Making decisions during illness can be stressful, overwhelming and desensitizing, however it doesn’t have to be.
Many of us struggle to talk about death and dying even though it is the one inevitability of life. Thinking about death – let alone talking about it out loud – can leave us feeling vulnerable and depressed.
When someone you love or care for is facing end of life, it can often be a very challenging, confusing and overwhelming journey. And, for the individual who is facing the end of their life alone, one of the biggest stressors can be having no one to talk to about their feelings, their desires, and what to expect. This can be extremely isolating.
Doulas encourage you to start having conversations and making plans when you are healthy, so that you can avoid extra stress when the time comes, and know that the care you will receive at the end of life is aligned with your wishes.
You may be wondering: What is a Death Doula?
A Death Doula (also known as a Death Midwife, End-of-Life Doula, or Death Worker) is rooted in the word ‘doula’, which is Greek for servant or helper. Doulas have been around for thousands of years — they were often the wise women in a village who supported people in birth and death.
Just as a birth doula supports women during the labor process, a death doula supports a person during the dying process. Support, in this case, is specific to the person’s needs, beliefs, and desires and extends to the people around them at the time of death, to create a shared experience.
The End of Life Doula Association of Canada defines an end-of life doula as someone who: “empower[s], educate[s] and encourage[s] people and their families to be involved in making [end-of-life] decisions.” It is a non-medical role that provides a number of services for individuals who are dying and the ones around them.
The Types of Services Offered by a Death Doula
Death Doulas offer a variety of end-of-life services, including:
- Vigil sitting
- Death planning
- Advocating on behalf of the dying person’s wishes
- Legacy work
- Grief and bereavement counselling
- Supporting and facilitating conversations, funerals, rituals, and ceremonies about death and dying
These services are offered to both the person dying and their loved ones, making it a witnessed grieving and more of a shared experience.
During and after death
“If we can change the experience we have with death and dying, let it be to change not only end-of-life care and the death transition, but also the days past the death.” – Eirene Cremation Service
Death doulas maintain a sense of calm for the dying – as well as those around them – in order to create an opening for meaningful conversations about death and loss. Imagine the peace and comfort this creates for the person and their loved ones as they transition through the experience of death and their final moments. I truly believe it is a privilege to be with someone when they take their last breath – one to be truly cherished.
For more on how a Death Doula can help you re-think your approach to end-of-life planning, please join me on Tuesday, March 23 from 7:00-8:30pm for a Free Virtual Education session.