COVID-19 has reminded people that you can never know when death will be at your doorstep, according to an Oak Bay death doula who specializes in end-of-life planning.
Chelsea Peddle has been helping people prepare for death since 2017, but this year she’s seen some significant changes.
“I’ve never been so busy,” Peddle said. “There’s definitely an uptick in people who want to prepare for their future.”
About half of her clients are people with terminal illnesses and their caregivers, and the other half are people planning ahead and getting their affairs in order in case of death.
Peddle said working with her terminally ill clients through the pandemic has been heartbreaking.
“We all have this idea that we have this bucket list that we’ll get to and we all have this vision of what we imagine our end of life to be like,” she said. “So much of that is impossible right now.”
Clients are spending their final days stuck at home, often unable to say goodbye to their loved ones. And, Peddle said, with strict restrictions on gathering, most clients only have one person taking care of them. Those caregivers are overwhelmed.
“They’re pretty much having to do it all by themselves. They can’t call on their usual network to come in and offer respite.”
For her clients who aren’t terminally ill, Peddle thinks the pandemic brought the possibility of death to the forefront of their minds.
“They’re heeding this message that COVID-19 is sending them that they need to get their affairs in order,” she said. Peddle said planning ahead allows people to figure out their values, what they want in their final days, and how to repair any relationships they may not want to leave broken.
“It’s a really beautiful opportunity to do a bit of self-reflection while you’re preparing for the end,” she said. But, she added, a person doesn’t have to be close to death to lay out an end-of-life plan.
“Don’t wait for a crisis to hit to start having those conversations. The time to have those is not in the ER,” Peddle said. She recently released a planning guide called My Personal Comfort Plan to help people at all stages of life. In the case that a person falls ill, the plan can guide loved ones in how to care for them in the best way possible.
“Preparing for your future is a huge gift to your future self,” Peddle said. And with the future so uncertain right now, Peddle said there has never been a better time to do so.