“We’re all just walking each other home.” —Ram Dass
End-of-life doulas provide non-medical emotional, spiritual, and practical support to clients and their loved ones, and fill care gaps before, nearing, and during death.
Let’s go on a little journey together, and we’ll show you what navigating death with an end-of-life doula could look like.
Starting your journey: Imagine you are walking on a path and you’ve just begun. The fog and mist around you are making it difficult to read the signs and you’re unsure of which paths to take. You have barely started your journey and you’re already completely overwhelmed.
Serious health-related changes in your own life or that of a loved one can be extremely difficult to navigate. Contemplating mortality is hard enough without the added complicating factors of illness. But you’ve heard about end-of-life doulas, so you take an important step and do some research. You find a doula in your area and after speaking to them, you realize that having their support can help you navigate end-of-life in a compassionate and informed way. So, you make the decision to take the rest of your journey with an end-of-life doula by your side.
Progress: As you make your way along life’s path with the gentle guidance of a doula, the mist begins to clear around you. You may begin planning and organizing what the rest of this journey could look like, from advanced directives to funeral planning, or even demystifying the dying process. Often, the support of a doula goes beyond just the practical into emotional and spiritual support too. Doulas can help you create a vision map of what matters most to you, and your legacy, ceremony, ritual, and social needs as well.
Suddenly, you notice the sunlight shining through the green leaves around you, or the clear water rushing under a bridge. With the help of your doula, you’ve begun to realize how this deep work of contemplating death has given life new meaning that you never expected on this journey. You’ve begun to take action steps toward the things that matter most to you.
Roadblocks & Detours: Journeys aren’t always simple though. You’ve come across a roadblock which can look like inaccessible care or lack of resources. Perhaps your illness has taken a different turn and now it feels like your surroundings are completely different. It can be even more challenging when loved ones in your network don’t understand your choices, even disagreeing and openly defying a choice that is important to you.
Your end-of-life doula is there to bridge gaps in care support by coordinating with family, friends, and other care providers. When it comes to resources, your doula will help you find what you need so you can make informed decisions. They might also help you facilitate important conversations and help you communicate your needs and desires when tensions are running high.
Journey’s End: So, you are nearing the end of your journey. You’ve already planned with your doula what this should look like, who you want present, what comfort measures you want, and even after-death care. You feel at ease as your doula takes your hand and guides you on the path ahead. You don’t stumble. You realize that you have prepared for this moment all your life.
Your doula can’t go all the way to the summit with you, but your path with a doula made the quality of the journey richer, full of healing moments and more comforting than you thought possible when you took your first steps. Your work is done and you reach the summit in peace.
Note: End-of-life doulas may provide different services than what has been outlined in this article and some carry other credentials and licensing to supplement their work. It is important to learn more about end-of-life doulas to make the best decision depending on your needs and wishes.