End of Life Practitioner –

Soul Midwife

(COMPANION TO THE DYING)

Many people are confused by the title ‘Soul Midwife’, and I can understand why, I usually describe myself as an End of Life Practitioner, Soul Midwife, a Companion to the Dying. We are literally ‘midwifing the soul’, helping the dying person to make their transition. We always work within each person’s own belief system, or none, we do not impose our own beliefs. 

We call the dying people we work with ‘friends’, because ‘client’ or ‘patient’ sounds too clinical and impersonal for such a deep and personal experience. We also recognise that dying people do not always have family around them to form their support group, so we refer to ‘loved-ones’ to encompass both friends and family supporting the dying person.

I feel really strongly that we need more open & honest conversations about death and dying, especially with those people who have life limiting illnesses, & their loved ones, but also just about death in general, before it is staring us in the face. As Jon Underwood, founder of the Death Cafe movement, said something along the lines of ‘you don’t get pregnant by talking about sex and you won’t die from talking about death!’

We are frankly quite lacking in this in the UK & that’s where we as End of Life Practitioners, End of Life Companions, Soul Midwives, and other end of life professionals, can really make a difference. We use gentle soothing therapies to calm & relax the dying person, & sometimes family members too. We can assist with legacy/memory work to help the dying person leave some tangible love-filled things, such as family photo albums, collate a book of family recipes, memoirs or shorter memories to share in various ways. We do anything we can to support the dying person, so that could be from the point of diagnosis months or even years in advance, right up to vigiling with them in their last days/hours at the point of death. I’m really passionate about helping people to have as ‘good’ & gentle a death as possible, wherever and however that death may occur.

I’m also deeply honoured to have been asked to be a Mentor for other local Soul Midwives who are newly qualified in the Somerset and Avon areas. 2019 was a baptism of fire for me, working simultaneously with 4 dying people, including my own Mum. 2020 was no picnic either, but it has led to us getting even more resourceful with our working practices as we were no longer able to be in a room with dying people or their loved ones, but I have been able to support from afar and we always say that our job as End of Life Practitioners is just as much about supporting the loved ones, as much as the dying person themselves, so I have been able to support via ‘phone and video calls rather than in-person. 2021 should see a return of face-to-face working again and I look forward to working with those who recognise the need for, and value of, my services.

Here’s a flavour of what I can offer in terms of end of life support, this list is not exhaustive, we are always working with whatever our ‘friends’ need, and constantly adding to our own skills too, so this is just to give you an idea:

Memory/Legacy work – helping the dying person to create keepsakes for loved ones.

Death planning – having the difficult conversations with a slant towards working out what the person does & doesn’t want their death to look like. This is from a holistic rather than medical point of view. Like a birth plan, but for death.

Companionship & deep listening – being a ‘safe pair of ears’ for the dying person & their loved ones. Being able to hear & hold the ‘shitty stuff’.

Holistic therapies – gentle touch to calm & relax, sound healing, guided meditations & breathing techniques.

Blessing & balancing energy of the dying person. Using Sacred Oils (Myrrhophore work). Preparing to transition.

Vigiling – sitting with people in their final days/hours.

Care of the body – I’m very interested in bringing death back into the home again and loved ones having ‘access’ to the dying/dead person, with assisting families to prepare their loved ones bodies & have small rituals or ceremonies that are meaningful to them.

Grief listening – both before and after the death has occurred. Often significant grieving happens while the dying person is still alive, as their condition deteriorates and relationship dynamics may change. People can die to us in quite a gradual way, which needs just as much listening and support as when the death has actually occurred.

I work with dying people and their loved ones in various settings and situations, from babies to elderly people. I work with two charities around grief and supporting people after bereavement – I am a Trustee and Complementary Therapist for ‘Towards Tomorrow Together’ a local charity supporting families experiencing baby and child loss, and I am also a Bereavement Support Volunteer with ‘Cruse Bereavement Care’, a national bereavement support charity.

I am very interested in funeral practices and grief rituals from various cultures around the world and will gladly support you to explore what may feel right to you, as an individual. It’s time to open our minds to different ways to ‘do death, funerals and grieving’, to find what is meaningful for each person and their loved ones, rather than following a formulaic approach.

I hope this has given you a feel for my passion and heart for this work, please do get in touch for a no obligation chat if you think you, or someone you love, might benefit from my services.

The title of ‘Soul Midwife’ is an ancient role which has been lost in our culture for many, many generations, but thanks to the beautiful work of Felicity Warner it has been gradually resurfacing in the last 20 years or so. Her books A Safe Journey Home: A Simple Guide to Achieving a Peaceful Death, The Soul Midwives’ Handbook: The Holistic and Spiritual Care of the Dying & Gentle Dying: The Simple Guide to Achieving a Peaceful Death give amazing depth and insight into the dying process and our role within it.

Felicity says “We use sound, touch, smell and deep listening skills to help the dying achieve a dignified, peaceful and serene death.” This, to me, is the core of Soul Midwifery.

We start work with our ‘friends’ (this is what we prefer to call our clients) at any point from diagnosis of a life-limiting illness, right up to the point of death. We give as much or as little support as needed. It is a very individual and personal service with complete confidentiality assured at all times (subject to local safeguarding policies and laws).

We work within our friends’ own beliefs, whether secular or religious, and we never try to impose our own, this is fundamental to our work.

Initially we would have an informal chat to discuss how I can best support you and your loved ones, this is usually somewhere very neutral such as a quiet local café so there is no pressure or obligation to continue if it doesn’t feel right for you.

If you would like to work with me I can offer an array of support with practical things such as helping you make memory keep-sakes and recordings, therapeutic touch using Reflexology, Reiki or Gentle Touch Massage, Sound for healing and relaxation, discussing end of life wishes and care (not in place of medical advice), funeral and burial options and signposting to other local services and professionals, easing you into the ‘difficult conversations’ and how to have them with your loved ones and anything else you need support with.

Through experiences with both my own and friends’ families I bring a hands-on understanding of the dying process which will continue to deepen as I work with more friends. It is a deep honour and privilege to be part of this journey.

The 12 Principles of Soul Midwifery

1) To work as non-medical holistic companions who guide and support a dying person in order to facilitate a gentle and tranquil death.

2) To support and recognise the individual needs of the dying person and ensure they feel loved and supported.

3) To create and hold a sacred and healing space for the dying person (whether in a hospital, a hospice or at home).

4) To respect and honour a dying person’s religious/spiritual or atheist/agnostic beliefs and practices.

5) To work as non-denominational, multi-faith practitioners who honour the dying person’s beliefs about life, death or the afterlife.

6) To listen, provide gentle therapeutic techniques, and ensure compassionate care at all times.

7) To ‘serve’ our friend; not aim to ‘fix’ or ‘rescue’.

8) To give healing, using sound, touch, colour, scented oils or other gentle techniques to alleviate pain and anxiety.

9) To keep a loving vigil.

10) To work holistically with the spirit and soul of our friends at all levels and stages of transition.

11) To support families and their loved ones, giving loving care with a human touch

12) To provide comfort, continuous support and reassurance in helping a dying person to experience the death he or she wants.

These Principles are the foundation of our work, they are taken directly from the Soul Midwives School website, click here to access the site and see further information about our work. Soul Midwives School website.

Click on the links below to see further info about Soul Midwifery, and resources which you may find helpful.