Understanding the Death Doula
Humans are social animals. We want to be around others, and in everything we do, we seek love, acceptance, and care. Into our last days, we still want that treatment. For many individuals dying is scary, and dying alone can be even scarier. Death doulas are individuals that want to help you through the fear.
What Are Death Doulas?
‘Doula’ derives from the Greek word for ‘female slave’, but has since been redefined as a woman that assists with childbirth as a non-medical birth companion. Death doula extends the definition further, serving as a gender neutral term for an individual that assists an individual leading up to their death; Death doulas in essence are ‘death midwives’.
What Do Death Doulas Do?
Death doulas take on a large responsibility, caring for our loved ones during the last stretch of their lives. A death doula can take on various forms and shapes: as hired professionals, volunteers with a non-profit, or our own close friends or family─ although they’re usually “outsiders” to the patient. They are highlighted by their assistance, helping and guiding our loved ones through not only their medical needs, but also their emotional needs. Death doulas work as a companion and friend to the individual, as well as an advocate. They work with them through making decisions, navigating medical systems, and learning what options are available to them up to their final moments. In addition to being emotional support for your loved one, death doulas are also educators, bringing compassion and empathy to the situation at hand, and many death doulas are trained to talk about death and grieving, offering support to both the patient and their family. They offer continuous care─ following the individual regardless of changes in hospice or care, up until they are not needed anymore or until your loved one has passed.
However, death doulas are not health care professionals or trained social workers. In fact, many death doulas are volunteers, moved to kindness at the opportunity. Many individuals in need of a doula are those without family or friends, disenfranchised, or particularly anxious about death. Death doulas work to give support to these vulnerable individuals during a difficult point in their life.
Finding a Death Doula
There’s no official, overarching agency that certifies death doulas, but there are a number of non-profit agencies that do train them for service. Because of this, be sure to do research on the organization you are requesting the doula from. Different organizations train their death doulas differently, so make sure you do your research to find an accredited individual to assist yourself or a loved one. Additionally, depending on the care you are receiving (with a hospice, or other medical institution), they may be able to request a death doula for you. If not, you can request one for homecare.
Becoming a Death Doula
Anyone can be a death doula, and if you are interested, there are various non-profit agencies throughout the nation that trains and prepares doula volunteers. These programs can be on-site or online. You could learn these skills in preparation to support those around you, rather than as a profession; Understanding and conveying empathy, compassion, and death positivity, are transferable skills, and anyone can practice them. The goal of a death doula is to soothe and reassure the individual, but not to ignore them. Death doulas are there in the face of death, and do the best they can to share death positivity─ seeing death not necessarily as a negative or bad aspect of a person’s life, but as something natural, normal, and most of all, inevitable.
If you or a loved one are preparing your final arrangements, there are many resources for your use─ hospice care, palliative care, or a death doula. At Tulip Cremation, we want to be another resource for you during your most difficult moments. Whether preparing for the future, preparing for something within the next six months, or immediately, we offer a simple, high-quality direct cremation service. Whenever you are ready, you can reach out to our 24/7 Family Care Team at (844) 942-4909, or if you prefer, you can arrange online.
Photo by Ryan Crotty on Unsplash