Over the years, people’s perception of speaking about death has changed. More people are now open to having conversations about death and the process of dying. This has increased people’s interests in the death doula.
A death doula is a companion and mate that accompanies one in their journey at the end of life.
What Is a Doula?
Doulas are trained companions that provide pregnant women with emotional support during pregnancy and at childbirth. The word stems from the Greek word “doule” which means female servant/slave.
Lately, the word, doula has also been used to refer to someone who provides people’s support at the end of their lives. They are called Soul doulas or End of life doula; they serve as support systems to people at the end of their lives. They assist their clients in the emotional and psychological parts of dying.
Although doulas have no medical training, they can work alongside a medical team to provide such services to a patient. The origin of doula referred to it as a female role. However, any person can be a doula.
What Do Death Doulas Do?
According to the International End of Life Doula Association, death doulas “help restore sacredness to dying, provide respite to exhausted caregivers, bring deep meaning to the dying experience, and prepare people for the last breaths of their loved one”.
While the “End of Life Doula UK” describes doulas as “a friend in death” to summarise what being a death doula is all about.
The scope of a death doula’s role may vary from client to client. For some, they may focus on physical tasks like shopping, walking their pets, and watering their plants. While others they may focus on the emotional aspects more. They can also help to ensure that after the patient’s death their wishes are respected, like how they want to be buried, rites to be performed, etc.
One of the biggest roles of a death doula is to provide emotional support to the dying person. This may include listening to them, offering non-judgemental advice and support, having conversations, and preparing for their post-death wishes.
Doulas mostly work at the client’s home and hospitals.
Why People Would Choose a Death Doula
Having someone to confide in and share one’s most pressing thoughts in their last days is not a bad idea. For a lot of people, doulas provide the extra support needed at that sensitive time. When people feel supported, heard, and loved in their last days, it helps them make a better transition into death. It somehow helps them find peace in such a turbulent time. It also helps their families and loved ones prepare properly for their death. It helps them grieve better, knowing that they were happy and supported in their last days. It helps their families avoid regrets in the future.
Do Death Doulas Work Along With Spiritual Roles?
Many death doulas are flexible and do not mind their clients’ spirituality or religious beliefs. They can work alongside faith leaders of their clients to make sure they get the maximum support needed. However, some doulas specialize in a religion or faith only.
How Long Can a Death Doula Support a Person?
Death doulas can support a patient for as long as required by their client, which varies in different cases. Some people need the support as soon as they are diagnosed with a terminal illness, for others, it is until their last days they’ll require help. Some doulas even extend their services till weeks after the client dies, helping and supporting their families.
Death doulas do not help with assisted dying as it is illegal in most places.
Death doulas are funded by receiving payment for their services. However, clients who cannot afford it may get it for free in some cases.
People often wonder why people choose to become death doulas. For some, they are inspired by events that happened to them or people close to them. For others, it’s the need to support people at such a tough and sensitive period in their lives so that they, in turn, have better deaths.