What is a death doula and why would I want one?

How much time have you spent thinking about, and planning, your death? Not much? You’re not alone. Culturally, we have a collective tendency to shy away from this topic. Of course, everyone dies, but there is a hesitancy to discuss it. Is there a way to make death and dying less scary and more manageable? Yes, there is... and it takes the form of an end-of-life, or death, doula.

A death doula is someone who makes themselves available to assist a dying individual and, typically, the family before, during, and after a death occurs in order to provide physical, emotional, psychological, and even spiritual support. Doulas can complement systems already in place, allowing caregivers respite and those living remotely the assurance that their loved one is well-supported. Death doulas will meet you where you are, and assist with developing a cohesive plan which honors all who are involved.

The doula serves as a calming and reassuring presence with knowledge of the death process, and a compassionate resource for families who may be overwhelmed and grieving over the impending death of their loved one. They offer a variety of services to assist in the transition of dying, but are first and foremost a grounding, reliable, knowledgeable and comforting presence during an emotional time. They are trained and practiced in helping to assist with intense and difficult emotions. Clients benefit from the full-time presence and companionship at vigil and at death, advocacy in hospitals or at home, and coaching to customize end-of-life care plans for spiritual, physical, practical, and life review needs.

A death doula is given the unique honor of entering a person’s life at a most significant and potent time, and this invitation is met with the utmost care and compassion. Companioning is a common and meaningful doula practice near the end-of-life. It is simply being with the dying and holding space for them and their loved ones. Companioning can range from a quiet, meditative calm, to music, singing, and laughter. It is important because everyone is alive until their moment of death. Companioning provides connection and a way to let in light, as that can become more challenging as a person nears death. 

The Virtual Death Doula Network's mission is to create an online collective of professional doulas that are willing to help companion and serve those in need. They offer respite care, vigil, companioning, advanced directive planning, and other doula services remotely.

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