Don’t let the word doula throw you off, that is a term most people associate with the birthing process. Doulas have supported pregnant women for generations, sharing this very special part of life with the expectant mother, as they offer suggestions and reassurance, support them with knowledgeable guidance, and assist them through the labor and delivery along with the medical team. These doulas help to birth a spirit into our world. My work helps the spirit to transition from our world.
My work with those that are aging comes from the same place of non-medical support. I walk with my clients, offering compassionate guidance through life challenges, information and suggestions for their safety or other needs as well as helping to create legacies to share with those they love. In my Life Doula work, I help in any way that the client or loved ones need to help find life closure, to seek forgiveness or offer it, to create legacies and to encourage meaningful conversations with those they are in relationship with. My role is not to fix, repair, or in any way make these things happen. My role is to offer my deep presence that creates sacred space for the client to feel loved and supported. To recognize words shared, or those silences that beg expression, and to allow them to be voiced. I use my love of reflective writing often to help record stories and memories, to create picture memories, to help connect with friends and family members after a long absence. In this way I am available in the moment to direct my words and actions, rather than to predetermine what needs to be done.
As a Certified End of Life and Elder Care Doula, I quite naturally combine both roles and prefer the title of Life Doula. Because our final chapter of life begins long before hospice is ordered, long before the final weeks of life, my support can cross the continuum. Aging is gradual until a sentinel event happens which heralds a decline in function that is quite natural when understood from this place. While helping the client to be as fully active and engaged as possible at all times, the picture changes when a person begins falling often, when an illness no longer responds to the treatment that at one time would help them to get back to a previous level. People with chronic, progressive neurologic diseases and dementia, longstanding respiratory or cardiovascular diseases, and many other benefit from my Life Doula support throughout their progression until hospice is included. As that happens, my long experience and training as a hospice nurse combine with my Certified End of Life Doula training and my depth of spirituality to guide the dying person and their loved ones through that very sacred and challenging transition.
When our living accepts and allows our aging, decline, and death, these stages of living become expected. Normalized. And the choices for treatment and intervention greatly change. I am there to help my clients and their loved ones to be reminded of the choices the client made in their health. To review the end of life plan that they created. To reinforce this very natural and precious time of life, while helping all involved to have the deep conversations that this chapter intuitively create. I always guide rather than in any way direct choices. I am present to serve the client and their loved ones.
Doulas do support. They do guide. They do offer deep presence and create a peaceful affirming atmosphere. It truly is an honor to walk with people through their end of life, whether that begins early with the decline of aging or waits until the final days. It is an honor to be invited to share this very sacred chapter of life with an aging person and their loved ones.