Bringing a vital new business to Kangaroo Island

A paramedic and midwife have launched a groundbreaking business on Kangaroo Island, providing end-of-life doula services and holistic funerals.

Heidi Grieg and Kath Bald are advocates for choice when it comes to end-of-life needs and wishes, and have decided to ensure that burials and funerals on private land are possible for Kangaroo Islanders.

Paramedic Grieg decided she needed a change of direction after the Kangaroo Island bushfires, particularly after the deaths of local legends Dick and Clayton Lang.

She said fear of more fire victims made her realize that “death literacy” was lacking on the island.

After initially considering a career change in palliative care, the western KI woman decided to create the end-of-life doula community services opportunity.

With a gap in end-of-life planning and support, and no island-based funeral service, Grieg wanted to open dialogue and give choice back to the community.

“It’s something the community could do with guidance,” Grieg said.

She began with her ‘Dying to Know’ events in Parndana and Kingscote, giving residents the chance to ask questions about doula roles and start planning for the last days of their lives.

Holistic and affordable end-of-life support, shaped by community needs, is a niche profession in Australia, but it has received an overwhelmingly positive response on Kangaroo Island.

After starting KI Doula Services, Grieg quickly realized she needed more than one person and was approached by nurse and midwife Kath Bald at the perfect time.

Doula is a Greek word meaning “person of service”, with birth doulas already helping women around the world through their pregnancy, labor and first weeks of motherhood.

Bald said it felt natural for someone to guide you out of life as well.

“It’s a privilege to be there for people, at birth and also at the end,” Bald said.

KI Doula Services complements the health services provided by nurses and general practitioners with non-medical services helping people to “die at home if they wish”.

Their mobile support includes essentials such as creating heirloom documents, teaching simple relaxation and meditation techniques, funeral arrangements, and assistance with paperwork.

Both women also underwent intensive training in natural mortuary care to prepare them for their new roles and to launch their other business, Island Holistic Funerals.

Their combined service focuses on end-of-life care and home and family funerals, offering Islanders the chance to die and be buried on their rural properties, surrounded by those they choose, in an environment that brings them comfort.

Bald said a big part of their message is to have the conversations early. Pre-plan, talk and listen to help understand someone’s wishes and advocate for them at the end of their life.

“Many of our ancestors kept death at home. There is evidence that experiencing the grieving process is helpful if people can spend time with their loved ones after they die and in their homes,” Bald said.

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