Death Doula as a practice is a movement started up in response to the cultural alienation felt from the process of death, death care and grief. Doula’s themselves have strong links with the process of giving birth and starting life therefore completely juxtaposing the thought of having a Doula during death and the end of life. As a Death Doula, it is integral to have knowledge of the stages of grief, how to treat the dying and how to care for the families who are losing a loved one. Empathy is integral and recognising that death is a natural process proves paramount when communicating with those dealing with death.
Death Doula stems from the ‘shrouding women’. Women who would be available to families to support them with practical tasks when a loved one had passed. They would also support families with new borns. However with Death Doula comes the ability to be emotionally available to those you are assisting. The women who supported families after the death of a loved one not only helped them with tasks around the house, but also became their counsel offering a listening ear or even a shoulder to cry on. They have to have a complete understanding of death and know the perfect balance between grieving with those affected yet also raising their spirits.
Mimicking the role of a hospice volunteer, in the UK a Death Doula is someone who offers their skills and support to those terminally ill. Although the primary role of a death doula is to support the dying, there is a recognition that support is ongoing and continual contact with those affected by a loved ones death is encouraged. This isn’t to keep the feelings of grief present, but to ensure the grieving and healing process is taking place. Many Death Doula’s actually feel compelled to offer this aftercare support.
As a generational movement, the mainstream population are becoming a lot more comfortable with talking about funerals and death as a natural occurrence. The need for Death Doula’s is however is still great. It can be hard to predict how emotions and grief can affect different people. There is no set rule for every person as to how to grieve and how to deal with a loved ones death – emotions run high and moods will fluctuate. However, that additional support can make all the difference. Read more about what a Death Doula is here.