What is a Death Doula?

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Preparing for death is one of the most profoundly healing acts of a lifetime.  –Stephen Jenkinson

The term Doula comes from ancient Greek and translates loosely to “woman who serves.” Its original description was to support mothers laboring in childbirth. Today, doula is a term used to describe a person who assists with life’s sacred transitions in birth or death.
End-of-life or Death Doulas provide holistic non-medical support, consultation, and education to the dying and their loved ones.  They hold space for you and your loved ones to explore the mystery and sacredness of living, dying, death, and grief. The practical, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions of preparing for death are calling for curiosity, love, and compassionate attention.
Why Do We Need Death Doulas?
We can do death better. Our culture has emphasized how NOT to die, so when that reality enters the room, we lack a meaningful way to address it. The current healthcare system cannot ensure a good death without your involvement.  A death doula assists the dying with the exploration, defining, and advocating for end-of-life wishes to be honored. Doulas facilitate conversations privately and publicly that tackle the fear of death and invite death into the room to normalize conversations about our dying wishes.
My nursing career mirrors the life cycle with birth and death as bookends. In the 1970s, I guided expectant mothers through childbirth, shifting to adults with cancer, and decades later, followed a path to hospice and the dying. Serving as a death doula is where I am meant to be, not because of my background or experience but despite it. I have much to learn and unlearn by being with the dying, and those facing death are the most prepared to teach me.

Death Doulas restore death to a place that is more sacred than feared.  –Carole Heaney

For additional insight on Death Doulas and their work, see the articles below.
Sending love and peace,

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