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.
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 www.facebook.com/Rhian.Service.