My Experiences of Death

We spoke to Danielle Mahoney, Soul Care Therapist and End of Life Doula about her experiences of death and how this led to her work supporting those who wish to get their affairs into order before they die and supporting families who want to be fully present for their loved one at the end of their life. Read more about Danielle’s business, Marama Healing in our directory…

Danielle's Story

I first experienced death when my brother died, I was 14 months old. I have no conscious memory of this but grew up with a knowing that he continued to be part of my life, that he still existed. When I was in primary school my friend died of cancer, a huge shock as she never seemed unwell to me and I had no perception that she might die, no one ever mentioned it! My teenage years seemed full of accidental deaths, mostly by car crash. Later years death by suicide became a horrible regular occurrence as well as illnesses that shortened lives of loved ones.

With so many experiences I had to look very deeply to find understanding and acceptance of the finiteness of life, of my own mortality. I had an idea for a long time that I wanted to work with people at the end of life but it was many years before the time was right.

This time came with the death of my dad, who drew his final breath just two hours after Auckland went into its last lockdown in August 2021. After five turbulent days that started with word that he had suffered a brain bleed and was in the ED at Middlemore, to slowly losing hope of his recovery and finally acceptance that this was to be the end of his life. Dad was never left alone with at times up to 20 of us in the hospital room, crying, singing his favourite Beatles songs, sharing stories while supporting dad and each other. We diffused gentle essential oils, gave Reiki, welcomed those who
came to pray and those who came to say goodbye.

Those of us that understood the process held space for those who weren’t quite so sure. I watched a 12 year old show her older cousins how to find courage to sit and hold his hand, to feel sad and supported at the same time, while younger children sat playing with toys and books. Due to the lockdown we could have no funeral, so the previous days of vigil became more important than we could have imagined. I found peace in knowing we had given our dad a supported loving vigil and was comforted by the respect and care we had given one another. Feedback from the ward staff was of respect and gratitude, we were told this was an unusual experience for them to witness.

I had long known I wanted to do this work formally but decided the day my dad died that it was time, that the way he died was a gift of sorts. I now offer support to those who are facing end of life and to their families. My role is to hold space and help them have a sacred, loving experience, to be able to let go knowing they have done and said all they wish to.

My services range from supporting those who wish to get their affairs into order before they die, to supporting families who want to be fully present for their loved one but are unsure who to go about this and to supporting the bereaved. My work has a sacred deathcare focus and I implement Healing Touch, Reiki, flower essences and aromatherapy.

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