A death doula is non-medical individual who is trained to care for others at the end of life. He or she provides holistic care in terms of the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual realms. Death doulas are also known as end-of-life coaches, death midwives, death coaches, end-of-life guides, funeral guides, among other names. A doula provides support and assistance for the dying individual and the family before, during, and after the death.
Services Offered by a Death Doula
The services of a death doula vary depending on the situation and the wishes of the dying individual and his or her family. Generally speaking, a death doula provides holistic, non-medical, hands-on support throughout the dying process.
Whether the individual is dying at home, in a hospital, in a nursing facility, or elsewhere, the death doula provides support including:
- Providing company
- Answering questions
- Having a conversation
- Holding hands
- Watching television
- Reading a book
- Discussing their wishes
- Helping the dying find peace
Again, no matter the setting, the death doula also supports the family members by:
- Providing a sense of continuity through the entirety of the death process
- Staying with the dying individual while the family is away
- Facilitating communication between the dying individual and family or friends
- Providing support as family members say their last goodbyes
- Helping bathe and dress your loved one’s body
- Assisting in the process of arranging a funeral or memorial service
- Providing the necessary paperwork and helping fill in the required information upon death
- Conducting a viewing of the body
Death doulas can also:
- Help the dying individual and family create an end-of-life plan
- Provide social and psychological support as well as spiritual care
- Make suggestions for providing the best possible physical comfort
- Assist in planning home vigils
- Educate the dying individual and the family in the new field of home wakes and natural burials
Holistic Support Provided by Death Doulas
The mission of a death doula is to care for the whole person, including emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual factors. Their assistance is invaluable in terms of the following three areas of holistic support:
We all have an innate desire to leave behind a legacy of some kind. We want to share our life story, provide wisdom, love, support, and advice with our children, grandchildren, and future generations. Death doulas provide priceless support in helping the dying individual develop a legacy plan that he or she can leave so future generations can remember who he or she was and the essence of his or life.
Dying is a process we only experience once. Consequently, it often raises feelings of fear and anxiety. A death doula has experience with the process and therefore is able to provide comfort and understanding. The doula’s training and experience allows him or her to guide the dying individual and the family through the process, giving reassurance and a sense of peace.
One fear common to many of us is losing our dignity during the dying process. We each have our unique set of beliefs, traditions, and values that we want to maintain, even during the end-of-life process. Death doulas help the dying individual and the family with this, helping ensure that all wishes are kept and not forgotten throughout the process.
There is no licensing system in place for death doulas, and therefore there is no governmental oversight or legislation of the process. As the idea of a death doula becomes more popular, several organizations are now provide training for individuals interested in becoming a death doula.
The role of death doulas is a recent concept within our society. As a birth doula, or midwife, provides support during the birthing process, a death doula provides support during the process of dying.