Whether you're nearing death yourself or you're coping with the anticipatory loss of someone in your life, your experience of this huge transition is unique to you. And as social changes mean families live further apart from each other, it can be hard to meet the physical, emotional and administrative needs of those planning for and dealing with death.
Enter death doulas. These support people help to create a space where all of these complicated tasks and emotions are acknowledged and taken care of. Think of them as a bit of an end-of-life all-rounder, helping to guide and support the final and often most difficult of life's transitions.
A death doula is someone who is experienced in death care and who can support you and your loved ones through the process of dying with their guidance, knowledge and companionship. They can help bridge the administrative and emotional sides of death and grief by helping with necessary tasks and providing comfort to the dying person and those around them.
What does a death doula do?
When it comes to what a death doula actually does, it varies depending on what the dying person and those around them need. Generally, they add value by taking care of some of the ‘work’ involved with dying, so everyone else can be fully present.
They can help by:
planning ahead if someone is too ill to stay at home
physically caring for someone who is dying
explaining what is happening to those who are going through or observing the process
doing the grocery shopping or dropping food and supplies
opening up conversations about death, dying and grief
just making everyone a cup of tea
Are doulas medically trained?
Unlike doctors, nurses, or counsellors, no formal training is needed to become a doula. There are voluntary training programs available, but doulas are a non-medical role providing end-of-life support.
Their unique services are found in transitional life areas, with some doulas specialising in supporting families during pregnancy and birth. The beginning and end of our life share a lot in common, but death can be much more uncomfortable to deal with.
When death and dying is often viewed clinically, death doulas have helped change the approach to end of life by filling a space in care.
What end-of-life care do death doulas provide?
Doulas have a breadth of experience with death that helps them understand, empathise and communicate with dying people and their families. While we might struggle to find the right words and actions to help someone who is dying or grieving, a death doula can connect with the person they’re helping and find new ways for them to work through their feelings.
A death doula’s experiences and skills help take care of the specific needs of each family by:
helping them understand how they’d like to spend their last days together
staying with them during medical treatments or overnight
offering support by listening and answering any questions
creating an environment that the dying person has asked of them
helping loved ones to connect with the dying person
How much do death doulas cost?
The price of a death doula’s services varies depending on the doula’s personal rates and the specific needs of the family. The best way to find out is to speak with a doula directly and outline your circumstances.
Death doulas aren’t right for everyone and there are costs involved, but they can help to create a more comfortable, peaceful and informed environment for the transition to death.
Changing end-of-life care
One of our dedicated arrangers at Safewill Cremations can help you create a meaningful way to say goodbye to your loved one.