Your Beginning and Ending is Sacred
The journey of living begins with the celebration of birth and completes with the celebration of death. Often times the closing celebrations are not until after the death has occurred, and the rituals and gatherings are with family, friends and community to remember and honour the person that has passed. The death journey is one that can be held in a special way, just as in honouring the birth of a human being, the dying of a human being can also be a rich and compassionate experience.
We humans are not often taught to converse or share out insights about our mortality. Thought as something that will happen one day, but not today, or that it might be a painful or scary conversation to speak about the end of our existence. As and end of life death doula, we bring a sense of connection and compassion to conversations surrounding the wholeness of our life journey, from beginning through to the final moments of breath, and even in holding space for grief, healing and closure for those that are still in the living world when our fellow human, or pet, has passed.
Death doulas help create a bridge and help to hold space between fears, emotional suffering and the unknown across and into the space of caring, compassion and sacredness within the moments up to and while the dying process is unfolding.
What is a death doula?
Helping to provide companionship, comfort, compassion and guidance to individuals, families and friends of the dying, as they face a terminal illness or are in the dying process. By use of non-medical holistic support encompassing emotional, spiritual, and practical care for the individual. Here to offer resources to help the dying person, along with their family and loved ones, in make informed decisions in a supportive and safe environment.
The role of a doula can become involved any time in a person’s life. Offering support when individuals are impacted by a life changing illness, after a terminal diagnosis, when death is imminent, or even after a death to help with light grief support. It is sometimes beneficial for family members and friends of the person dying to seek support and guidance from an end-of-life doula.
I am LGBTQ+ inclusive and offer a safe space for all conversations and gatherings.
"This body is not me.
I am not limited by this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born,
and I have never died.
Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars,
manifestations from my wondrous true mind.
Since before time, I have been free.
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass,
sacred thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are a game of hide-and-seek.
So laugh with me,
hold my hand,
let us say good-bye,
say good-bye, to meet again soon.
We meet today.
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life."
Thich Nhat Hanh
Planning and Preparation for
the Path of Death Care
What does a death plan look like?
We never know when we will be facing our own death. If you are relatively young and in good health, thoughts of the end of your life may be far away or not even in your thought processes at all. This is the perfect time to start having t he conversations about the end of your life. This is the "what if" stages of planning.
If you are ever incapacitated and cannot make your own medical choices, who is your voice? Choices may be be made for you that you might not even consent to, or be made by someone you do not want making decisions for you. If you are conscious or not, if you could not move or speak, or still have a voice, what would your comforts at the end of your life be?
Who would you like to be present with you?
Or who would you not like present?
Items like art, blankets, stuffed animals, pets?
Smells, sounds, light?
Incense or smells of baked cookies or bread, nature sounds or playlists of music, candles or lamps to create a soft comfortably light space?
Sensations like touch or massage or no touch or massage?
Do you have special needs or requests?
All of these can be talked and planned through the Advanced Care Plan. Each province and state has their own version. These documents are legally binding once they are filled out signed and witnessed, and placed in a location that paramedics or your representatives can find them. (ie. your fridge, or copies with your representatives, a card in your wallet) In British Columbia there is also the Advance Directive that can supersede all other directives with your words and voice.
You can even create a video or voice recording noting your decisions and choices and wishes for your end of life journey.
All of this can be planned well in advance. A doula helps to carry and follow through and
"The life and the passion of a person leave an imprint on the ether of a place. Love does not remain within the heart, it flows out to build secret tabernacles in a landscape."
How do you want to be remembered?
Legacy can take on all shapes and forms. It could look like an art project and a collection of photographs, stories, letters, memories. It could be in voice or video recordings. Donations to charities or organizations that are special to the person. It could be plaques or special benches in parks or places that they liked to visit often in their lifetime.
A part of the doula work is to help to give ideas and even assist in the creation process to help the individuals feel like they are leaving meaningful memories behind for their loved ones to cherish when they are no longer here.
"There is no darkness,
only light unseen."
The Vigil and Ritual
How to hold space in the last days, hours and moments?
The last moments of life are the most precious. How they are held and how the space that is created around them is important. Not only to the dying, but also for those they are leaving behind.
How is the room setting, are they comfortable, are the people present have have asked to be present? Is there music or sounds of nature, the lighting or the flicker of candles to create felt sense of ease and comfort? Are there any rituals or special readings or activities that have been requested in these moments being held?
All of these are helped by and assisted with the doula or team of doulas present. Allowing individuals that are visiting to also take moments of time to replenish and nourish themselves as needed. The vigil could be hours or days, as no set time of death is known or can be predicted. There may be occurrences with the physical body that can be attended to, but the most important thing is the comfort and peace surrounding the dying and their space through this journey of dying.
"Death is not extinguishing the light,
it is merely putting out the lamp
because the dawn has arrived."
After Death Compassionate Care
What happens next?
The care of the dying extends to the care of those that survive beyond the death. There may be questions about the after death care that the deceased will need. Allowing proper time to be "with" the person whom has just passed for those that are present through the death journey. Post care can also be connecting with the family, friends and community weeks after the passing of the individual, to check-in and offer any support needed.