‘Death doula’ session and more at Surrey Skill Share Fair

SURREY — People looking to learn a new skill, or share an existing one, at the upcoming Surrey Skill Share Fair at Surrey Nature Centre may come across some gardening tips, learn some reiki or yoga and perhaps get a leg up on starting a podcast.

Something that eager skill learners may not have considered? Death midwifery.

Local yoga teacher Tricia Keith, also involved with community group Friends of the Grove, is coming to the Oct. 19 fair with information on home-based funerary practices.

That’s something, she said, that seems to have disappeared from western culture."It’s about providing emotional and spiritual care for the families," Keith said of the relatively new practice.

People working in the art can also be known as "death doulas."

"When you stay present with the death, there’s something that happens that, primarily in the white culture, we are missing out on."

Keith noted that many other cultures are more inclined to connect with the dead body as a healing process.

The difference between death midwifery and the common funeral practices in North America is that a death midwife, or doula, cannot embalm a body.

"There’s so much murky matter around (it); there’s a lot of myth around how dangerous a dead body is, how infectious they are. It’s just not true," Keith said.

The process, rather than having the family shy away from the body, brings family members closer to their newly deceased and allows for better closure, Keith said.

"This is all about going greener and having more family-centred, more meaning created by the family about end-of-life care and ritual."

A death midwife is qualified to educate and support a family throughout the funerary process, as well as creating a ritual after death has occurred.

They can also act as a bridge to funeral directors, churches and smaller crematoriums that allow the family to be present during cremation.

Keith’s workshop will be one of 18 that aim to teach the public a new skill.

The event (organized by David Dalley, Peter Leblanc, Henry Guo and Janine van Rhyn) includes workshops such as African drumming, fixing a flat tire, a poetry workshop and making yogurt.

"The idea of a community event where people from all backgrounds can come together to learn from each other, have fun, make some connections and go home with new ideas, inspiration and a few skills is very exciting," said Jenn Swanson, creator and host of the Communication Diva podcast, in a release.

The Surrey Skill Share Fair takes place on Oct. 19. The free event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Surrey Nature Centre (14225 Green Timbers Way).

For more information and a workshop schedule, visit Skill-share.ca.

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