“I find it is just a privilege and a humbling experience to be where life enters this world and when life leaves it.” These words were said by a former nurse, now a death doula, Carmen Barnsley, who has had her own experience with death when her son died at the age of five months. It was the first of many conversations she had during the grieving process that made her realise that as a society, we need to start doing death better.
“Some cultures do death beautifully. It’s a reflection of the person’s life, whereas I think we do it pretty poorly,” she said. “The honest thing I can say about the doulas in my network is everyone has been through a personal process of death. A lot of the doulas who are coming from personal experiences are coming from terrible personal experiences and were seeking answers to improve it so that doesn’t happen to another person again.”
The main thing Ms Barnsley wants people to know is that death doesn’t have to be impersonal and there is no prescribed process to follow. “You don’t need a funeral home, and some people don’t even know that,” she said. “You may need to get one to transport someone, but you can have a loved one at home, you can organise transport straight to burial or cremation or whatever the person’s choice is. [In the past] a family did care for loved ones dying; it wasn’t in a hospital, it wasn’t medicalised, it wasn’t institutionalised and that was the norm. But there became a fear factor with death; let’s take it behind closed doors, we don’t talk about it, and there’s still people within our community that still have that.”
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