Death is an emotionally-complex, natural part of life.
Our culture holds so much fear around death that when we find ourselves face-to-face with it, either our own mortality or that of someone we love, we typically do not know what to do.
Often times I get asked why I want to work towards becoming a death doula and immerse myself into a world of grief. When I learned what a death doula’s role is, it touched me so profoundly that I just knew I wanted to be part of this quiet movement of magical individuals changing the way we think about death. While I think that death will always be sad, I believe that beauty and a sense of sacredness can exist alongside the despair that comes with the transitions of life. I also wholeheartedly believe that death doulas bring a kind of human connection that is often missing in end of life care.
How do you hold space for someone else when they are going through one of the most sacred experiences of their lives that is often deeply intense and emotional? I’m learning that it comes down to self-care. I have to make sure that the foundation that my character is built on remains open, intuitive, soft, empathetic and non-egotistical so that I can be there for someone else. I am learning that these experiences are immensely meaningful and life affirming.
You do not have to be actively dying to talk to a Death Doula. Sometimes a simple conversation on fears around death can invite new shifts in how we live our daily lives.
Follow me on my journey in becoming a death doula.
An End-of-Life Doula (also Death Doula, Death Midwife) is a non-medical professional typically trained to provide a holistic, hands-on approach to the fundamentally natural process of dying, to care for a terminally ill person’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs during the death process.
The work of a death doula is primarily about presence, comfort and advocacy for the person dying in their final transition and release from their physical body. One of the most important things that a Death Doula does is to actively engage the dying individual during the entire process. Doulas often ask a lot of who, what, how, and where questions. Who do you want at your bedside as you are dying? What music would you like to hear? What type of bed would you like to be in, hospital or your own? Where would you like the bed? Do you want the window open? Do you want people to take their shoes off before entering? Doulas ask a lot of questions but more importantly they listen to what the dying want and need and do whatever they can to fulfill their requests.
While every doula’s services are tailored to the specific needs of each person and his or her family, these are some things death doulas can provide:
•CONVERSATION AND PLANNING FOR END-OF-LIFE CARE, GOALS, INTENTIONS, CREATE MEANINGFUL RITUALS/CEREMONIES.
•PROVIDING RESPITE FOR CARE-TAKERS AND LOVED ONES.
•SITTING VIGIL DURING ACTIVE DYING.
•ASSISTIVE COMFORT TECHNIQUES SUCH AS LIGHT HAND AND FOOT MASSAGE, GUIDED IMAGERY, GUIDED BREATHING METHODS.
•FOLLOW-UP GRIEF AND BEREAVEMENT SUPPORT.