Most of us have heard of birth doulas, fewer of us are familiar with death doulas. We know that birth doulas are noted for a calm, steady presence as a tiny human enters this world. Their skill in birthing is common knowledge, and now birth doulas even receive reimbursement from Medicaid. But what about the other end of the spectrum?
When someone receives a terminal diagnosis for themselves or a loved one, it generates a host of powerful emotions. Often people are stunned and unsure of what to do and when to do it. They are fearful they may not support their loved ones well during the dying process and they are afraid of the process itself. The individual who has received the diagnosis has entered the experience of the last days of their life and that is a daunting task.
Fortunately, an ancient profession has become new again. End-of-life doula numbers are growing exponentially worldwide. The End-of-Life Doula is a professional calling dedicated to supporting people through the final stages of life to through a meaningful death. Doulas also remain close to families after death to help them process grief and the final moments of their loved ones’ lives. Information about end-of-life doulas and trainings for doula work are accessible and available. Two organizations with excellent trainings and resources will be noted below.
Doulas at the end of life support the environment of care for the individual who is dying and work with them and their loved ones to process the individual’s life legacy. Doulas aid in creating a format for expressing their legacy they are comfortable with. It can then be shared with whomever they choose. Doulas also work with the people to set up how they want their final stages of life to be supported. The atmosphere, sounds, sights, smells and those that will be with them in the final vigil. These details can be as creative and supportive as the person desires.
Doulas aid dying individuals in processing their regrets, their joys, helping them reach out to people they need to share things with, finding needed care for pets after their passing and making funeral and post funeral arrangements. While doulas are not therapists, they are active listeners and as such develop strong connections with those they serve. Doulas will help people recognize their gifts to the world and the wounds they want to heal prior to their deaths. In essence, in all things that touch the dying person, the doula is there to support and aid them at the end of their life. They are a deep kindness during an uncomfortable time.
I had the pleasure of serving on the Board of Trustees with the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA) for four years, during which time this dedicated group of individuals worked to ensure that they diligently served all people, creating many teams
and programs for underserved populations. All of the individuals who work and teach with INELDA have done intensive DEIJ (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, more information on this in an upcoming blog) training. They are a wonderful group and can be visited at www.INELDA.org. INELDA has an excellent Doula Certification program. The National End of Life Doula Alliance (NEDA) is a group that supports the work and training of doulas and has a proficiency badge which is an excellent barometer of doula experience and abilities.
All of the doulas I have worked with and being a Doula myself, I can honestly say we all have a common desire to make the end of life better for individuals, to make their death a peaceful one, and to help support their passing the way they wanted to go. Look into Doula work, someday it may help you or a loved one. After all, we all will walk that path someday, and it may help you or yours not to walk it alone.
We will be doing an informational educational session on End-of-Life Doulas in the fall this year. Stay tuned to our Facebook page, A Sandy Place, and to the events page of www.asandyplace.com.
Until then, here’s to your well-being,
Sandra L. Place firstname.lastname@example.org www.asandyplace.com