THEY call her the death doula. The Netherlands-born counsellor Lola Rus-Hartland ushers the dying and their families through the stages of death, from beginning to end.
In The Netherlands those who do this work are called the stervensbegeleiding – it translates to farewell guide. And it is funded under public health.
“The Dutch people are a little bit more open, probably in Australia we are a bit more of a death denying society than other cultures,” Rus-Hartland says.“You help the dying person to farewell their life and loved ones, but you help the loved ones to farewell this person. So it works on both ends.”
Her grandmother was also a death doula, but her own career in the field began as a young social worker in The Netherlands.
“My 18 year-old-client gave birth to a baby who was still-born and I somehow kicked into this instinctive doing,” she says.
She arranged for the baby to stay with the mother in the days following the death to help her move through the loss of the infant.