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Talking openly about death is even more important during COVID-19

"You can’t gather to honour them and that you can’t grieve together. It’s really challenging."
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(stock photo)

Bringing up the conversation about end-of-life is always important, but during the pandemic it’s even more crucial as so many families are affected.

“It’s one of the greatest things that we can do is to bring this topic out of the closet and start being open about the fact that every one of us is going to die. Spoiler alert, it happens to everyone,” says Dawn Carson, a death doula and funeral coordinator in Halifax.

Carson says death doulas like herself work with individuals or families that are planning their own end of life or have a loved one who’s dying.

“What services do they require? What are the next steps? What happens in what order? What kind of paperwork do they need to be aware of? It’s like having an expert in your community who understands what the process is and is able to walk families through it,” she tells NEWS 95.7’s The Todd Veinotte Show.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Carson says society is unusually aware of death happening all around them.

“It’s a strange time that we’re getting daily reports on who’s sick with the coronavirus and how many people have died,” she explains. “That’s so unusual for our culture. We’re not always talking about that.”

Especially for those with family in long-term care homes, Carson says it can be challenging to make plans during COVID-19 if they aren’t already in place.

“Most folks will say oh, we’ll know what to do or we’ll take care of it,” she says.

But the funeral coordinator says that at end-of-life, it can be hard to consider what a person’s wishes would be in terms of care, and leaving emotions out of it.

“If you asked folks what would your ideal death be, they’d say they’d like to die peacefully at home in their beds, 80 per cent of people say that that’s the kind of death they would like to have. That only happens in maybe 10 per cent of the cases” Carson says.

Planning for end-of-life can consider all sorts of things, says Carson, from hospital stays to funeral arrangements to burial or cremation options.

“When people actually make a plan and talk about it openly, there’s a great sense of relief,” she says. “They don’t have to do any guesswork around what mom or dad or brother or sister would’ve wanted, how they should follow their wishes, how they could be honoured, how they could be made most comfortable, what they’d say yes or no to, in the face of end-of-life decisions.”

Carson says during the pandemic, if you don’t have plans for a loved one’s death, you can find online resources through her site, deathmatters.ca, or the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

“[They’re] dying in places where you can’t be with them, that you can’t gather to honour them and that you can’t grieve together. It’s really challenging. There are services that are available online, like Zoom platforms, where there’s group grieving situations,” she says.

The death doula says those online sessions can be more helpful than grieving a loss on your own.

“There’s some sort of commonality and camaraderie that will come out of a circle of people,” says Carson. “Even if it’s on Zoom, talking about their experience and the varieties of things that have happened or that have affected them.”


Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

Victoria is HalifaxToday.ca's weekend editor and a Halifax-based freelancer. She is originally from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
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