What is an End of Life Doula?
An end of life doula is someone that helps peacefully guide both a person that is transitioning through the veil as well as their loved ones by providing emotion and spiritual support, guidance on advanced planning, and helping a dying person outline what they would like their final days, weeks, and months to look like. An end of life doula, which may also be called a death doula, soul or death midwife, or transition coach, is there to answer questions, give information, and provide comfort and support to all of those involved in the process.
As an end of life doula, I can be involved with a dying person and their family at any time, from when a terminal diagnosis is first given until the last breath, as well as offering support for the loved ones left behind. I understand that death can be terrifying, and my main goal is to provide comfort and support, in the hope that the transition is not anxiety provoking, but rather one of peace and calm for all involved.
The Three Phases of doula Work
As an INELDA trained doula, I have been trained in three main phases when it comes to end of life work. I will do a brief description of each here, and please note that each case is different, so while this model may be a general outline, many other things can come into play.
Summing up and planning is the earliest stage. This is when I would meet with the dying person and their loved ones and come up with a plan for the future of our relationship. During this stage, we would also work on any pre-planning of the vigil, services, legacy projects, and explore meanings and deeper questions related to what the patient is going through. We could meet as little or as often as you would like.
The next stage is the vigil. In this stage, I would be there to support the loved ones and the patient during the last few days to week of the dying person's life. Depending on what was planned during the pre-planning, the vigil stage could be anything from a small, intimate gathering to a large celebration. This is personal to the dying person, and it is important to respect their wishes during this time.
The final stage is reprocessing and early grief. This is when I would meet with the loved ones about a month after the death to help them process the feelings and events they have just gone through. This may include questions, continuing a legacy project, or a simple "good bye". It is important to remember there is no "right way" to grieve, and there is no time line.
This is just a very brief summary of what a "typical" doula relationship would look like, however if you have any questions or would like more explanations specific to your situation, please do not hesitate to reach out.