What is a Death Doula (dou·la | \ ˈdü-lə) ?
Good question. First we should look at what the typical definition of a doula is. Webster defines it as: “a person trained to provide advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth.” Well, a death doula, or end of life specialist (EOLS), provides the same role but for the dying, the family and friends of those dying, and sometimes even for the healthy. To be clear, EOLS are not hospice workers. We provide holistic and logistic support only and are non-medical certified assistants and companions who aide in the journey of death and dying.
My main main role as a death doula is to serve and support the dying as a loving, grounding and supportive non-medical presence. I act as an advocate for my clients, especially at the point where they can no longer communicate. My job as your death doula is to help guide you in your end of life decisions, and to help you live your best life up until the very end. The two biggest moments in our lives are when we enter this world, and when we leave it. I believe that even though death can be scary, sad, sometimes messy, and tragic, I can help you live fully until the end. I truly love life and live it very fully, and I want you to have the best life and best death you possibly can while still on this earth.
My goal as a certified EOLS is to treat you with the respect you deserve as a living, breathing person and help keep you smiling. So many times in the hospital, patients are spoken to like they are only dying and sick and not that they are still living. Hearing is the last sense to go, so I promise you as your doula, I will talk, sing, and laugh with you until your very last breath. I will make sure your doctors and family speak TO you and not AT you. I will make sure that you are treated in the best way possible and that your death plan will be followed through. We will find peace and joy even in the dark. That I can promise. Dying is not easy, I am not pretending it is, but I know that I can help take away the stress and burden during the process and provide an outlook that helps your transition be lighter and a little easier.
Death Doulas can wear a lot of hats. Several roles I can be hired for are:
* Helping get paper work in order.
There are a lot of decisions to be made after being given a terminal diagnosis such as advance care directives, DNR wishes, wills, funeral planning, death plans, burial types, and gathering all personal asset information. In order to help ease the burden on family members to have to make decisions for you, I will make sure your wishes, voice, and desires for your end of life is heard. A death doula’s job is to document these wishes and gather all the information so I can be an advocate for you and help take away some of the stresses that come with dying.
As a death doula I can help organize, plan, create a peaceful environment, invite guests, sit with your family and give them a break as I sit by your bedside. I will set up your hospital room or your house in hospice to be a tranquil setting where people will come to spend time with you as you transition. I can provide your family and friends time alone to recharge as I sit with you so that someone is always with you and you are never alone. .
*Organizing a living funerals or pre-funeral.
This is something I feel very drawn to doing. Traditionally, friends/family come and pay honor to those who have passed, but of course they are physically not there to see the impact they have made on their friends lives. However, this living funeral provides a celebration of life while you are still alive, to have all of your friends and family come and have time to personally honor you, face to face, say their last goodbyes and give you a chance to celebrate your life with them present. Imagine how beautiful that would be. This also allows you to say what you want to your loved ones and see how your life has made a difference on people. This experience will help bring you more at peace of mind during this process.
As an EOLS, I will help you create projects that keep your memory alive. Some examples might include a memory book of photos, a video montage of messages to be played to your family after you go, memory quilts or hand written letters for future celebratory days like weddings and graduations. I have a lot of experience with this and know so many artists, poets, musicians, videographers, photographers, etc. that will help to keep your spirit alive.
*Provide holistic care.
Some death doulas use massage, reiki, energy healing, essential oils, music playing, reading aloud to the client, holding their hand, brushing their hair, helping to bathe and care for them and whatever else is needed to help ease their journey. As a reiki healer and bodyworker myself, I personally know that the effects and benefits of such care, even in this situation, will help to calm you as you prepare for your transition.
*Personal assistance – especially in hospice.
I can help ease you and your family’s stress by running errands, cooking meals, cleaning the house, helping organize and rearranging for hospice to come in. I will set up Dr. visits and sit with you during these visits to be your support. I can also help your family with the emotional task of going through your personal belongings after you are gone.
*Helping the healthy.
Must we only help those that are dying or with a terminal illness? Nope. Doulas can be of service to perfectly healthy individuals in search of peace of mind and comfort. Whether you are experiencing anxiety surrounding your mortality, or simply wish to get prepared well ahead of time in case of sudden death or tragedy, I can offer a great deal of assistance so that your family knows what you want and how to access all your important information. We as a society are scared to talk about death, but the more we understand it and talk about it the less scary it is.
My last thoughts:
People always ask “if you knew you had X amount of days to live, what would you do?” The problem with this way of thinking is so many people are still focusing on the thought of dying and not the living, perhaps only seeing how much time they have left before dying, instead of how much more living they still get to do. The fear of death limits us and holds us back from actually living fully. If we can release that fear, I think we can live a little easier and may experience things we may not have experienced before because of all the “what ifs?” When our time comes, at least we can say “I have LIVED the most full life I could and I will die knowing that.” I would love the chance to help you release some of this fear.
Thank you so much for reading this and for the opportunity to be your death doula. I would be truly honored to help you in any way possible with your transition in any part of your journey toward that.
Love and Light – Namaste
****Rates and fees for this kind of work are tricky and weird because it is death and paying someone to help you die better seems odd I get that. So all my rates and fees at this point are negotiable because I would hate money to be something that holds you back from getting the support you need in this time of your life. We will make something work, so let that go. My time and knowledge is valuable yes, but so is your life and death and I want that to be the first priority here.