You’ve probably heard of a birth doula, but have you heard of a death doula? A death doula offers care towards the end of life, similar to how a birth doula accompanies women through pregnancy and delivery. Their aims are the same whether they’re called an end-of-life doula, death midwife, transition guide, soul midwife, or death coach: to give emotional and spiritual support at a deeply personal and vital moment.
While the death doula movement is not a new concept, it is growing in popularity as more individuals become aware of the options for end-of-life care. Dying patients and their families find comfort, tranquility, and reassurance under the care of a doula during this final chapter of life.
What is a death doula, exactly?
A death doula assists someone in dealing with their imminent death and any necessary preparations, similar to how a birth doula assists throughout the delivery process. In many circumstances, an end-of-life doula fills in where hospice services leave off, as most medical care providers are limited in what services they can provide and how much time they can spend with each patient owing to insurance limits. By giving time, support, and assistance with non-medical duties, a doula bridges the gap between medical professionals and family caregivers. Their ultimate objective is to help patients and their families create a unique, personal, and serene end-of-life experience.
“We make a great deal when infants are born and brought into this world as a culture, but we overlook the process of shepherding individuals through the process of dying,” said Crissy R, a death doula for multiple loved ones. “Death and dying are feared by the great majority of individuals. It’s a tremendous honor to assist someone in carrying out their final wishes or saying their goodbyes, to hold their hand, to comfort them that it’s OK to go, or to pray with and over them as their awareness leaves their body.”
How a death doula may assist patients and their families
Families often avoid discussing death and dying because they are taboo subjects. When a family member falls ill, family members are emotionally unprepared to conduct difficult talks regarding a person’s end-of-life wishes. An end-of-life doula addresses these circumstances with compassion, assisting families in having open discussions and ensuring that nothing is left unsaid. This brings calm to the dying patient and closure to the mourning family, assisting them in their recovery journey.
“People really simply want to chat, and they have things to say about dying,” said Meagan Hope of Bridge the Gap, LLC, certified end-of-life and CareDoula®. “Because we are not a society that talks about death, there are some very serious worries.” I let them lead the discourse as a death doula. I respond honestly; death is an inevitable part of life, so I don’t dodge it, and I try to make others feel more at ease with it as well.”
While a death doula can assist with a variety of duties, its primary goal is to provide non-medical assistance to patients and their families. Here are some of the services that a doula may give during a patient’s death transition:
- Companionship and a secure environment for patients to discuss what they believe happens after death can help them cope with the next stage of life.
- End-of-life documentation assistance, such as healthcare directives, wills, account listing, and gathering online passwords.
- Because doulas get to know their patients so well, they may provide unique, personalized recommendations that the family may not be aware of, such as scattering ashes.
- Helps the patient finish legacy projects such as writing letters, producing art projects, creating scrapbooks, transcribing memories into a diary, or capturing video messages to leave behind.
- Handles details such as requesting permission to bring a pet into the hospice room to make their dying days more enjoyable.
- Provides emotional support to family members while relieving the pressure on fatigued caretakers.
- It gives everyone participating in the dying process a greater sense of significance.
How do you pick a death doula?
When it comes to hiring a death doula, the most important factor to consider is finding someone who is a good fit for you. To get the most out of the experience, the patient must have total faith in and feel entirely at ease with their death doula. Similarly, family members must feel at ease confiding in the doula and allowing them to be a part of such a private process.
Look for a doula that not only knows the family’s and patient’s requirements but also has a kind demeanor that puts everyone at ease. Get a recommendation from someone you trust, or look for a list of trained death doulas in your area on the National End-of-Life Doula Alliance (NEDA).
Crissy remarked, “The experience of assisting someone through the dying process is tremendously satisfying.” “You come away knowing you faced head-on what the great majority of people spend their whole lives fearing, and you realize this once-in-a-lifetime chance to help someone else when so many people run away because of their own worries and anxieties.”
What does it cost to hire a death doula?
The cost of employing an end-of-life doula is determined by the patient’s unique demands as well as the doula’s fee structure. Because death doulas are often self-employed, some may charge an hourly cost ranging from $25 to $100 or more per hour, while others opt to offer a flat fee. Currently, insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, does not pay the expense of a death doula.
Because the transition to death is such a delicate subject, and because each case is different, some doulas are ready to work on a sliding price or even donate their services for free. When looking for the perfect doula, make sure to ask about cost before making a selection.
What does it take to become a death doula?
Becoming an end-of-life doula may be both a rewarding and educational experience. If you want to give end-of-life support and care, you can enroll in a program that offers training and certificates. You won’t need to take any standardized state board or licensing examinations to get certified because there is no national approved body or centralized entity that governs doula training.
Each private doula school has its own set of training requirements and curriculum, but they all aim to prepare you to be the most compassionate and supportive end-of-life doula possible.
Who qualifies to be a death doula?
Anyone may become a death doula, but you should acquaint yourself with the mental and emotional needs of this profession before committing to the training. Of course, delivering this type of care may be tremendously satisfying, but it can also be taxing for individuals who aren’t entirely prepared for the intensity of being so close to death. Before enrolling in a school, learn more about the profession by interviewing other doulas and researching death studies.
While some prospective end-of-life doulas have medical or spiritual credentials, there are no qualifications to enroll in a training program. You will be given the tools you need to succeed as a death coach as long as you have strong enthusiasm for listening to and caring for people.
A pleasant dying transition
Transitioning to the end of life is as special and distinct as the life lived.
“The journey from this physical plane to whatever the next level is,” Becca explained, “is a sacred area out of time.” “As many people as there are, there are as many varied ways to perceive this holy area. I regard myself as a bridge, one that is always there, waiting for you to cross it on your soul’s journey.”
You may not be able to select when you die, but you can choose what happens thereafter. While a death doula can help you navigate life’s final moments in a tranquil manner, arranging your memorial ahead of time provides its own level of consolation.