excerpt from "When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi
I believe it's important to give space for celebrating the life that is still being lived even while dying is lingering in the room.
A death doula, also known as an end-of-life doula or death midwife, offers a range of services to provide emotional, practical, and spiritual support to individuals and their families as they navigate the end-of-life process.
It is my goal as a Death Doula to help create a peaceful, meaningful and supportive end-of-life experience for all involved in a manner that is alignment with their values and beliefs so that the dying journey is lived with dignity and grace.
This is achieved in a variety of ways:
The services provided by a death doula can vary based on the individual doula's training and expertise. They play a crucial role in helping individuals and their families navigate the challenging and emotionally charged journey of end-of-life care and the dying process with compassion and support.
Legacy work at end of life is a means of providing an opportunity for the dying person to share their stories, wisdoms, and talents in a manner that allows a lasting impression for loved ones to carry on their memory and honor the contributions they have made in their life.
Legacy work can include such things as:
Legacy work is deeply personal and can vary greatly from one individual to another. It's about ensuring that one's values, experiences, and contributions continue to have an impact and endure in some form even after they have passed away. It's a way of leaving a meaningful and lasting mark on the world.
In most cases someone who is dying would likely say they would very much like to die at home in the comfort of their own bed and familiar surroundings. Loved ones will often stretch themselves as far as possible to honor the dying persons wishes and do whatever it takes to give them the kind of lived experience they desire until they die. The choice to do this comes from love. The practicalities of the day to day walk through dying is not so easy, especially as time wears on and there are so many smaller details of things that have to be changed, managed, adapted or set aside in order to fully show up for the dying journey. It can be exhausting physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Inviting the support of a Death Doula to walk beside all of you throughout the day to day practical tasks as well as providing knowledge, comfort and support as you engage in those difficult yet much valued conversations will go a long way towards making the dying experience one that can be remembered as loving and meaningful rather than a blur of stress and exhaustion.
Not everyone is comfortable with the moment of death. A Death Doula's presence in keeping vigil can help to ensure that the right balance of comfort and support is available for all involved so that the death itself is experienced as a dignified one. Keeping vigil is about being present for the dying person and their loved ones so that there is always a calming and reassuring presence, helping to maintain a comfortable and peaceful atmosphere, and assisting the dying person in a manner that ensures they are made as comfortable as possible. Some loved ones feel very ill-at-ease with the idea of being with someone at the moment of death but do not wish their loved one to be alone. In this case, it can be a huge comfort to know someone is there to provide a caring presence and will continue to be there to offer support as loved ones say their goodbyes.
However you choose to honor your loved one, whether it is by holding a Celebration of Life service or a more traditional funeral or memorial service, I can assist you in creating a service that will help you honor your loved ones life. You choose the location and style of service and I will help guide you through the details.
This type of support helps individuals to process their emotions and feelings related to the loss, cope with their grief, and move forward in a healthy and meaningful way. While most people do receive support and understanding from others around them, grieving can feel lonely because there are thoughts and feelings that you may not feel comfortable admitting to and you may have difficulty understanding what is happening to you. Intense emotions can be very difficult to navigate especially when you are afraid of upsetting others around you.
When you are grieving, there is a need for safe space and practical guidance to help you see your way through to being able to live your normal life. It is not uncommon that long-term effects of grief can continue to impact an individual for months or even years after the loss. Receiving support during this time can help individuals develop healthy coping mechanisms and reduce the risk of having their life seemingly fall apart.