How one end of life doula makes things better

How one end of life doula makes things better

Back in 2019 I began to think about how the average Australian and our society manages the very natural process of death and dying, and I had a strong feeling that I could make things better. Over that year, while I was supporting my sister with an advanced cancer diagnosis, three family members died; and unfortunately, I was unable to be present or provide practical support around the time of their passing. I sensed that had I not been interstate, I could have made a real difference to my relatives’ end of life experience.

I would have been an advocate and interpreter when there was poor communication and education about palliative care and pain relief. And I would have proactively supported the family carers who were under a lot of pressure. I could have arranged for important documents and plans to be prepared; and been a good person to talk with about any aspect of death and dying – because there are times those conversations need to happen for all of us.

I was asked to write and present the eulogy at my uncle’s memorial service, and it was a wonderful way for me to commemorate him. Attending three funerals in one year also made me think about how I would like to be celebrated and farewelled in a meaningful way. And a year later, I was honoured to be the funeral celebrant at a ceremony for my friend’s dad.

I approach death and dying with honesty and sensitivity. I’ve lived through diagnosis and treatment for cancer, so I’ve thought a lot about my own mortality. Having also experienced chronic life-changing illness, I understand the impact that health conditions and treatments, both Western and alternative, have on daily life. And right now, I’m working through the challenges of the aged care system while I support my dad to remain at home.

Much of my previous employment has involved supporting people to achieve a good quality of life. And I have a qualification in Leisure & Health – sometimes called Diversional, or Social & Recreational Therapy. I am motivated to help people to improve, develop or maintain a good quality of life at the times when life is most challenging – often because of illness, ageing, or change in home or lifestyle.

When I did my End of Life Doula Foundation Workshop with Helen I had an overwhelming feeling of reassurance – I knew that I was on the right personal and professional path. Since then, whenever I undertake work or study activities, I feel a deep sense of validation and fulfilment. The Foundation Workshop and Intensive Course provided great learning and insights, and also strengthened my self-awareness. I am confident that my skills and experience serve as a unique gift that can benefit others, and I know that I can make a positive difference to people’s experience of living and dying.

I have felt a calling to support people during difficult or transitional times, and it feels so natural to combine the three roles of End of Life Doula, Funeral Celebrant and Diversional Therapist into a business. I value diversity, celebration, quality of life and freedom of choice. And my vision for Rhiannon’s Service is loving kindness, an empathetic ear and practical, personalised solutions to support and empower people when they need it most.


Preparing the Way end of life doula Briget Kelly.

Briget Kelly is an End of Life Doula, Funeral Celebrant, and Diversional Therapist based in Adelaide.

For more information about Briget and her business, Rhiannon’s Service, please visit

Why I became an end of life doula

Why I became an end of life doula

In 2014 my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma which came as a shock, and we had so many questions at the time. How wasn’t this picked up earlier? Why? Is there treatment? Do we have to set up his will and health directive right away? What can I do? Will I cope? How do we tell others and keep them up to date t and when do we share information

My husband’s journey was swift. He was given 12 months and died ten months later. However, I have to say we ran with life as fast as we could. We were perhaps running from the melanoma, travelling to India, Thailand and New Zealand to see family and friends, making final memories and, most importantly, to my husband, being seen as he wanted to be remembered, not as a sick man.

During a trial at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, he was fortunate enough to be offered Keytruda, a medicine used to treat melanoma and other cancers. It was successful for a short time, but it couldn’t take full control as the melanoma was too far gone, and he had 15 tumours on the brain, and the melanoma was in his spinal fluid.

I focused on making his life as normal as possible, asking how I could fulfil any final wishes. He told me he had never done karaoke and wanted to die at home. So I arranged a party where he got to perform karaoke and, with the help of Blue Care nurses, asked how I could support him to be at home.

Though fulfilling, it was a testing time as I bathed, fed, and administered his medication as required. Watching changes daily from dementia to no appetite, getting thinner and weaker while I lay by his side, sometimes in silence, other times talking about our holidays and reminiscing.

Through this time, I thought to myself, I want to help others and support them to have loved ones die at home. Allow people to remain partners, parents, and siblings and not be carers, and have those difficult conversations about death and dying. The importance of having a will, advance health care directive, knowing the difference between a Power of Attorney and Enduring Power of Attorney, and–something dear to my heart–sharing that you don’t have to phone and have the body taken away immediately. You can spend time at home saying goodbye, talking to them, bathing them and allowing yourself to grieve. I will also take pride in having public gatherings to normalise death and dying, where people can ask questions and share their experiences.

Since my husband’s death, I have trained as an End of Life Doula and an Assistant in Nursing so I can help others accept dying and death are a part of life for all humans and pets.

Preparing the Way end of life doula Karyn Steele

Karyn Steele is an End of Life Doula based on the Sunshine Coast, QLD.

For more information about Karyn and her business, Take Time to Prepare, please visit