Six questions for a soul midwife

Soul midwife Krista Hughes in lavender field

Five minute read

Krista Hughes is a soul midwife, supporting people who are dying, their friends and families. We caught up with her to find out what a soul midwife is and about the important role they can play in helping people die peacefully.

1. What does a soul midwife do?

As soul midwives, we provide non-medical, non-religious holistic care, compassion and support for anyone at the end of life, and for their friends, family and carers.

We work with absolutely anybody, whatever their gender, age, faith, sexuality or background. Sometimes people are referred by GPs or hospices or they get in touch with us themselves.

Soul midwives have a strong understanding of the profound and inter-linked physical, psycho-spiritual and emotional aspects that accompany the stages of dying. These stages are unique to each person, but there are some shared characteristics.

We use simple, gentle, powerful techniques and therapies. These change depending on who we are supporting, where they are in the journey, and what they like and dislike. All of our work stems from a deep understanding of the individual.

Soul midwives come from all walks of life, and need no prior experience. What they do need is compassion, empathy and understanding, and to be drawn to those at the end of life.

Some may have trained in different therapies, some will be practitioners in reiki or homoeopathy, or may be medically trained. However, nothing beats having a listening heart, and being able to tune into the dying person is the most important tool that a soul midwife has.

2. What do you talk about in your first meeting with someone?

In the first meeting, I get a sense of who the person is and what they want support with. It could be shortly after their first diagnosis or right at the end of their life.

I’m not there to fix anything, I’m there to walk alongside them. Sometimes there is something emotional that they have left undone — it could be an ancient wound of the soul, bubbling up as they are dying. Most importantly, I do lots of listening.

We might talk about anything they wish to prepare for those left behind, such as recording stories for grandchildren, making a quilt or compiling a recipe book. One gentleman I worked with wanted to video himself servicing the lawn mower because no one else in his family knew how to do it.

3. Will you tell us about someone you’ve supported at the end of their life, and the difference that support from a soul midwife made to their experience?

Yes, I’ll call her Hazel, she was in her late 70s, with a brain tumour. She wanted to die at home. She was well looked after by a live-in carer and her god-daughter who came to see her every day, but came to me for extra support.

The first time we met she was in a chair in her downstairs bedroom. We had a chat about who she was, what she liked doing, and talked openly about her death. She told me that loved her garden, music, birds. She was anxious, and knew that going for a walk would help her anxiety, but she wasn’t well enough to do so.

I suggested that we bring the walk inside. I offered her a gentle hand massage using lavender cream, as she said she loved the scent. We talked about the lavender fields nearby, and went into a relaxing visualisation.

We went on a little ‘walk’ in the lavender fields, with the calm sound of my voice, the sensation of soothing touch as I stroked her hands, and the scent of the lavender from the cream. We also looked at photos of lavender fields so that she could see the colours. It only took half an hour, but it made her so relaxed.

Next time I came, she was a bit frailer, and I did the visualisation again. She asked her carer to sit in this time. The following time, she was in bed and was more agitated. Yet, each time, the smells, sounds and touch of the visualisation helped her go to a place of calm and comfort. I recorded the journey and showed the carer how to do the massage.

The next time I visited Hazel was the day before she died. She was unconscious and the carer was upset that she was no longer able to eat. Doing the visualisation with Hazel enabled her carer to carry on looking after her in a profound, important way. Hazel had a peaceful, beautiful death.

4. You are surrounded by death and grief in your work, how do you look after yourself?

I recognise that when I work with someone who is dying, it’s not my grief, my family, or my experience. There is a difference between being supported yourself and being a support to others.

However, our own self care is hugely important, so that we can support others. The soul midwife family is very supportive, with mentoring, regional meetings and a closed Facebook group for peer support.

I know for myself, I need to keep properly grounded, I connect with nature a lot, especially by walking my dog by the river.

5. What do you wish that everyone knew about the end of life?

I wish everyone had a holistic end of life plan, a bit like a birth plan. The practical aspects are very important, but so are the emotional aspects.

A soul midwife will ask questions like these, but these are things we can all ask ourselves —

Ideally, where would I like to be when I’m dying?

Who would like around me towards the end and at the end?

What would I like around me (for example, you might like the Archers on in the background or to feel like you are by the seaside)?

What would I not like around me?

Are there any rituals that are important to me that should happen after my death?

How much would I like to know about what’s happening?

6. What have you learnt from your clients over the last ten years?

Every single person I’ve worked with has taught me so much, in particular not to have preconceived ideas about anyone. This work is a huge lesson in meeting people where they are.

It might sound trite, but I’ve learnt about the importance of having a love-filled approach, accepting people with true and pure love.

Find out more about Soul Midwives on Krista’s website.

Read more interviews — including Jane Harris from the Good Grief Project and Hayley Campbell, author of All the Living and the Dead.

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