Hilary talks about her work as an end of life doula, supporting those who are dying and their families.
“Death to me is definitely a transition. It’s the beginning of a new chapter. I’m an end of life doula and I support dying people to have the best death possible – but also to live life to the full before that.
It’s about accompanying the dying person and their families and loved ones. That’s the root of the word doula, a companion, or woman of service.
Sometimes simply holding somebody’s hand and being in the moment with them is enough…there’s something about human touch and connection. And that’s a big part of the whole doula thing – nobody should have to die alone unless they choose to, whether they are at home, in a hospice or care home or prison, or in a hospital.
Doula work grows into so many other things – simply listening, making a lunch or doing dishes or going for walks. It could mean being with the dying person at the very end. But it’s also the bit before that, the weeks and months, perhaps from the time of a terminal diagnosis or the withdrawal of treatment.
And doulas carry on looking after the person who has died after the death too, supporting the family to care for the body at home before the funeral if they would like to do that, making funeral arrangements, and sometimes conducting the funeral too.
My primary focus is really the practical, hands on care, the small but necessary daily tasks, and helping to make death and dying the ordinary, natural part of life that it actually is.
It feels important to me to be able to take away some of the fear around the whole process, and to encourage people to talk about it, to express what really matters to them, and to make sure they know all the options. I love the privilege of being with families at those times. We get to know each other well and it’s lovely to form that relationship of trust and safety.”
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