Our birth and our death are two of the most profound experiences unique to us as individuals.
At the time of our birth, there is the expert guidance and support of the midwife, (and others when necessary). We are all familiar with the Midwife at birth, but less so with the Soul Midwife who provides companionship, practical, emotional and spiritual support to those with a life-limiting illness and their families too.
Likening the role of the soul midwife to the birth midwife is an easy way to explain what they do.
A birth midwife has an in-depth knowledge of the development of the baby, how to nurture the expectant mother and family during the pregnancy, has an in-depth knowledge of the process of labour and delivery, and the care of mother and baby afterwards.
In the same way, a soul midwife has an in-depth knowledge of the dying process, skills to help the dying prepare for their death whilst continuing to live as well as possible, and supporting their families also. They may help care for the body after death, and continue to support the family in bereavement.
All soul midwives are trained by the School Of Soul Midwives, founded and run by Felicity Warner and supported by regional mentors, and all use the knowledge and skills gained there. This includes recognising the stages of dying, the art of being with a person who is dying, therapeutic listening, gentle touch, ceremony, the use of sound and colour.
As individuals with different experience and skills, some soul midwives use other resources such as reflexology, aromatherapy, Reiki and the use of sacred oils.
However, most important of all is simply to be there.
Soul midwives can help formulate death plans, (just as an expectant mother makes a birth plan), which states their choices on such things as where they would choose to die, who would be present, and more. They are often asked to help with practical issues such as advice about will writing and creating memory boxes.
It is a very real privilege to be of service to those with a life limiting illness, helping them achieve a loving, peaceful, dignified death and as the birth midwife works alongside other health care professionals, soul midwives work alongside multi-professional teams too.
Lastly, soul midwives also work to take the taboo out of talking about death and dying by being available to talk to anyone, with or without a life-limiting illness on a 1:1 basis or in groups.
For more information contact Yvonne Oakes, Soul Midwife, Reiki Master Practitioner and retired Palliative Care Clinical Nurse Specialist.