The interest in death doulas is on the rise for many reasons. Many people prefer to die at home with the presence of their family and friends, getting a gentler transition into the afterlife, and even participating in comforting rituals, all of which an experienced death doula can provide for both the dying and the living.
Keep in mind that death doulas belong to an unregulated occupation, thus, people who want to engage their services should be careful in their choice. Aside from word-of-mouth referrals, choosing a death doula should also involve asking about education, training and experience in related work (i.e., registered nurse) as well as attitude toward death, approach toward the dying process, and personality.
Be sure to interview prospective death doulas to ascertain the comfort level experienced by both the dying and the living – the more comfortable you are in the presence of a death doula, the better your experience can be.
What Is a Death Doula?
A death doula is a person, either a man or a woman, who has undergone special training in providing assistance for dying persons and their family members. While the backgrounds including the professional qualifications, personal traits, and faith (i.e., religion) among death doulas are diverse, every death doula can provide competent and compassionate guidance for his/her clients in the following aspects:
- For the dying person, a death doula can offer support, comfort and companionship through a wide range of activities designed to ease the transition, such as walking along the beach, talking about life and love, and writing down thoughts.
- For the living, a death doula can guide family members through the death process, such as telling them what to expect, advocating for them with third-party entities (e.g., healthcare professionals and funeral homes), and offering them comfort.
Since each dying individual is unique, the scope of services will vary between individuals. The best death doulas will customize their services according to the needs and wants of the dying and the living, thus, contributing to a less traumatic experience with death.
What Do They Do?
Each death doula will usually have a wide range of services offered to prospective clients depending on his/her background in education, training and work experience. For example, death doulas with hospice care nursing experience may likely have different sets of services in comparison with death doulas who are also social workers, chaplains, and funeral directors.
Most death doulas’ services, nonetheless, can include but are not limited to:
- Counselling sessions for both the dying and living
- Rituals of acceptance, forgiveness, and healing
- At-home funerals including the funeral and legal requirements
- Practical arrangements including choosing caregivers, even living with the patient and his/her family
- Providing assistance in getting papers, such as advance directives, funeral wishes, and last will and testament in order
Interested individuals should ask about the scope of services that prospective death doulas can offer since many may not be the best fit for their needs and wants.
Where They Work
Due to the nature of their services, death doulas work in places where the dying will likely meet their end or where their family members have placed them. The more common places include:
- Private homes
- Nursing homes
How Much They Make
Death doulas have their own price structures for their sets of services. For example, a death doula can work free of charge for consultations and then charge anywhere from $200 for a one-day service to $5,000 for a complete package consisting of private hospice care services, at-home funeral package, and practical after-death legal requirements including wills.
How to Become a Death Doula
Emphasis must be made that there are no current standardized training and certification programs for individuals interested in becoming death doulas. Many death doulas have backgrounds in healthcare, such as nurses and doctors who want to improve on their end-of-life care for their patients; social work, such as social workers and childcare workers whose work involves compassion for both the dying and living; and even funeral directors and their staff members who want to expand their services, among others.
Enrollment in a death doula training program, which can be availed of through a combination of online classes and classroom instruction, should ideally be undertaken.
Each death doula training program will have its own curricula but many include instructions on guiding people about end-of-life options, providing compassionate care and compassionate, and performing rituals, as well as helping clients deal with the realities of death.
What Else Can You Expect
Death doulas should be prepared to provide comfort where families may be inconsolable; guidance when confusion among clients sets in; and compassion when needed the most.
Bear in mind that becoming a death doula can be stressful in the physical and mental aspects because of the nature of the work involved, not to mention the intense emotions present.
What Organizations Are Associated With It?
The most prominent organization for death doulas today is the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA), an international non-profit organization.
Death doulas can also be hospice care and nursing home nurses, social workers, and funeral directors.