Death Cafe - alive & well!
16 APRIL 2019
It was such a thrill to participate in a Death Cafe last week with 12 other like-minded, enthusiastic and curious people. Over a cuppa and some light refreshments we all shared stories, insight and asked questions about anything and everything about death and dying. It was all life-affirming and we all left with a smile on our faces and an enthusiasm to ensure we have conversations about end-of-life; purposefully plan for our own death; document our wishes and positively share the news to attend a Death Cafe if you can! I will definitely be going again!!For more Death Cafe info go to https://www.deathcafe.com or Eventbrite to search.
eulogy / noun / a speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly, especially a tribute to someone who has just died.
People have an amazing ability to write stories about their loved ones that simply blows me away. It is truly a privilege to be part of a person's funeral ceremony and hear the life stories and relationships that people have had with the deceased person...
So how do you write a memorable eulogy?
Whilst there are tips and tricks and even examples when you Google, when I speak to families I tell them it's about writing "from the heart"... "from life stories lived and breathed". And who better to write/speak these stories than someone who knows the person who has died...
It takes courage. But the "reward" is a demonstration of what that person truly meant to you; a moment to share laughter and tears; a time to share with others the legacy the deceased person has left; and a poignant way of showing respect...
End of Life Planning - Community Information Sessions
If you would like me to provide an information session to your club/association or workplace - please go to my Contact page to email a request or call me on 0402 496 360. Sessions are tailored to both the audience and desired outcomes
I have been busy this month providing numerous end of life planning information sessions to community groups (e.g. Lions and Rotary), locals living within the Bulimba-Hawthorne area as well as to local businesses in Brisbane CBD and surrounds.
I am finding that there is general interest in knowing how to be better prepared in the event of ill-health and/or death. And once the elephant in the room (death) - is openly discussed these sessions are facilitating reflection, open conversations and hopefully action. At the very minimum it is hoped that these sessions will generate individuals having these important end of life discussions with their loved ones and being true to themselves by living the life that they truly want!
In providing an overview of advance care planning documents used in Queensland, one document that is less well known by those who have attended my sessions is the Statement of Choices (affectionately known as SoC "sock"). Whilst not a legally-binding document, this document "can help you record your wishes, values and beliefs to guide those close to you to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make those decisions by yourself". It also guides the medical and treatment teams as health care decisions are discussed and made.
There are two types of Statement of Choices forms.
- Form A - is for persons with decision-making capacity;
- Form B - for persons without decision-making capacity or requiring supported decision-making; making this is quite a unique form because of this criteria.
Importantly, the Office of Advance Care Planning (Office of ACP) provides a Queensland-wide service whereby copies of Advance Health Directives (AHD), Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA), Statement of Choices (SoC) and revocation documents can be sent to the Office of ACP for review and upload to the individual's secure Queensland Health electronic hospital record so that their wishes are available if required.
To find out more information go to www.mycaremychoices.com.au.
Note: This is a separate and different process to uploading your own Advance Health Directive to your 'My Health Record' as only you can upload this document.
I have two personal mantras
1. THAT NO ONE SHOULD DIE ALONE
For me, this does not mean that the dying person will not choose to die when everyone leaves the room - as some people do choose to wait for that moment. But it means that spiritually the person is 'aware' that he/she is not alone during their period of transition from life to death.
So many people die 'alone' in hospital and residential aged care facilities, or at home with loved ones taking on the major impost of care. This is despite passionate and skilled health professionals and other staff doing the best that they can and families doing the best that they can.
But Life is often complex.
Resources are thin on the ground. Families are often torn between what they want to do (being with their loved one), what they feel they can do (some more comfortable with providing the care for their dying loved one; and others less so); and what they also 'have' to do (financially, job flexibility and sandwich-generational).
In times of extreme life and death decision-making and a period of extreme loss in anticipating the death of a loved one and subsequent life changes - as an End of Life Doula I am not here to judge but to be a companion, advocate, information guide and be 'present' for the person who is dying and their loved ones...
2. IT'S EVERYONE'S RESPONSIBILITY TO PUT THEIR AFFAIRS IN ORDER
In known sickness or in health, I believe we all have a responsibility to put our affairs in order. This puts not only a legal foundation in place (Wills and other Advance Care Planning documents) but also provides a sanctuary of 'peace of mind' for you as an individual and for those who you love should you lose capacity to make your own health decisions temporarily or permanently.
We are a death-phobic and death illiterate society in Australia. Death is not a conversation that many Australians typically have - not unless it is thrown upon us due to some ill fortunate event such as an major health incident related to an accident, a catastrophic health event or when given a life-limiting diagnosis.
Yet death is the one statistic that we can't change.
100% of us are all going to die.
For most of us, we just don't know how, when and where.
We plan other life events - often meticulously - like weddings, vacations, what car and house we want to buy, what job we want to take - yet less than 15% of Australians have documented their advance care planning preferences. (ACP Australia)
So as an End of Life Doula - part of my community role is to advocate and encourage our communities to become more death literate and open to having conversations not only about dying and death, but how to live life before we die. And what actions can we put in place that provides not only information about our end of life wishes and values; but which can help to reduce the decision-making 'burden' and stress that is placed upon loved ones when treatment decisions and/ or death occurs.
Services that be of assistance in:
- facilitating end of life planning (proactive planning and conversations)
- completing advance care planning documentation
- service navigation
- providing companionship at medical and hospital appointments
- co-crafting ceremony and story-telling activities
- being an end of life companion for those actively dying - so 'no one dies alone'
- supporting end of life vigiling for those actively dying in their last few months, weeks, days and hours of life; and post-death care
- guiding the bereaved in the post-death period
- funeral celebrant services
Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or go to https://www.endoflifetransitions.com.au/contact.php to request information or services.
Embracing Compassionate Communities
I am part of an exciting new social movement that is evolving within Australia. One that has made a significant impact already within different parts of the globe. Momentum is growing. And this social movement is all about the concept of "Compassionate Communities".
As cited within the Compassionate Communities Hub website:
Compassionate Communities (ComCom) is a global movement for whole community engagement, a way to shift the dialogue and encourage communities to reconsider how care is provided to people who are dying.
When I first explored being an End of Life Doula, I came across a wonderful video by an Australian Professor - Allan Kellehear who remains the originator of this social movement. This global movement embraces a 'whole-of-community' approach to end of life support - actively embracing living well right up to the end of life. It's about caring for each other at times of loss and need; and about local communities taking 'responsibility' so that informal and formal support and networks combine to provide intrinsic support for the dying person and those left grieving.
Some wonderful community examples of being a Compassionate Community are evidenced by the
- Blue Mountains ComCom - The Groundswell Project (Australia); and the
- Compassionate Inverclyde community (Scotland)
Explore your local community. Network with and link organisations and services in your local area. Join the COMCOM HUB and join their free, dynamic webinars that guide the evolution of this movement. And let's all connect with the needs of the dying and those persons grieving so that our local communities can assist people to embrace life and live a life of purpose and meaning.
- Enjoyed presenting on 'end of life planning' to approx 45 small business owners at the Carindale & Eastern Suburbs Small Business Network meeting on 28 November
- Attended Palliative Care Qld's Annual Summit on 3 December. Caught up with many colleagues who I have worked with in the health industry. And am passionate about contributing to the Compassionate Communities concept.
Brisbane's Good Life Good Death Expo
Very excited to join 37 other Exhibitors at this year's Good Life Good Death Expo held at the Brisbane Convention Centre. With 580 members of the public attending - it was a wonderful day of sharing insight into how to live life and how to prepare and have conversations about dying, death and funerals.
It was also fantastic to catch up with other End of Life Doulas and to have the opportunity to join in an open discussion about "I'm a Death Doula - ask me any question". Well done, Nycole for facilitating this discussion!
Be gentle with yourself...
It took me very little time to gain a sense of the energetic, vivaciousness and courageous spirit of this woman and her engaging and loving family... through the persona, the words and just the very 'feel' of the home that I was sitting in.
I was humbled and excited as there had been input into the crafting of her own ceremony... and I wanted to make her very, very proud somehow - even though she had died a few days earlier...
So many beautiful words were shared. Love and sorrow filled the air. Pride and gratitude were present... and the courage and it was very evident that the beautiful & essence of this woman would live on despite her physical passing.
And a reminder to all that no matter what happens...be gentle with yourself...
Thank you for the gift of allowing me to be part of your ceremony x
When I get where I'm going...
85 is the new 65...
Australia’s once youthful population is ageing slowly. Our median age is now 38. It was 23 in 1911, 28 in 1966, and 37 in 2011.
As our baby-boomer generation ‘matures’, we find that one in six of us are now over 65, compared to one in seven in 2011 and only one in 25 in 1911.
The greying of Australia continues, with 84,000 more people aged 85 years and older than in the 2011 Census. Today, people who are 85 years and older comprise 2.1% of our usual resident population.
More of us are surviving well into old age, thanks to improvements in diet, public health and medical technology. In fact, our population of centenarians – people who live to or beyond 100 years – grew to 3,500 in 2016. That’s a lot of congratulatory letters the Queen must write!
Women are living longer than men. Of those people aged 65 or older, 54% are women and 46% are men. Of those people aged 85 and older, 63% are women and 37% are men. (http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/PrimaryMainFeatures/2024.0?OpenDocument)
So what a privilege it was this month to craft a ceremony for family whose loved one was a Centenarian. What amazing changes must have been seen in her lifetime! And what a celebration of a life that reached this phenomenal age, leaving a footprint on the hearts of those she loved...
So I hope that on the far side of the sky, she has spread her wings to fly...
Ceremony Masterclass - Mullumbimby
I just spent two days attending a workshop delivered by the wonderfully creative Zenith Virago (Deathwalker,founder of the Natural Death Care Centre and a master of Funeral Celebrancy) surrounded by like-minded individuals who were passionate to learn further skills in more complex funeral ceremonies. In this masterclass we explored the crafting of complex and challenging death ceremonies ranging from stillbirth, suicide, other traumatic deaths e.g. murder, multiple deaths and deaths where no physical body is found.
Sadly these types of deaths occur in Life. So learning further skills in how to talk to grieving families who experience extreme tragedy and often complex loss, has been so important to me as a person and as a Funeral Celebrant in further enabling me to craft ceremonies that provide a respectful and loving rite of passage ~ Jacqui
I was in London recently and I was fortunate enough to go to my first Death Cafe. There is something quite inspiring about being surrounded by people who are curious, passionate, interesting, friendly and open to having conversations about death. I was not the only person for whom this was their 'first' Death Cafe experience. I had read a lot about them over the years and searched my local area to attend one during this time, but had not been successful. How ironic that I found one over 16,000 kms away!!!
Death Cafes have 'no agenda' other than to have open conversations about death. It is not a counselling session, but a 1-2 hour catch-up where you can share experiences, thoughts, personal stories and valuable information about death and dying. And I was pleasantly surprised at how the conversation "just flowed" in a respectful and non-judgmental way as we sat and drank tea/coffee and ate cookies.
I have a healthy perspective about death and dying and an awareness already about how important it is for us to engage in conversations, collective learning and community engagement in this area but I left that night enlightened and invigorated. I also left with a sense that we share the same end-of-life issues and experiences related to both positive and traumatic experiences.
Death is universal.
And the end of life issues facing us in the Western world seem universal. Walking away that night I was armed with more knowledge and a sense that coming to talk about death really can be both interesting, enlightening and make you feel very much part of a 'community' .
A big shout out and thank you to facilitator, Rosalie Kuyvenhoven - (Professional Celebrant from http://www.ritualstoday.co.uk/) who coordinated this particular event; and to host, Nicky for allowing us to enjoy the ambiance of her beautiful home in which to meet.
So what is a Death Cafe?
Jon Underwood decided in 2010 to "develop a series of projects about death one of which was to focus on talking about death. In November [of that year], Jon read about the work of Bernard Crettaz ...[and] inspired by Bernard's work, Jon immediately decided to use a similar model for his own project, and Death Cafe was born." The Death Cafe model was developed by Jon and Sue Barsky Reid, based on the ideas of Bernard Crettaz. Sadly, and unexpectedly, Jon died in 2017 at only 44 years of age - but the Death Cafe momentum continues with Death Cafes being run in 61 countries and over 7,170 already held since the Death Cafe's inception.
(For more information go to : What is a Death Cafe).
Where to now for me?
I am inspired to arrange some regular Death Cafe experiences in my local community. And welcome hearing from anyone about Death Cafes in your community and your Death Cafe experience! ~ Jacqui
WEDNESDAY 31 OCTOBER 2018
Last month I had the great pleasure of meeting a family who - despite a tragic unexpected loss - gathered around the table to tell me their story about their loved one lost. Despite their grief and the difficult circumstances surrounding their loss, they amazingly composed, prepared and organised for the funeral that I had been asked to be the Funeral Celebrant for. All in only a few days...
Their strength was unbelievable.
And on the day of the funeral - the ‘stories’ they shared, brought light and laughter - and tears. The love was palpable. The sadness was palpable. The shock of losing someone unexpectedly - was palpable. But there was courage and dignity and a family & many “mates” who shared a common bond and love for the person who had died.
It was an honour...
Rest in peace and be free x
Mothers give us life and when we lose our mothers it is a loss that is hard to describe. Our lives are never quite the same...
“Oh I’m in pieces, it’s tearing me up, but I know a heart that’s broke is a heart that’s been loved...” (Ed Sherran)
We hold onto the special moments that they unselfishly pass onto us as children so that - as we too become adults - we carry within our very fabric, the essence of our Mums... and what a wonderful legacy that is.
I had the privilege this week of crafting a funeral ceremony with a family who lost not only their Mum...but a wonderful woman who had so many ‘roles’ in life... and who definitely had ‘made a difference’...
Rest peacefully x
Fly Me to the Moon...
The human spirit never fails to inspire me...
This week I have had the privilege of meeting a family who are united in their grief after losing the matriarch of the family. In the short time that I have had the pleasure of meeting this family they have not only demonstrated such a ‘connection’ and love for the person who they have lost, but also for each other.
They shared some of their most special memory moments, and described how the tragedy of ill health brought them opportunities as a family to learn more about each other and to share life moments with their loved one that they will never forget.
This family will always hold a very special place in my heart x