What Is a Death Doula?

Imagine planning a trip. It is the most important trip you will ever take. It is also the last trip you will ever take. Are you content with just buying a plane ticket and leaving the rest to chance? Don’t you want to know what your options are? Who will be there? Where you’ll stay? What you’ll eat? What kind of music you’ll listen to? Who’s going to be in charge of what happens? Won’t your trip be better with a translator? A guide? Someone to advocate for you, should you need to communicate with the authorities? Do you want to spend all your time on the trip trying to figure all these things out? Wouldn’t you rather have someone there to make sure you get the most out of it and it’s the trip that you want it to be?
I’m a world traveler and have travelled to over 30 countries. I’ve done every kind of trip imaginable – just bought a ticket to somewhere, guided trips, all inclusives, pre-planned everything myself. And for me, the best trips were those where I knew where the good restaurants were and what sights I wanted to see, what was worth my time and what wasn’t (from research based on my personal values) and where I had help – whether it was a friendly tour guide or a friend who lived there. Someone who knew the lay of the land and spent time with me figuring out what I wanted. And if I was travelling with others, what we wanted.
That’s my job as a death doula. To make sure this last trip is exactly how you want it to be. And that requires planning, research, guidance, advocacy. You may already have your end of life documents – Will, Powers of Attorney, Care Directives. But those are just your plane tickets. Which means the rest of your trip is unorganized. At some point someone (a loved one, or maybe you) will be left scrambling trying to find a metaphorical hotel or a restaurant because you’re stranded somewhere. And they’ll be trying to do all this when what they really want to do is be with you. My job, as a death doula, is tour guide, translator, travel agent. Making sure this last journey is the way you want. So you and your loved ones are able to focus on whats important – being together.
I became a death doula because I’d seen the end of life of people I loved end badly. Not because of ill will or malice, but because of lack of experience and not being prepared. I want to help people do death better. Everyone deserves a good death.
There are some things in life that, while we can do them ourselves, the path is much easier to navigate with a guide to help us along the way. That’s what a death doula is – a guide at the end of life. An expert in death and dying.

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