Barbara Karnes

A pioneer of the hospice movement, Ms Karnes has won multiple awards as an End of Life Educator and the author of a number of educational booklets on death and dying which are invaluable for anyone who has lost or is in the process of losing a loved one, and essential for everyone working in end of life work. This week we are honored to spotlight Ms Karnes for our blog, in her own words.

The Jaws Effect

Within the doula and death positive community we spend a lot of time talking about how to open conversations about death, and how important it is to do that. In this week’s blog we’re going to discuss why it is so important to make the effort and have these conversations in the first place.

Spring Flowers

The delicate and fragile beauty of flowers reminds us of the delicate and fragile beauty of life. We cherish them because they look and smell lovely, but also because they don’t last forever, and that makes them all the more valuable.

Death Themed Gatherings

Death is an infinitely large topic. None of us will ever know everything there is to know—it’s impossible. But the cool thing about that is that everyone knows something no one else does. The more we get together and share, the more it will increase everybody’s knowledge.

Difficult Clients

Your job is to meet your client where they are, mentally and emotionally. Be ready to set boundaries if necessary about behaviors that are intolerable, but otherwise, show up with compassion, patience, and a thick skin.

We Love Pet Doulas

One of the most personal forms of grief can come from the loss of a pet. Our relationships with our pets are special: yes, we love them because they are cute and funny, but we also love them because they are ours.

Filling The Gaps

As a doula, you should be paying close attention to what is going on with your client families as the patient goes through their transition. The concerns they have can only be addressed if someone knows what those concerns are.

Starting The Conversation

Some cultures talk about how everyone needs a “third place” in their life. Home is your first place, work is the second. Your third place might be a local bar, an intramural baseball team, a book club, or a quilting circle.

Starting The Conversation

If you’re reading this blog you are probably already a part of the Death Positive movement, or at the very least, you would consider yourself death-curious.
From a certain point of view, death as a conversation topic shouldn’t seem unusual at all. People have been dying for as long as we’ve been people (maybe even longer!), and yet, the Death Positive Movement is considered a fairly new development. So new that a lot of people haven’t even heard of it.
Especially for us as doulas, it is important to be comfortable talking to people about death and dying, and to be willing to start those conversations with them. We know that if we don’t, those conversations might not happen until it’s too late.
People will tell you this is difficult to do, considering it’s such a delicate topic and people tend to be uncomfortable discussing it. But the truth is, it’s the easiest thing in the world. In fact, most new acquaintances will give you an opening as soon as you meet them. When we meet new people one of the first things they often ask is, what do you do for a living? Just by answering this question, you are opening the conversation.
When you tell people you are a death doula or work in end-of-life care, you may be surprised how many of them will immediately want to know more, or will begin telling you about their own experiences with death or loss. This is a topic that, whether they admit it or not, people need to talk about.
Simply by letting people know that death is a welcome topic, you are inviting them to share stories that they may normally feel they are not allowed to tell. Not everyone is going to be ready to go there right away, but it may surprise you how many people will quickly open up when they understand that you are willing to listen. Before you know it, you may find an opening to ask them how prepared they are themselves, and whether they might need some assistance getting their documents in order. Or you might learn that they currently have someone in their lives who is approaching the end of life, and they have questions about how they’re supposed to deal with it.
Whether your new acquaintance is in the market for a death doula or not, it will be worth having the conversation, every time. Be open about what you do and why you do it, show people that you aren’t afraid to think about or talk about death, and you’ll be setting an example. Show people they don’t have to be afraid to talk about death, and guess what? Over time, more and more people will stop being afraid to talk about death.
And isn’t that what the Death Positive Movement is all about?

Community Spirit

Whether we are all in the same room, or connecting from opposite sides of the globe, we are grateful for every member of our IDLM community. Here’s hoping that as we move forward we can all continue to support one another at home, online, and in the communities that we serve.