Services & Care

Barb Phillips - Thanadoula

"To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal, to hold it against your bones knowing that your own life depends on it, and when the time comes to let it go, to let it go." ~ Mary Oliver

A Thanadoula, or community death-care practitioner, is someone who has been introduced to a variety of teaching methods, focused on whole-person care. In our training, we are required to create relevant and personalized family care plans for the dying, and those planning ahead, and offer a quality of presence, and engagement, that can transform the experience of dying to one filled with meaning and grace. (Institute of Traditional Medicine)

The Thanadoula or community death-care practitioner is an ancient tradition, one that exists today in every society on every continent. A person who is there to help families prepare and grieve. An advocate for the dying and the family, a Thanadoula returns the choice and personalization of the grieving process to the families.

Barb was a wonderful addition to the team of people involved in my mother's end of living care and planning.

She has a warm personality, very empathetic and is highly sensitive to individual wishes and concerns.
Leslie Watson

Why a Thanadoula or Community Death-care Practitioner?

In my role as Thanadoula, community death-care practitioner, I’m really hoping to affect a shift in the way society views end of living, death and dying, from something to be avoided, to something which is to be welcomed as a life-enhancing experience. I strongly believe that it’s about families, and individuals, taking back control of how they grieve, mourn and heal.

The Thanadoula, community death-care practitioner's role has been introduced in response to families’ and individuals’ increasing need for information, knowledge and skills; and the decrease in the number of educators and counselors who are trained in end of living care. Traditionally, funding has been directed towards science-based disciplines such as nursing and medicine. These resources have been extremely helpful in treating persons who are dying, but there is an increasing gap in family-centered and community care. Thanadoulas are relationally based educators, who offer counsel based on a families’ values, beliefs and practices.

Thanadoula Services

Thanadoula or community death-care practitioner services, are designed to be flexible, and customized to suit the needs of each individual client. Services include, but are not limited to:

    Companionship & Support

  • Support services are offered along a continuum of care in the days, months, or even years before the end of one's living. In my role as Thanadoula, or community death-care practitioner, I can provide patient and/or family support in ways, and at times, when medical professionals and other support personnel may be unavailable. My services include assisting with developing, and implementing advance care directives; consulting and collaborating with the healthcare team; offering non-pharmaceutical strategies for pain and symptom management; and contemplative end of living care which can often involve creating sacred space, heart-centred mindful listening or just sitting quietly, music, respite for caregivers and providing physical, emotional and spiritual support, for both the patient, and their loved ones/caregivers.

    Education & Resourcing

  • When a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, negotiating the health care system can be a stressful and overwhelming process. As a Thanadoula or community death-care practitioner, I can provide reassurance, and educate the dying person, and their family, about the process and experience of dying, based on current and traditional knowledge and practices. I am able to speak about the inner, and outer transitions, and signs of the dying process, from both the patient’s, and the family’s perspective:
  • Living/coping with a serious illness
  • Things to consider for dying at home
  • Understanding Life-Sustaining Treatments
  • Preparing for the death of a loved one – Preparing to say Goodbye
  • Palliative Care/Hospice
  • Grief and Bereavement

I offer workshops, and presentations, to community, and special-interest groups on:

  • Preparing to say goodbye – End of Living Planning and preparation
  • Education and support for after-death care and home funerals
  • Home funeral and green burial options

Advocate for the Dying and Family

Dealing with debilitating illness, and death, is often a very emotional and stressful time. I can act as a mediator, or advocate, in complex situations relating to end of living care.

Peace of Mind

Often family members live far away, and may not be in a position to visit or care for their loved one who is ill or dying. I can provide peace of mind, by fulfilling this role, and acting as a vital link between absent family members and their loved one.

I believe my key role as a Thanadoula or community death-care practitioner is, to always maintain flexibility in providing compassionate care, and services, that best suit the needs or wishes of the client.