Dignity to the end

Jan Britton helps guide families towards a dignified death.

DEATH is a journey everyone is going on, but one we don’t want to talk about, and there are countless euphemisms to avoid its very mention.

“Why do we have a problem with saying the four-letter word died?” Fremantle soul midwife Jan Britton says.

People prepare for a birth from the moment a baby is a twinkle in its parents eye, but death is a taboo subject, she says.

“We need to have the courage to talk about death and dying: Allay some fears, confusion, distress and even terror, and have some ownership of what we want when we are dying,” she says.

“We shouldn’t disempower ourselves by handing over this important event to others.”

As a 17-year-old nurse she was taught to “respectfully” wash a cadaver before it was taken to the mortuary, but nothing about the dying process.

“I didn’t have any understanding of this sacred journey as I tried to support and give advice and compassionate love to my patients and their families. What did I know about death and dying?”

Her work as a palliative care nurse inspired her to train as a soul midwife with Felicity Warner, who started the now-global Soul Midwife movement.

Along with nursing and soul midwife work, Ms Britton runs workshops to teach people about achieving a peaceful and dignified end.

“It’s perfect for family members, friends, carers, volunteers or health professionals that have the honour of being with someone who is dying; whether it is at home, hospital, a hospice or aged care facility.”

The workshops cover simple techniques that can be used to console a dying person, from gentle music and burning essential oils to just holding their hand.

“We talk about the stages and how to sit vigil with someone,” Ms Britton says.

“It’s about loving kindness and support; letting them know you are there and love them.”

The workshops are at the Glyde-In community centre in East Fremantle, Saturday March 30, and at the Fremantle Meeting Place, Sunday March 31.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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