Death Doulas Provide Comfort and Peace During the Final Stages of Life

The word “doula” is usually associated with birth and bringing life into the world, but in death, doulas are just as important, providing comfort and peace to patients during their final stages of life. 

Death may be the most frightening transition of all since it is final. Fear is the most common emotion during those final stages of life for the patient and their family. Having someone that can guide you through this devastating event can be a huge weight lifted, and death doulas have several roles they play during this time, providing comfort, information, guidance, and even spiritual advice.

What is a Doula?

Whether it’s a birth or death, a doula is a trained professional who provides emotional, physical and informational support to a patient. During birth, a doula offers this support to expecting mothers, and they assist in the birth as well as during the early stages of postpartum. Their goal is to help and encourage the mother and the family to ensure they have a safe, healthy, and positive birth experience.

In death, a doula does the same thing, basically, but it’s more somber than celebratory. They assist and comfort dying individuals and their family members during the entire death process. These professionals provide physical, emotional, psychological and sometimes spiritual support to make the process as comforting and peaceful as possible for everyone involved.

Who Can Become a Death Doula?

Death doulas are a diverse group of people from different professional backgrounds. They are made up of hospice workers, grief counselors, social workers, the clergy, healthcare workers, or any individual with compassion and kindness. Being a death doula is a calling. It takes someone with heart and empathy to help guide a patient and their family through the death process with grace and dignity. This position is a non-medical position that doesn’t require training, but training is available.

What Are the Qualifications?

There are no specific qualifications, although medical training is quite helpful. Death doulas do not need prior medical or mental health training, but they must possess a caring heart and the empathy to comfort hurting people who are preparing for their final journey or the family that has to deal with a painful loss. However, there are training programs that offer insights and provide the tools needed to be a compassionate death doula. The cost of the training can differ depending on the length of training and the organization providing it, but it can cost roughly between $750 to $3,000. The training generally takes between two and three days to complete.

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Who Needs a Death Doula?

Anyone. Death doulas can be an amazing source of comfort and information during the final stages of life, and their goal is to provide peace to patients and family members. A doula is not prescribed by a doctor, but they provide compassionate services most doctor’s don’t. Anyone facing a life-threatening illness or who is in hospice care, can benefit tremendously from a death doula.

Are Death Doulas the Same as Hospice Care?

Absolutely not. Hospice care is a medical service, and death doulas are a support service. Hospice care is clinical support with medical training, and death doulas offer emotional and compassionate support without medical training. These two services are polar opposites in regards to care. Hospice is involved with a patient’s palliative care to help ease physical pain and suffering through medication, and death doulas play more of a supportive role by caring for the patient’s mental and emotional well being. 

However, these two services often join forces to ensure the best physical and mental experience for the patient and family during the final stages of life. Death doulas often support the medical staff’s choice of care by offering a different type of care.

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The Bottom Line

Regardless of the specific reason, a death doula can provide the comforting continuity of presence that some families need when facing the death of a loved one, as well as serve as a trusted resource/facilitator.

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