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Bushfires inspire Kangaroo Island’s End-of-Life Doula

Melissa Smith

“In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes” – Benjamin Franklin

While we turn to accountants for help with taxes, who guides us when faced with the inevitability of death? Who supports us when our lives or those of our loved ones are coming to an end? This is where the services of an End-of-Life Doula become invaluable.

Doula is a Greek word meaning ‘person of service’. Traditionally, each village would have a Doula available to assist with significant life events, like birth, or in this instance, death. A Doula fulfills a non-medical role, providing comprehensive, personalised, end-of-life planning, care, and continued support following death.

Heidi Grieg is the founder of KI Doula Services. It was after the life-changing events of the Kangaroo Island Fires in 2019/20 that highlighted for Heidi, and many others, the fragility of life and how quickly it can be snatched away. Heidi started to reevaluate and seek to live a more authentic life, finding a path that is true to her.

Seemingly in most regional areas, people draw on creative solutions to difficult problems. They think outside the square and develop unique ideas for gaps in services that are often overlooked. And where’s the best place to solve these problems in a country town? In the main street of course. It was a conversation while on her way to the shop that birthed the idea of KI Doula Services, after chatting with a local Community Nurse about heartbreaking palliative care patients who were isolated to the Island with no family connections.

Seen as a valuable allied health service, the Palliative Care Team at Country Health Connect (Hills Southern Fleurieu Kangaroo Island Community Health Service) has partnered with KI Doula Services and the compassionate service is now accessible through My Aged Care with Heidi’s services stretching across the whole island. A revolutionary and unique move by SA Health, highlighting the much-needed services of End-of-Life Doulas.

Before becoming an End-of-Life Doula and Funeral Guide, Heidi dedicated many years to working as an educator and advocate for young people and their families in the fields of mental health and disability. Originally a Nurse, she also has two decades of experience as a teacher of meditation. Moving into the area of End-of-Life services has aligned with her passion for giving back and supporting people and families.

Together with Kath Bald from Island Holistic Funerals, Heidi is lifting the lid on what is often a topic families avoid.



Kath and Heidi give choice and support for end-of-life needs

Death is uncomfortable to talk about. It ignites fear and anxiety, and it brings up painful past experiences, but the simple act of planning and documenting wishes can be a profound act of love for those left behind. In our Western culture, we’re led to believe our options of how and where we die, where we are buried and the process behind it are dictated by medical institutions, funeral homes, and grieving families, but Kath and Heidi are giving the people of Kangaroo Island choice and support for their end-of-life needs. They provide continuity of care, from end-of-life support right through to after-death and holistic funeral care.

The only local funeral service on Kangaroo Island offering the full range of funeral services, Island Holistic Funerals supports the choices of their clients and also provides insight into alternative options. Aligned with the National Death Advocacy Network (NDAN), Kath and Heidi see the importance of “going back to what we used to do” and demystifying the options for how end-of-life care and burial are undertaken.

In addition to addressing immediate end-of-life needs, KI Doula Services assists in a variety of other areas. This includes community education, acquiring physical resources, arranging care for dependents, establishing a tranquil environment for end-of-life care, managing paperwork, crafting legacy materials, planning ceremonies, and offering funeral celebrancy when necessary. The emphasis is on delivering practical support while honouring individual rights and choices.

Heidi’s been pleasantly surprised with how quickly people have embraced the idea of an “End of Life Doula” and the services she offers. She sees her role as a privilege and one of which over the past two years, the community has shaped themselves.

When asked what she has learned through her role as an End-of-Life Doula, Heidi said she has added value. “It’s made me value my life a lot more and not sweat the small stuff”. At the end of life people just want peace and to know they were loved, that their life meant something – and their family wants to know they’ve done their best.”

Find out more about KI Doula Services here.

Click here to reach Island Holistic Funerals.




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