What is a Death Doula and Why Would You Work with One?

hand holding death-doula

Death Doula. What a strange and foreign sounding concept a death doula is to many people. Some people know of a birth doula, someone who helps guide and support the mom and family members before, during, and even after the birth of their child. But did you know such a role exists also at the end of life? A death doula, also known as an end of life doula, is someone who is there to be present, support, comfort, and assist you, your family members, or your loved ones during an individual’s final days. But that’s not all they do. Let’s have a deeper look.

What is their role?

You might already know that the word doula means “servant” in Greek. This concept is not too far of what death doulas actually do, because they are there to serve you and your family in time of need. They provide comfort, company, and assistance with the little things that aren’t done by your medical team or your funeral provider. For example, they can stay holding vigil and being present when you’re nearing death, or they can help notify family members as someone approaches the end of their bodily time on earth. They’ll run and get your blanket or make you a cup of tea. They’ll chat and give you a shoulder to cry on or help you document your story for a legacy to hand down.

Aside from the practical work in the time surrounding death, however, a death doula can be of valuable assistance well before you or loved ones ever get to that stage. Doulas are trained to help you with Advance Care Planning. They can help you understand and write your living will and document all the decisions you want to make about how you want the end of your life to look, well before it happens. For example, they can assist you in specifying that, if possible, you’d like to die in a hospice with your favourite pet coming for one last visit. Essentially, they work to help you enjoy and find peace in your life to the very end of life.

What is not the role of a Death Doula?

Death Doulas do not do any medical work, nursing care, or any actions of any other licensed professional. This includes taking care of the body after death, which is solely done by the Funeral Director.

How Does Someone Become a Death Doula?

We are fortunate living here in the Lower Mainland because we have Canada’s innovating institution – Douglas College – training end of life doulas in our own neighbourhood. The program is one of only a few in North America and one of only two that the End of Life Doula Association of Canada accepts as meeting the education and training standards necessary to become a Member.

How Do I Find One?

Since we live in the Lower Mainland, we are lucky to have a higher percentage of local end of life doulas than in other areas across the country, so there’s a good chance that you could easily find one by Googling the term in your area. But, if you want to find a doula who is a Full Member of the End of Life Doula Association of Canada and meets those standards for education and training, you can review their Member Directory of doulas across Canada. I also personally know and work with a few locally, and can give you a personal recommendation if you like.

Contact me if you have any questions about death doulas and how they work with me to help you and your family honour life.

What is a Death Doula and Why Would You Work with One?

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