When End of Life Doula Fiona Holoboff meets with a new client (or simply shares with an acquaintance that she studies death and dying), the energy in the room is not always what you’d expect.
“Often they’re like a kid in a candy store. They finally get to ask all the questions they’ve always wanted to know the answers to!” says Holoboff, who offers a range of End of Life services through her business, Timeworks Doula Care in Qualicum Beach.
At other times people are more hesitant to talk about death, but Holoboff’s own comfort with the subject helps them be more open to asking the scary questions. After experiencing a painful number of deaths and serious medical issues in 2020, she felt drawn to spend the rest of her life changing our perceptions and rituals around death. She enrolled in an End of Life Doula program at Douglas College, and supplemented her education with other research.
“Our society doesn’t talk about death very well, and I want to change that. I think it’s my legacy,” she says.
Let’s talk about death
Timeworks Doula Care offers one-on-one services to people who are dying, as well as healthy folk who like to be prepared, helping with everything from Advanced Care Planning to arranging the ceremony where you’ll be remembered. But Holoboff is also planning a series of workshops, seminars and casual gatherings to help people in Parksville and Qualicum Beach start the conversation around death and dying.
“I’ll bring the coffee and donuts, you bring your chair. We can meet at the cemetery or the beach — I’d love to host a workshop in a barbershop — and we can talk about death.”
Holoboff says the best way to find out how you feel about death is by exploring your own experiences with it. For some it starts with the loss of a grandparent in childhood; others aren’t shaken by a death until adulthood.
“Even if you haven’t experienced a loved one’s death, everyone has a built-in response based on the stories they’ve been told throughout childhood. With a gentle approach to demystifying the process we can give ourselves and our survivors the gift of an acceptable and dignified passing.”
Holoboff hopes the conversations at these casual gatherings will be driven by participants, but she has a deep well of games, prompts and information to get people talking.
“People often want to know about the pain — is death going to hurt? With the advances we’ve made medically, and the natural sedatives our body produces during the dying process, you don’t have to be in pain,” she says. “Sadly, not everybody gets a nice quiet passing, but through preparations, discussions and planning, we can facilitate a much better death than if we had just waited and watched our person’s life slip away. We all deserve that.”
Among the educational resources she shares is hospice pioneer Barbara Karnes’ booklet The Eleventh Hour.
“It explains, in plain English, what the last 24 hours of a person’s life will look like. Many people appreciate learning more about the physiological changes.”
To find out when the next gathering will be in Qualicum Beach, visit timeworksdoulacare.ca or follow Timeworks Doula Care on Facebook. Start the conversation at 250-739-7646 and firstname.lastname@example.org.