grieving process. It may not always be easy. I understand that some people feel too sad to remember the “good” stuff, but you won’t be alone, myself and other family members will be there with you. It’s important to identify the legacy that your loved one is leaving. This brings purpose to their existence and is important for you in shifting from grief to acceptance.
Sometimes a death is sudden and even tragic. I’m available to work with the deceased’s spirit and make sure they’ve made it to the light. Some souls can become confused when their death is sudden or traumatic. I can help soothe and guide them to a place of peace. Sometimes they have a message for various family members. I will always report what I hear and see. Sometimes it’s loud and clear and other times I hear and see nothing. I can’t predict how the soul will interact with me. I remain grounded and doing my personal spiritual practices so that I’m an open vessel through which your loved one can communicate.
Working With the Body After Death
As far back as human history can recount, cultures have been disinfecting and anointing the dead. In Ancient Egypt, herbs, oils, and special body preparations were used to preserve the dead. It may seem surprising but embalming is usually not required by law and mostly unnecessary depending on how you wish to create viewing and visitation by family and community members. If someone dies from a serious infectious disease then embalming may be appropriate, although cremation would be a more natural alternative.
I prefer to guide you through a bathing and anointing ritual. I’m here to help. I find it incredibly healing for the family members to honor the deceased body and how it served them through their life. We will gently wash the deceased with soap and water and or rosewater. Next we will create prayers, blessings, or use your religious prayers to anoint the body with essential oils.
Many cultures and religious traditions believed that the spirit of the person remained close to their physical body for 3-7 days after their death. Customs honored this and allowed for a more gentle transition to the spirit world. Preserving the body on dry ice can replace embalming in a more natural way and allow your loved one to remain at home, in caring family hands. Certain states allow families to keep their deceased on dry ice for up to 3 days so that relatives and community members can come, pay their respects, grieve and celebrate. This is a powerful way to grieve and heal. Some states even allow you to transport the body, within city limits, to the place of burial or cremation. I can help you navigate these laws if you’re interested in being a more active participant in this process. If you choose to utilize the more conventional body preparations, I will support you in every way I can. I’m happy to offer my perspectives but ultimately it’s your choice and I’m happy to honor and work with whatever feels best to your family.
After your loved one passes I will instruct you in what to expect. I can offer you a guided meditation to help you calm your mind and open your heart. Often they will come to you and me through nature or animals and give us a sign that they are ok. If you keep your eyes, ears, and hearts open you will likely receive a sign. This could be their favorite animal coming to you or a sign in nature like a particular shape of cloud passing over head at just the right time etc. Be patience, open, and with a relaxed mind as much as you can. In my experience, they always do their best to connect with you
Why this Topic is Dear to My Heart
We have sterilized birth and death in our culture and it goes against my core values and intuition. When our loved one dies we ship them off to a morgue “factory” where they are embalmed. This process sucks out their blood and replaces it with toxic formaldehyde. If there is an autopsy then their organs are also removed, soaked in chemicals and replaced. This traditionally all occurs in order to preserve and disinfect them for later viewing and funeral proceedings. This feels irreverent and even sacrilegious to have a complete stranger performing invasive procedures to my deceased loved one’s body. I feel more comfortable supporting you, your family, and community; those who knew the deceased, to take an active part in their death and honoring of their body. The idea that death is evil or scary and therefore we should keep it as far away from us as possible. is the product of our social conditioning. We’ve been taught to stuff feelings, numb out with food, alcohol, or shopping, and ignore or minimize the inevitable. The dying and grieving process is rich with opportunities to heal and release. I often see long-standing disagreements dissolve or forgiveness unfold between two family members. Sometimes friction between the dying person and another family member will resolve or family members are brought together because of the dying person and finally make amends. I’m here to guide you to take advantage of this healing, to connect more deeply with yourself, your family, and The Divine.
Grief is seemingly invisible. It’s not always as obvious as say a broken bone that is in a visible cast. It can feel overwhelming and debilitating. I remember a dear friend dying, I was with her and her family. I took a break to use the Wifi at a coffee shop and I felt heavy in my body and heart. No one at the coffee shop had any idea what I was going through. It was as if I was keeping a dark secret in my heart that I felt no one would understand. I noticed how often we walk through life this way, feeling isolated and alone in our sadness. I’m here to remind you that you aren’t alone and I offer you tools to gracefully work with and move through the rainbow of emotions you may experience. In our American culture, we hush people when they cry instead of allowing them to wail through their grief and release it. We ask people to control their tears as if it is a sign of weakness. However, some cultures and religions have wailers that perform this important grief clearing ritual. I’m here to witness and support you to love yourself, you family and your dying family member more fully, while implementing healthy tools to work through your emotions and triggers, so you find deep peace.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has written about the 5 Stages of Grieving:
These unfold organically for each individual and last as long as they last. In my experience, those family members that most embrace the dying process, allowing their full range of emotions to express, actively participating in the dying process with their loved one, and acknowledging and honoring their 5 stages of grief, move through the process with much more peace and ease. Those that push the feelings away, suppress them, and avoid the discomfort seem to experience much more struggle. There is no right or wrong way. I hold that every soul has a path of experience and expression. What my seem more difficult to me, may be easy for someone else. Struggle can be purposeful for growth and personal development. I’ve found that having holistic death midwifery support can be a remarkable gift for the dying person, you and your family.
I base your investment on my time and individualized support. I offer a free 30 minute consultation to see if we are a good fit and what your needs and desires are (families needs, dying person needs etc). After this I will be better able to give you a reasonable estimate