The Facts: We all die. Mainstream medicine doesn’t offer much in the way of end-of-life care. Death Doulas help family and friends with what they can do to help their loved ones come to terms with their impending death and how to handle it themselves.
Reflect On: We live in a culture where more often than not simply talking about death is taboo. Death Doulas can help remove these barriers and open up lines of communication with the dying and their families so they can pass on with much less fear and pain.
By Alanna Ketler
When we typically hear the term doula, we either think ‘what the heck is that?’, or we may already know that a doula is a trained professional who assists in a more natural process of childbirth, usually in the home.
So essentially, a ‘death doula’ is virtually the opposite: someone who assists a person who has a terminal illness, as well as helping that person’s friends, family members and even animals come to terms with the fast approaching morality that we will all face one day.
In the world of mainstream medicine, doctors themselves don’t offer much to people who are on their deathbed, especially on an emotional level. Family members and friends are often left in the dark as to how they are supposed to cope with the knowledge that their loved one will pass. They are rarely given methods through which they can talk candidly about their loved one’s inevitable death, and therefore this topic is often not discussed, which can make it much more difficult to process for the person who is dying and for everyone who is close to them.
An end-of-life doula is sometimes referred to as a thanadoula from the greek thanameaning death and doula meaning servant. Generally speaking, it is said that the role of the death doula is to walk alongside the dying person and their family. This encompasses a very wide range of services that include: providing spiritual, psychological and social support, assisting with the creation of positive and empowering end-of-life plans, ideas to optimize physical comfort, and educating families on the new and progressive options for home wakes and natural burials. Often, these doulas go above and beyond expectations as they bring light to a phase of life that can be very dark for many.
What Does A Death Doula Actually Do?
A great definition is given on DoulaGivers.com,
Legacy: We are all born and we all die; it’s what we do in the middle that creates our legacy. What we leave behind is far more than simply wealth and possessions. We can share our story or give wisdom, advice, love, and support even after we have passed. And in doing so, give the future a glimpse of your essence – who you were, how you saw the world, and what gave your life. Death Doulas can help patients with the powerful, uplifting process of developing a legacy plan.
Presence: The last phase of our life can stir fear and anxiety as we each face our end-of-life. This is simply because we have not walked this path before. Having someone present with the experience and training in such a time can bring a sense of comfort and familiarity to the otherwise unfamiliar. Death Doulas provide holistic support as they accompany individuals and their families before, during, and after death.
Dignity: Everyone wants to have a positive passing where they maintain dignity and honor as they exit life. We all have our own values, traditions, and belief systems that will influence our vision and expectation of what that would look like. Creating an environment that represents that vision is important. This along with developing a legacy and presence work, is what an End-of-Life Doula brings to you and your family.
Here’s An Example
In a story from GlobalNews Canada, Michael Crane explains his experience upon meeting death doula Barb Philips. After asking her what she did for a living, he said, “I was very intrigued and very interested when she started talking about being a death coach and actually walking alongside the family who is experiencing a death or a pending loss.”
A few months later, he was feeling overwhelmed about his mother’s impending death and decided to reach out to Philips for assistance. “I’ll never forget the first discussion with her. I basically was crying the entire time,” he said. “It was the first time I had talked about my mother’s death with someone outside our family in that level of depth and detail.”
Philips helped the family engage in a more candid conversation about death that Crane believes would not otherwise have happened. She talked to his mother openly about exactly what was happening and how she was feeling, mentally, physically and spiritually. After his mother passed away, the doula helped the family to plan the funeral and fulfill all of their mother’s wishes.
Do We Live In A Death-Denying Culture?
Philips believes that, for the most part, talking about dying and to people who are dying about their experience is still taboo. Because of this, families are often left in a state of shock and haven’t allowed themselves the time or space to properly grieve.
“People’s grief is more engaged at the very beginning,” she said of her practice. “It’s seen as something viable and valuable rather than trying to shut it off.”
Make Way For The Emergence Of Death Doulas
The understanding and need for this type of end of life care is growing at a rapid rate. Many people feel called to enter into a role like this after feeling like they weren’t given the tools they needed to properly lay their loved one to rest. Others had the experience of a death doula and saw just how beneficial this practice is.
With a growing number of elderly and ill people, this knowledge is starting to proliferate at a very important time. With many certifications becoming available, it is now easier to train and gain the tools that are necessary for this type of care.
Death is simply a part of life, and the more we begin to understand and ultimately embrace this process, the easier it becomes for everyone involved. How lovely that this practice is gaining such popularity; it just goes to show how much things are really changing in comparison to the old and often outdated practices of mainstream medicine. Hallelujah!
This article (These ‘End-Of-Life Doulas’ Are Guiding People Peacefully To Their Death) was originally published on Collective Evolution and syndicated by The Event Chronicle.