Felicity Warner wants everyone to die well. She is the woman behind Ancient midwives: non-medical companions who provide individual holistic and spiritual care for people who are dying. The term "midwife" is not a case. It refers to the similarities between our first breath and our last one. Just like there are some stages for a woman in labor before giving birth, so there are some end-of-life phases before someone eventually dies, says Warner. It is the same idea as end of life doulas. "A midwife of the soul will recognize these phases and will work with them as a midwife at birth".
Soul midwives support a dying person to express their wishes for the final days in a death plan. They listen, they watch, they allow people to talk openly about their imminent death and their fears, and they provide therapeutic support to alleviate anxiety and pain. This can be through breathing techniques, massages, sounds and music therapy and essential oils. As the soul suggests in the title, the role also offers a spiritual dimension linked to healing and detachment. But it's not just about helping people die without fear, loneliness or anxiety. It also means making people understand that they are valued, says Warner. "I'm very excited about it because many people we work with don't have anyone in their lives. Making them feel special is a very important part of our role and honoring them as people who have been, because you can make you feel very anonymous when you're dying, old. or young ".
The daughter of former Conservative MP David Mudd, Warner mentions the "harrowing deaths" of her grandmother – with whom she had lived after her parents divorced when she was six, who died of lung cancer when Warner was 14 – and his stepfather two years later forced "a huge amount" of elaboration and reflection into the beginning and led her to become a health journalist.
In the 90's, Warner found herself writing a series of features about women dying from breast cancer. Respondents revealed their loneliness and isolation and the feeling of being locked up in a room with an elephant inside. "The most important thing was the feeling of not being able to speak honestly with anyone about the fact that they knew they would die, because everyone kept saying" we'll let you through this; you won't die. "
They talked and Warner listened. "I think there was a healing in the fact that they could simply speak frankly about how they really felt to someone who didn't judge in any way." But Warner saw his journalistic boundaries begin to slip as she intervened to satisfy unmet needs, like how to give a massage after one of the women confided that "nobody touches me" because of her cancer. When the last of the six women she interviewed died, she realized her decision to help him die full time.
He started volunteering in his local hospice, where he noted "large gaps" in the provision of assistance: the "one size fits all" approach, for example, which saw everyone "wrapped in blankets worked at Crochet "and" given plastic cups to suck ", regardless of their age or their personal needs.
"I sat there thinking that it would be very useful if someone could join the points in what I saw with people who were dying. If there could be some sort of middle ground between the given clinical care and the kind of tender loving care that it goes so far when you feel really bad, because this seemed to be very lacking or offered very willingly or not and not always at all. "
Warner began testing on the road what would become her "moribund" approach – the basis of the obstetric soul. "He was realizing how little things such a difference can make for people at the end of life. Even just sitting and holding a hand is huge for someone who has no one else sitting with them, and having time to do it is a great thing ".
Warner outlined her philosophy in a book in 2003, so she started providing training in Dorset, where she lives. So far, more than 1,000 people have paid to attend his courses, including Macmillan and Marie Curie nurses, doctors, chaplains, social workers and psychotherapists working in the NHS, as well as people from South Africa, Canada, the United States and Australia. About 40% of trainees continued to practice.
Warner runs a referral service from the Soul Midwives website. Many professionals offer rates on a mobile scale, opt for a donation or don't charge anything. "No one could ever be turned away if he couldn't pay," says Warner. "It's not about money. No one would be excluded for financial reasons."
Blood midwives can now be found in nursing homes, hospitals, hospitals and inside the home across the UK. They liaise with general practitioners and district nurses if someone wants to die at home. Warner admits that it took time to build trust with other support professionals, but adds: "this confidence has grown as the value of our work is understood and seen".
For her, the obstetrics of the soul is a movement that can fill the void once it is reached through networks of closer communities and considers death as a process rather than an event – something it feels has been lost in the course of generations. Warner recently introduced the idea of the "residences" of the midwife of the soul so that discussions about the end of life leave the confines of hospitals and hospices. "We need to bring the cure of death back to the community. It has been so medicalized and removed from the normal environment of most people, and this makes it very scary (for people)".
He cites a recent example of a midwife who goes to the library for a morning so that people can come and discuss various aspects of death. Now he hopes to persuade a chain of coffee shops to house the residences.
What is clear is that ensuring a quiet and gentle death for others is also good for Warner's soul. He says: "I feel it's my reason to be here".
Family: Married, two daughters.
Lives: Chideock, Dorset.
Education: Falmouth High School for Girls; home educated (1973-76), Copenhagen; University of Bristol, basic course for consulting skills.
Career: 2003-present: founder, trainer and teacher, Soul Midwives; 2013-today: researcher at the University of Winchester; 1978-2004: freelance journalist for health and medicine; 1977-79: trainee journalist, Falmouth Packet Newspaper.
Public life: member, national coalition Dying Matters. Sample of the Year of Care for the End of Life 2017 – awarded by the National Council for Palliative Care; End of Life's Doula of the Year – The Good Funeral Guide, 2017.
Interests: Reading, wild swimming, walks in Dartmoor, study of mythology and folklore, cooking, music.
. (tagsToTranslate) Death and death (t) Life and style (t) Hospices (t) Health (t) Society (t) Cancer (t) Nursing (t) Social assistance