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Interview with Ms Merilynne Rush

An interview with Ms Merilynee Rush, a trainer, consultant, and educator on issues relating to the end of life, including end-of-life doula.
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Marian Krawczyk: Hello, and welcome to a University of Glasgow End of Life Studies podcast. Today we’re joined by Marilynne Rush, who is the owner of The Dying Year in Ann Arbor Michigan in the United States.
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Marian Krawczyk: Mary Lynn is a educator, mentor, and consultant in issues for end of life doulas home funerals, green burials, advanced care planning, and death cafes. Marilynne i’m so glad you’ve been able to join us and I just like to start out by asking what’s drawn you to this field.
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M.R.: Well, thank you so much for having me Marian and it’s a pleasure to be with you, I started out my professional career as a home birth midwife and.
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M.R.: was working with families who are embracing the natural birth and responsibility for caring for themselves in their home and doing things.
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M.R.: Integrating birth into their everyday life by birthing at home and in the course of doing that I had some clients who lost a child and.
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M.R.: was also dealing with death and it’s actually been quite common for midwives when they go on to like a retirement career to go into end of life work, so I was drawn to doing that I realized that.
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M.R.: There were lots of questions I had about my own personal death and how I wanted that to go and that there were.
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M.R.: A lot of things that we did in our culture that weren’t very natural, so it was a natural fit for me to look into that and, as I looked into it i’m an educator I started training, as I learned more I started caring for families at the other end of the life spectrum.
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Marian Krawczyk: I’m curious you’ve made this connection between the beginning of life and the end of life, and so, can you tell us a little bit about the similarities or the relationship between pregnancy and birth and dying and death.
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M.R.: In my culture both things have been sort of more taken over and take place in an institutional setting, which is a recent development within the last few generations and.
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M.R.: I think many people are wanting to approach both of those more naturally and there are, in fact, a lot of.
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M.R.: similarities it’s a major life transition right and and integrating that into learning about it and preparing yourself, for it and embracing it as a.
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M.R.: stage of life is a desire of a lot of people, so they need more information and education about how to do that because we’ve kind of lost the art of caring for dead and caring for our dying.
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Marian Krawczyk: And can I ask, when you say your culture, how you are identifying.
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M.R.: I’m identifying as a white middle class American in a in a urban setting.
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Marian Krawczyk: And building on that be one of the questions that a lot of people have when they first hear about end of life doulas or death doulas.
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Marian Krawczyk: Is that this seems to be something that is is quite new and i’m wondering, for you, who have had a history and experience in this field, why do you think there is this increased interest in end of life doulas.
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M.R.: end up life doulas aren’t afraid of talking about death and when people are facing a new diagnosis or caring for somebody and they’ve never done that, before there’s.
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M.R.: a dearth of information and support and people to talk to, I mean sure you can go to your medical care providers who are talking about treatments, but that’s really focused on the physical body and.
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M.R.: curative treatment, not so much living with illness and.
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M.R.: All of the discomfort that can go along with that all of the adjustments that need to be made in your social life in your work life, and your family life and your.
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M.R.: And you know the spiritual questions you’re facing the emotional needs that you have and end of life doulas are are sort of putting it helping people get information about and put it all together.
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M.R.: Because they have experienced talking about those things, this may sound very familiar, it sounds like palliative care and hospice care and.
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M.R.: It is a similar model, except that it’s all non-medical so end of life doulas are looking at the whole person and their their unit of care of family and caregivers and they’re looking at the whole.
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M.R.: All the different aspects of the person the emotional cultural physical, social, financial even and and helping people with holistic care, but the non-medical parts of that.
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Marian Krawczyk: And I was curious as well about the the similarities and differences between palliative care and this more community-led.
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Marian Krawczyk: form, and so I appreciate you making that distinction and I appreciate you taking the time to give us a very brief overview and I know people will want to learn more so thank you for your time.
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M.R.: Thank you so much.

In this short podcast, Ms Merilynne Rush discusses her background as a midwife and how it led her to her current work training and mentoring end-of-life doulas. We also discuss the connection between birth/pregnancy and death/dying, why there is increasing interest in end-of-life doulas, and the similarities and differences between end-of-life douals and hospice palliative care.

Ms Merilynne Rush holds an MS in Hospice and Palliative Studies and owns The Dying Year (Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA), offering End-of-life Doula training, mentoring and certification. She was the first President of the National End-of-life Doula Alliance (NEDA) and is vice-chair of the End-of-life Doula Advisory Council (NHPCO).

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