Midwifing Death is an interactive correspondence course with five essential book readings, six reflective essays and attendance at an experiential weekend workshop (held at Michael and Ann’s home in Kiama NSW). For those doing the Distance Learning Package three experiential exercises will substitute for the workshop.
The art of midwifing death is based on the premise that death is more than the end of life – it is a profound human experience. On completion of the course participants will have a deeper appreciation of the
• physical, emotional, spiritual and existential needs of the dying
• challenges that can limit your ability to be fully present when companioning a patient, relative or friend who is living with a life-limiting illness
• fears and beliefs you may have concerning death and dying and how these can compromise a healing relationship with the dying person
• issues you may need to address in becoming an amicus for a patient, family member or friend confronting death.
In our death denying society people can be at a loss when caring for someone who is terminally ill. Those who are dying often describe their journey towards death as lonely. Sadly, this loneliness is rarely of their making and often results from a fear others have of talking openly about death and dying. What the dying seek is someone who listens and who is present and responsive to their changing needs. Karen Speerstra, co-author of The Divine Art of Dying encapsulated this need in a request she made to those who came to visit in the final months of her life. She said, “Firstly, you must forget that I am dying, but then again you must never forget than I am dying.”
This course will help to instill confidence and will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to midwife someone who is dying as well as supporting their family. It is suitable for anyone who wishes to care for another whether that be in a personal, volunteer or professional capacity.
The course places a great emphasis on your inner journey and the kind of presence you bring to the midwifing role. This is important because, as Stephen Levine said, “Work with the dying became work with myself”.
The course is run by Michael Barbato, a retired palliative care physician and Ann Barbato, a bereavement counselor and yoga teacher. They are assisted by Judith Hunt an experienced community and palliative care nurse.
Although the weekend workshop is an important part of the Midwifing Death Correspondence Course we appreciate distance or personal circumstances can sometimes make attendance difficult. For this reason a modified version of the course will be offered at each intake to a limited number of people who are unable to participate in the weekend.
The distance learning will include the same weekly readings, essays and the recommended book readings. In place of the workshop participants will be asked:
• to complete three experiential exercises that can be done at home
• to keep a journal record of significant events, dreams, emotional shifts and thoughts that occur during the six-month course. A summary of this journal will be submitted for review at the end of the course or can form part of the final essay, “What have I learnt about myself throughout this course?”
The exercises will address three core aspects of the weekend workshop
• beliefs and agendas
Details of the exercises will be forwarded at intervals throughout the course. Upon completion of each exercise, the participant will be asked to reflect on the interaction and submit their reflections in writing. If necessary, a skype link can be arranged for the purpose of debriefing and discussion.
Those wishing to enroll in the Distance Learning should notify Michael at the time of registration.
Ann has worked as a counselling psychologist for 30 years in private practice and at Macquarie University and The University of New England.
As well as co-facilitating the Midwifing Death Correspondence Course and other workshops on death and dying with Michael, she does bereavement counselling, teaches yoga and meditation and facilitates personal growth groups.
Ann’s main focus is the psycho-spiritual aspects of the course. She is also interested in anything that promotes the wellbeing of those involved in caring for people with life-limiting illnesses. Personal and spiritual growth is enhanced during the course and participants are encouraged to pursue inner awareness through the essays and journal writing.
Before becoming a psychologist Ann was a registered nurse and midwife. She has been a community palliative care volunteer and, together with Michael has established several volunteer groups in Sydney.
Family life is important to Ann and Michael. They are blessed with 4 children and 4 grandchildren. Ann enjoys yoga, walking, swimming, table tennis and reading.
Michael spent 20 years working as a specialist physician in rural NSW before moving to Sydney in 1989 to commence work in palliative care. Prior to his retirement in 2012 he directed palliative care services in NSW and the ACT and did regular locum work for the Northern Territory Palliative Care Service. His areas of interest include the holistic care of the dying, end-of-life dreams and visions, the experience of dying and the moment of death.
Together with Ann, he facilitates Caring for the Living and the Dying workshops for professional and community groups. He has spoken at state, national and international conferences. He is the author of three books on palliative care and has published widely. Michael believes the Midwifing Death Correspondence Course gives participants a better understanding of what it means to be an amicus or companion for those who are dying and the skills required to take on this important role.
Michael shares his life with Ann, their four adult children and partners and four grandchildren. His outside interests bonsais, fungi, bush-walking, swimming and the environment.
Judith comes from a registered nurse/ midwife background. The last 15 years were in community health nursing where her passion for caring for people living with a life limiting illness and their family became her focus. Her desire to empower, encourage and support the dying and their family has been greatly enriched by the work of Ann and Michael and the Midwifing Death course. As a student in the first MDCC, Judith has continued involvement with this valuable work supporting Ann and Michael with student essays and workshops. She feels this is an honour and a great privilege and recognises her own continuing personal and spiritual growth as a result.
Since retiring in 2014, Judith has worked as a trained Hospital Chaplain [volunteer], a hospice volunteer, and been involved in pastoral care and informal mentoring. She is now a bedside companion at a local hospital.
Her personal story includes caring for her young sister in her dying at home, journeying with her father as he lived with cancer and subsequently died, and companioning her mother to her last breath in an aged care facility.
In January 2017, Judith and her husband Barry moved from their home of 27 years in beautiful Kiama NSW to re-establish near family in Brisbane. They have 4 adult sons and 3 precious grandchildren. Judith thrives on family and friendships, walking within nature, Christian meditation, music, writing and encouraging others.
You can read essays and purchase Michael’s books at his website...