what is an end-of-life doula?
End-of-life doulas are helpers. The word “doula” comes from the Greek, meaning, “female helper” or “woman who serves.” The word was first used in 1973, to refer to someone who helps and supports women through childbirth and after. End-of-life (EOL) doulas help dying people and their families transition from this earthy plane to their death. EOL doulas are not medical professionals, and they do not replace medical care. End-of-life doulas fill the gap between those who are dying, their families and their medical team. They work in tandem with hospice, palliative care doctors and nurses, and among other medical professionals to make death a smoother and more sacred transition.
Doulas bring different “gifts” to their profession. They can be a dying person’s biggest advocate, ensuring their wishes and choices are indeed honored. Doulas offer companionship for the dying. This benevolent act is treasured by the dying as they have a trusted confidant with whom to share their grief, sadness and listen to their life stories. This process of life review is so critical, and that is why an EOL doula is trained to engage in this process with someone nearing death.
A steady presence from someone who is not related to the dying person can provide a “safe haven” to discuss fears that might be difficult to convey in the presence of family. Each family has its own special dynamics. Often, illness and death tend to amplify whatever those patterns may be. My friend and co-founder of the Colorado End-of-Life Collaborative, Cindy Kaufman, recently published a book titled: The Mortal’s Guide to Dying Well. She eloquently states that “life review is the process by which one finds meaning in the life they have lived.” Doulas also assist with legacy projects, vigil plans, guided imagery and reprocessing.
Please visit the Colorado End-of-Life Collaborative website to learn more about end-of-life doulas and the work we do.