Insights from people on the front line

When dealing with dying and death is a part of your normal daily routine, it’s understandable that you work  out how to process those many and varied aspects of what is involved.  This story by Freya Peterson (Life after death: When dying is an ordinary part of your working day, ABC News, 14.5.2018) profiles three people whose jobs bring them into contact with dying and death on a regular basis and how it impacts their lives.

For crime scene photographer, Kylie Blumson, it appears to have resulted in a sense of detachment from reality.  At least this was the experience in the case of her mothers ending of days.  More immediately she says: “We can’t avoid death, or tragedies, or certain circumstances in life, but I think being appreciative of what you have right now, that mindfulness thing — being conscious of what’s around you — compels you to be the best that you can.”

“I’m constantly saying to my son, think about your decisions and the consequences. Don’t put yourself in that position. Be more conscious of the world around you and be aware that it can quickly be taken away from you.”

For Gemma Belle, a nursing home receptionist, she has welcomed and got to know people who are subsequently farewelled since as she says, these are not places that people usually leave alive.

“Grief is such an individual experience. I guess as soon as the residents come in the grieving process starts. It’s the end stage, they’re not leaving. People deal with that in such different ways,” she said.

Ms Belle says being able to talk about her work — with colleagues, friends and even her 7-year-old daughter — was key to coping with any stress or sadness arising from regularly occurring deaths in the home.

“I have explained to her a few times when I’ve been sad, about the fact a resident died. I think it’s important,” she says.  “In Australian society we’re quite separate from death, especially children.  The more you’re exposed to it in a natural supportive way, the better.”

Funeral celebrant Rod Pianegonda is disarmingly frank when asked to describe his frequent exposure to death.

“It might sound like a selfish thing to say, but when you see people on the slab, some part of your subconscious is saying, ‘How lucky am I that’s not me. I’m still here,'” he said.

“There is this realisation that I’ve been at hundreds of funerals …. and not one of them has been mine.”

Mr Pianegonda, previously worked for a commercial funeral provider for 10 years. He believes tackling the topic of death head-on not only helps people cope better with the loss of a loved one but can vastly improve a person’s attitudes in the time they have left.

This is a good news story about people who work in professions that most of us would shy away from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-12/working-with-death-every-day/9604958

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