“I am here with you and I love you. You are dying, and that is completely natural; it happens to everyone. I wish you could stay here with me, but I don’t want you to suffer any more. The time we have had together has been enough, and I shall always cherish it. Please now don’t hold onto life any longer. Let go. I give you my full and heartfelt permission to die. You are not alone, now or ever. You have all my love.”
~Sogyal Rinpoche – The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying ~
What is a Death Doula?
A Death Doula is a non-medical person trained to care for someone holistically (physically, emotionally and spiritually) at the end of life. Death Doulas are also known around the world as: end-of-life coaches, soul midwives, transition guides, death coaches, doula to the dying, end-of-life doulas, death midwives, and end-of-life guides.
Death Doulas are trained assistants who support people in the end of life process, much like a midwife or doula with the birthing process. It is “a new non-medical profession” that recognizes death as a natural, accepted, and honored part of life. One might say that death midwifery is to hospice palliative care as what birth midwifery is to obstetrics.
Death Doulas can:
- Help create positive, empowering end-of-life plans
- Provide spiritual care, psychological and social support
- Suggest ideas for optimal physical support
- Help plan home vigils
- Educate patients and families on new and progressive options of home wakes and natural burials
What type of holistic support do Death Doulas provide?
- Legacy: We are all born, and we all die, but 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, giving future generations a glimpse of our essence – who you were, how you saw the world, and what made you feel alive. 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— simply because we have not walked this path before. Having an experienced, trained person present at 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 unique values, traditions, and belief systems that will influence our vision and expectations of what that would look like. Creating an environment that represents that vision is important, and a Death Doula brings this to you and your family.
Who becomes a Death Doula?
People from all walks of life can choose to become a death doula, including grief counselors, hospice personnel, social workers, and healthcare professionals, members of the clergy, or individuals who personally witnessed a transformative death experience. The reasons vary, but, generally, anyone who feels the calling to help both the dying and their surviving loved ones during the transition from life to death might decide to become a death doula.
Why should I use a Death Doula?
While the reasons vary, people can find turning over control and care of their deceased loved one to strangers following a death an unpleasant or off-putting thought. This may occur when a family member has served as a home caregiver during a prolonged illness or disease and, therefore, anticipated death to happen at some point. Others might want to conduct a home funeral for personal, cultural, environmental or spiritual reasons. Regardless of the reason, a death doula can provide the comforting continuity of presence that some families need when facing the death of a loved one, as well as serve as a trusted resource and facilitator.
Do I need a licence to be a practicing Death Doula?
Death doulas may receive training from an Non Profit Organization or an individual, but there is no standardized educational or training program that death doulas must pass. Nor are they subject to government oversight, regulation or licensure. There has never been a more critical time to support both patients and families with specialized, non-medical alternative healthcare. Death Doulas are an intricate and integral part of reshaping end-of-life care for the future.