Olivia’s experience as an auxiliary nurse, hospice volunteer and her mother’s end-of-life caregiver, inspired her to investigate more meaningful and personal alternatives to traditional funeral practices.
“At the event of death and for a few days following, there is a window of opportunity for great healing to occur. When the funeral home took my mother’s body away just hours after her death, I felt this window close. We were left feeling helpless, unsure and wishing that we had had a little more time.”
In an effort to provide a way to keep this window open and facilitate the healing process, Olivia immersed herself in the study of death and dying culminating in certification as a Death Midwife and Home Funeral Guide. She subsequently created Sacred Crossings with the mission of empowering and guiding families to reclaim the ‘Lost art and healing ritual of a Home Funeral’. Over the next ten years the demand for information about conscious dying, after-death care and home funerals increased:
“When I was called bedside to help an individual make their transition, they were often remorseful about unresolved relationships, or fearful of what was going to happen, or stressed about their suffering. It seemed that transitioning would be a gentler, less stressful process if people learned how to prepare ahead of time. Also, when a loved-one died, families were often completely unprepared. They were unaware of their options for after-death care and the complex funeral industry made them feel helpless, vulnerable and afraid. It became clear there was a huge need for death education so I began teaching classes and workshops on The Art of Dying, After-death Care and Home Funerals.”
Olivia is a writer, producer and public speaker. She is an active member of the National Home Funeral Alliance,and past President of the board for The Los Angeles Hospice at Anam Cara in Topanga Canyon. Sacred Crossings is a Los Angeles-based company offering education, support and guidance for conscious dying and home funerals. Sacred Crossing Guides assist families with end-of-life planning; death midwifery; creating a vigil and funeral at home and cremation or burial arrangements. Their education institute offers workshops and classes and a certificate program in The Art of Death Midwifery. Students are both professional and non-professional end-of-life caregivers and those wishing to delve deeper into the dying process to further their spiritual growth. Graduates of the death midwifery program are eligible to serve as Sacred Crossing Guides. The Sacred Crossings Funeral Home is coming soon & will offer a full range of services including cremation, burial, funerals and memorials. Sacred Crossings is a non-denominational service without cultural or religious discrimination. While it is best to begin funeral planning in advance, we can help a family at any time.
It may sound strange to you to think about having a death midwife, but it really makes sense when you think about it. We hire a midwife to come in at the birth of a child – the entrance into this life. Why wouldn’t it be appropriate to hire a midwife for death, the departure from this life? My guest today IS a death midwife and is training others with the skills to fill this important role in helping those who are dying and their families deal with the fact of death in a more healthy and positive way.
Death is one of those transitions in life that is so strange and uncomfortable that people don’t like to talk about it. But that’s only because we’ve been taught to be uncomfortable about it. In many cultures, there are family rituals centered around the death of a loved one that actually help with closure and healing over the 3 days following the death.
A death midwife’s role is to come into a family situation and help those struggling with the death process to learn, grow, and come to accept the inevitable fact of death for all of us. It’s a healthy process of listening, asking questions, and learning as everyone learns how to say goodbye in a healthy way that benefits the one dying as well as those who survive them.
What is YOUR biggest fear about dying? Is it the pain? In this conversation Olivia and I chat about how the pain is not such a fearful thing and why it’s not the best thing for people to be over medicated to the point that they can’t interact with their family or friends during the last days of their lives. It robs everyone of a very important part of the death transition that could make the experience more positive for everyone.
If you are curious about end of life issues and the role that a death midwife might be able to play in your family or future, I encourage you to listen to this conversation. I learned a lot myself about the positive role a death midwife can play in an otherwise uncomfortable and difficult situation. I hope you find something in Olivia’s stories and experiences that will bring you hope and help as you deal with death in your own life.
[1:59] My welcome and introduction to this episode.
[8:28] Who is Rev. Olivia Bareham?
[12:00] What IS a death midwife and why did Olivia get into this kind of work?
[15:00] Things that should take place over the 3 days following a death.
[17:55] Why a slower transition with a death midwife is better for the family.
[19:22] Why does American culture deny the dying process.
[21:51] What happens after the 3 day period.
[25:27] The importance of telling loved ones what you want done at your death.
[27:20] The vital nature of establishing your own health care directive.
[30:42] The benefits and good work of hospice care.
[33:50] The importance of having conversations about death and dying.
[36:50] My call to action and thanks to you – the listeners!
[38:05] How should a person reach out to the death midwife if they wind up in a hospital?
[41:35] Do religious people have an easier transition?
[46:12] The training program for death midwifery that Olivia has created.
[43:38] Questions and thoughts about drugs at the time near death.
[53:00] How self administered lethal dose laws impact this process.
[57:04] The 3 best things you can do to prepare for your death.
BOOK: The Art of Living and Dying (affiliate link)
BOOK: Die Wise (affiliate link)
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