Death and dying: Ways to communicate in times of grief

A past ‘Death Café’ event held at Ground Earth.

AT TIMES when a community is grieving it can be difficult to know what to say and to whom to say it.

In light of recent tragic deaths within the Coffs Coast community, News Of The Area spoke with local ‘death doula’ Rani Foreman about navigating grief and loss.

Farrar Gesini & Dunn - Coffs HarbourAdvertise with News of The Area today.
It’s worth it for your business.
Message us.
Phone us – (02) 4981 8882.
Email us –

“We all have our own stories and experiences that impact our reactions to death and grief,” observes Rani.

“We have ways that we tend to communicate, and I’d assert a lot of the time we’re actually miscommunicating.”

From observation, self-reflection, practice and lots of ‘getting it wrong’, Rani has learnt important lessons about listening.

“When we can truly listen to another – without interrupting, without interjecting, without adding our own story – we give the other a true gift.

“It’s one of the most courageous things we can do, when you feel the discomfort of being with someone who is hurting.

“You don’t know what to say, and you fear making it worse or making them cry, or you’re worried that you’ll cry.

“To say something, and to be with whatever arises for both of you, that is an opportunity for true healing.”

As someone who is passionate about having real and honest conversations about death, Rani discovered the ‘role’ of an End of Life Doula.

This is not a new role, but in fact has very much been an integral part of communities throughout history at both ends of life – birth and death.

Doulas support individuals and their families at these important transitions.

A non-medical role, an End of Life Doula performs a large variety of services depending on what a person needs.

This can include creating death plans, providing organisational and logistical assistance, or offering support before and after death.

“From my experience hosting ‘death cafes’, when people have the opportunity to share their story and speak openly about death, loss and grief we are actually in the presence of truth,” said Rani.

“No longer hiding how we feel, it tends to bring a lightness to the group.”

Almost always there’s tears, laughter, anger, worry.

“The whole gamut of emotion is welcomed, and this is not welcomed in many other places.

“It is humble, vulnerable, honest and real.

“Courage is required to ask a question and ‘Be With’ the reply; true listening is the skill we all need to practise,” she said.

Rani will host a film screening and ‘Death Discussions Over Dinner’ event at the Woolgoolga Community Hall in June and the Dying To Know Day Expo in Woolgoolga in August.


Death doula Rani Foreman (far left) at Wilderness Yoga, Korora in a community discussion around death and dying.

Leave a Reply