“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure”. J. K. Rowling
Birth and death are the only two inevitabilities in life – often faced with the same challenges and problems. Yet, why do we avoid the conversation about death and dying?
The presence of the role of a modern death midwife has evolved over the years sparking the interest of training organizations and even death cafes. More terms such as “End of Life Guide, “Home Funeral Guide” and “Celebrant” have also been used. There has been increasing controversy over the regulation process for this position, and bills proposed to regulate the process and provide licenses for death doulas. Here at Caring Touch Home Health Care, we believe this profession can fill the gap between hospital and palliative care teams and can be part of a patients’ choice for a medically assisted death.
Death doula is a person who assists in the dying process, much like a midwife or doula does in helping mothers during pregnancy and childbirth. Unlike midwives, doulas do not serve in a medical capacity; their primary role is to provide emotional, physical and psychological support. A death doula goes into the community aiming to help families cope with death through recognizing it as a natural and important part of life. They work with the dying and their families to educate and explain what’s happening. There is so much fear and anxiety around death so the doula helps to calm things down. Their role can also include helping resource services, planning funerals and memorial services.
Doulas assist in the planning of their deaths: asking them what their wishes are and how they want to spend their last day. Decisions are made like who they want around them, details of the setting, music, and any performance of religious or secular rituals. Doulas often perform legacy work, helping the dying create tangible artifacts such as a photo album, collection of recipes, letters or a video to leave behind for their loved ones.
A few weeks afterwards, the doula meets with the deceased’s loved ones to reprocess and discuss everything that has occurred. They talk about grief and bereavement and the doula reminds them that this part of the death process has no timeline.
From the words of a doula, “When you sit with a dying person and they take their last breath, it is as amazing and awe-inspiring as someone taking their first”. “It is important, and sad, and needs to be cherished.”