Kōrero is rongoā and so is listening

Communicating with whānau and talking things through is a valuable rongoā that can help the dying person to prepare to transition through the ārai (veil). Talking can help to resolve tensions or issues as they arise. Sometimes talking can happen in a calm way and at other times voices might become raised as people try to express their emotions, sadness, anger or grief for example. We provide examples of ‘talking’ and ‘listening’ to highlight their healing potential.

Matilda explained that when she visits whānau who are at the end stage of their life, many of them have sadness and need to talk. Matilda highlighted the importance of listening to whānau and allowing them to speak:

…. yeah listening to them. I can’t offer them [a] magical response and how to fix things but maybe look at how we can. I haven’t had that opportunity to explore how we can do things but always ah, listening to what they’re having to say. And sometimes they want to say something to you, and it stays with you. Ah, that’s alright.

Listening to whānau helps them to release their sadness:

“… They share their sadness… of their families, of their children, and their adult children and yeah… Well I think, I think they’re letting go...”

Kaumātua E. identified that kōrero was an important healing process for the māuiui person, helping them to prepare their wairua to transition:

And it may be a person that I might of done something wrong to you and yet I’m sitting here talking to you and you’re saying, ‘Remember that time?’ You know. And it’s about that… and when they release to you, you know, I feel it’s helping them more so they can say, ‘We’ll I’ll put that to rest, I can now go on a little bit further to my journey.’


After putting matters to rest Kaumātua E. said that karakia would be used to close that part of the journey before moving onto the next; ‘…normally when we finish, we’ll have karakia… [to] bless that part… And then you walk through another thing.’

Joy (health professional) believes that kōrero (talking) is the way whānau can open up and reflect on what's happening for them. Although professionals working in the mainstream health, and social care sectors, may use assessment models, Joy feels these are not meeting the criteria for Māori and that talking is the best method to help whānau:

...Oh, I don’t use those scales but my colleague who, who does work with patients with counselling, she doesn’t feel those scales work for them. Oh, they’re too, Pākehā orientated stuff, it’s not suitable for Māori.

…And I find for a lot of Māori people it’s just the kōrero. All they want is to kōrero... at first it will be about anything and everything and once you start having the kōrero then the main things come out afterwards. They don’t talk about it at the beginning but it’s afterwards, what they’re really worried about comes out. And it’s just having that kōrero.

Matua Kura explained that the whānau did everything they could to support their mother as she approached end of life and made sure she was as comfortable as possible; listening to her mokopuna playing in the background helped to settle her wairua:

We comforted her, I mean my sister with her health knowledge and particularly rongoā she, she knows a lot about rongoā, knows how to get it, knows what to do with the rongoā so we left that to [name] to do. And she’d explain it to us and then I’d take care of the karakia and waiata. And so, at nights we’d teach the kids a waiata or two and they would recite it. The importance for us was for mum to hear her mokopunas. Whether she was unconscious, or you know she was conscious, and she could see, she could see or hear.

And I remember a couple of days before was on Christmas Day or Boxing Day… I was outside playing with the kids and my mother said to my sister ‘I can’t hear the mokopuna where are they?’ So, I got all the water bottles, water guns and we started having a [water game] right outside the window. We had a water fight. And Mum could hear the screaming, the laughing, and she said ‘oh yeah there they are’ you know. So, things like that.

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