Crookwell’s Haley Snape will soon join an emerging profession in Australia as an end of life doula.
The word “doula” originally came from a Greek word meaning “woman’s servant”. Doulas are trained, non-medical professionals who provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to women before, during and after childbirth, to facilitate the best possible birth experience.
Just like birth doulas, end of life doulas provide support to a dying person and their family.
“Birth and death are the bookends of life, yet we celebrate birth but don’t do the same with death. Why don’t we talk about having a good death,” said Haley.
She likens the role to “a friend to the dying” and will be the first end of life doula in the Goulburn region in the NSW Southern Tablelands.
“We are someone to guide you and your family through the final stages of life, specifically with a terminal illness diagnosis. We provide grief support to the family and help get your affairs in order,” she said.
Haley wants to break down the fear around death after working as the assistant funeral director at RJ Sidney Craig in Goulburn for five years and helping to facilitate the local bereavement support groups for 18 months.
“Through my role with RJ Sidney Craig, I’ve met a lot of people caring for their parents or partners at home at the end of their life,” she said.
“I thought there needs to be someone who can help these people when they’re going through this process – especially to be there for the family afterwards.”
Haley said the period after the funeral is often the hardest for people who have lost a loved one.
“Before and during the funeral, you’re surrounded by support, flowers, phone calls, food and visitors, and your entire focus is on getting through the funeral. Then after the funeral, everything stops,” said Haley.
“That’s when it gets really hard for some people because everyone else goes back to normal, but your world’s stopped.”
An end of life doula can help prepare legal documents such as a will or power of attorney, assist people to die at home, organise funeral plans and provide emotional and spiritual support throughout which could even include helping find closure from a relationship fallout during life.
Haley said giving people a chance to share their life story and be heard is one of the most important services an end of life doula can provide.
“Telling your story is one of the biggest steps to getting through grief. I just need to be silent, listen and validate what they’re feeling. That helps people start to heal,” said Haley.
She wants people to know there are many end of life and funeral options and that people can even keep a body at home for up to five days with a death certificate to process and say goodbye.
“Some people panic and think they have to call the funeral directors straight away, but you don’t,” said Haley.
“If you want to, you can wash them, dress them, spend time with them, let people come and say goodbye. I think that can really help some people to heal.”
Haley’s job is to be present, come with no agenda and listen to people’s end of life needs whatever they may be.
She will qualify as an end of life doula, or consultant, as she will call herself, at the end of June and provide her services through RJ Sidney Craig Funeral Directors in Goulburn.