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Greeting Death: Death midwives support the dying, family in grieving process

Angela and Michael Franklin, both hospice volunteers and death midwives, sit on living room couch in Cave Junction. (Jennevieve Fong / News 10)

Death isn't always the easiest subject to talk about. When it comes to the end of a life, some people are more comfortable with the process of death. Death midwives support those who are dying and their loved ones during this emotional time.

Between funeral plans, legal services and emotional grief, there's a lot to handle when you or a loved one is dying. It is important to know there is support out there.

Cave Junction resident Michael Franklin has been a death midwife for years now, even raising $1,800 to complete a certification course in Los Angeles.

"A death midwife is one who's filling the roles of caretaker, of support system for the caretakers, for the family of the person, helps with legal paperwork in the funerary process. Someone who assists with grief counseling afterwards," Franklin said.

His goal is to connect people with the natural process, removing the negative stigma around dying. Franklin said the most difficult part of his role is confronting the fear of death and the misunderstanding of the dying process in our culture.

"Culturally speaking, we have lost touch with the dying process, in no small part, because of the industry of death; the funeral, home services, the mortuaries, the hospitals," Franklin said.

His wife Angela Franklin, who is also a hospice volunteer, said, "There’s not a really cohesiveness to things right now in the way that we see death as a medical experience and so a death midwife is someone that can come in and kind of be a liaison."

Angela said the needs and experience of every family are different.

"This is a very hard and sensitive time for a lot of people," Angela said. "You have to come into these situations with a lot of grace, the ability to observe and just kind of figure out where you can fill in the gaps,"

It was their own experience with Angela's mother that inspired them to get into this service.

"When my wife's mother became ill and we were told that she was entering into hospice that shifted our focus as a family," Franklin said. "To be able to see my wife and her strength through that and how that assisted her mother"

While interest in death midwifery is growing, Franklin said it is by no means a new concept.

"It's a very renewed concept in our culture that we use to do just as regularly as having the doctor come to your house to visit people when someone would die," Franklin said. "People would come together from the community, build the coffins, dig the holes, do the funeral procession, have the wake."

If there is one thing, Franklin said he wants people to know it is that no one should go through dying alone.

"Reach out to anyone if you're dealing with grief and you're dealing with grieving," Franklin said. "Don't go through it alone. You don't have to and it won't work."

With common misconceptions of death midwifery, Franklin said they do not assist with suicide or the act of death itself. He also said most midwives do not work for any profit.

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