What is a Death Doula?
The terms Death Doula, Soul Midwife, Sacred Passage Doula, and End-Of-Life Doula all refer to the same profession, although each Doula is unique, brings different specific sets of skills, and has their own way of working with clients.
The word Doula is of Ancient Greek origin and translates to "a woman who helps or serves". In current times, "Doula" generally refers to a non-medical professional, most often still a woman, although there are a growing number of male doulas.
Doulas tend to focus in one of two areas; they either guide mothers through labor, delivery and post-partum phases or they guide people and their families through the death and dying process.
Originally, the term referred to female servants or slaves. I think this is an important point; one that requires our acknowledgement. Tending to birthing mothers, nursing infants and ill and dying people is often emotionally challenging, physically laborious, "dirty" work. At one time this type of heart-centered work was only seen fit for "the help" to perform. Over the past several years, more people (myself included) have felt called to serve at the bedside of the dying.
Death doulas offer non-medical support to those planning for, nearing, and at death, as well as their loved ones. Our services fill in the gaps where our modern medical system tends to fall short. Doulas tend to the whole person, not just their medical diagnosis.
Death doulas help support caregivers, family and friends through the process of saying goodbye. We tend to the emotional and spiritual aspects of the person and their family. We are trained in holding space for challenging, intense emotions and offer a safe container in which all emotions are worthy of expression, so they may be seen and validated.
Death Doulas are non-medical professionals whose complementary skill set works alongside hospice and palliative care teams.
I have worked in the medical field for my entire career. While I am not currently a licensed RN, and I will not provide medical advice, the knowledge I acquired while working in the field as an EMT, in doctor's offices, in medical/surgical/telemetry departments, several years as an emergency/trauma nurse AND being a critically ill, long-time ICU patient myself, gives me a very unique insider's perspective to our standard Western medicine model. Because of this, I can help you and your family navigate our medical system. Because I was able to find my own physical healing through a combination of Western, Eastern and Complementary (Alternative) Medicines, I can offer you some education regarding the modalities that I've found the most useful in relieving my own chronic pain and anxieties.
My Death Doula Training
I received certification as a Sacred Passage: End-Of-Life Doula from the Conscious Dying Institute and I uphold and agree with their mission:
"To create a wisdom based, caring, healing culture of End-Of-Life Doulas of all faiths, beliefs and ethnicities who restore death to its sacred place in the beauty, mystery and celebration of life and contribute to the evolution of human consciousness."
The Ten Conscious Dying Principles
Conscious Dying Institute, Boulder CO
1. Increase beauty, pleasure, contentment.
2. Provide emotional and spiritual support.
3. Initiate conversations about the dying process.
4. Practice self-care to prevent burnout and emotional fatigue.
5. Demystify the stages of the dying process.
6. Acknowledge mysteries, miracles and unexplained events.
7. Learn how to be with intense emotions.
8. Honor other's beliefs, while staying true to your own.
9. Be a steward of conscious death.
10. Attend at the bedside - no one dies alone.