Hi. My name is Gloria Reading. Thanks for clicking in to further understand what services an end-of-life (EOL) doula offers. What does EOL doula even mean? If you’re like I was the summer of 2018, you had never heard the term, much less the position. So thanks for checking in.
The most basic answer to the question is that “doula” means ‘”servant”. It’s an ancient Greek word literally meaning “women serving women.” Today, however, doulas are male or female serving both men and women.
It’s possible that you’ve heard of a birth doula. They’ve been around since the 1960s.
A birth doula is a birth companion or coach. She/he is a non-medical person who provides emotional support and physical help to a woman, her partner and family before, during, and after childbirth. Unlike a midwife, doulas are not medical professionals. (If you’re interested in finding a birth doula, please contact me through my website.)
What Training Does A Certified Doula Have?
Quality training for service as an end-of-life includes deep instruction on building rapport, guided personal introspection regarding the emerging EOL doula’s experiences with dying and death, deep listening, and study about death and the many ways we die, signs and symptoms of the body’s decline, as well as ways to relate to the dying person and his/her wishes, needs and desires.
Certification is important for you, the consumer of EOL doula services, to require because it means the doula has more than a good heart but also academic knowledge and training about the unique and painful stresses dying and death bring into the family.
A teacher of mine, Deanna Cochran, reminds her students that we are a companion, a witness, a person who comes into the family during this sacred, but exhausting, painful, confusing time and “becomes a grounding force; a witness.” Certification from a reputable training program represents the professionalism of the service and the EOL doula.
Doulas and Hospice
The end-of-life doulas at Transforming the Journey, hope you have called hospice. If not, we’ll present their services to you and encourage – not require – you to enlist their support. I am one of many doulas who volunteers in a local hospice. They are collaborators.
We are each excellent and unique in what we offer. We work in conjunction with – not in competition with. EOL doulas work with the patient’s hospice team collaboratively and lovingly for the good of the client and his/her family – ALWAYS.
End of Life Doula
You may intuit from the definition of a birth doula, that an EOL doula provides similar services, except at the end of life.
We are not medical professionals. Instead, we are the great-great-grandmothers and great-great-grandfathers of the world before we slowly evolved into too-busy, overly-stressed, isolated, mechanized technology experts who have the heart, but no longer the time or energy to care for the dying.
An EOL doula brings the wisdom of our ancestors, the cognitive knowledge of our training to the needs and wishes of the terminally ill and their loved ones. The come into your life sufficiently rested meaning that they have the energy that caregivers run out of.
I know. I’ve been there.
Life experience, deep personal reflection, and a capacity for genuine empathy and compassion comprise the heart of the doula. Academic training and study, continuing education, and deep listening comprise the skill of the doula.
Your EOL doula will “hold a safe, haven of space for the terminal patient and loved ones to feel what they feel, learn what is to be learned, and minimize the sense of isolation and loneliness that often accompanies the dying journey. Practical skills and the heart of a healer accompany all involved as we together walk that final and sacred path to the end of earthly life.
Full Disclosure. I, personally, FIRMLY believe that life continues following our earthly departure. I don’t pretend to know exactly how, but I do believe with all my heart that our body releases our soul into a new life that continues in a different form. I fully expect to see my loved ones again.
You absolutely do NOT have to believe what we at Transforming the Journey believe in order to use our doula services. We ALWAYS honor your faith – or lack thereof – whether you are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist or whatever.
I just believe that we are asking you to invite one of us into your life and the life of your family at a the most confusing, uncertain, vulnerable, painful time that can be. It’s important to me that you know what we believe.
Palliative care physician, Dr. Bob Gramling, writes: In my role as a palliative care physician, I find that loneliness might be the single greatest source of suffering that seriously ill people encounter in our modern world (Cultivating the Doula Heart, p. ix),2018)
He continues by telling the reader that Great Britain recently appointed a Minister of Loneliness to help combat the lonely and emotional isolation problem. True. I believed him but couldn’t believe it at the same time so I looked it up. Yes. A Minister of Loneliness serves from the chambers of Parliament in Great Britain.
To summarize, that’s what EOL doulas are. Ministers of Loneliness.
Dying is work; it’s a lonely walk. Watching a loved one die is also work and a lonely walk. The doula, like the family and loved ones, can’t walk THROUGH the doorway from earthly life, but we can walk with you and your loved one TO the doorway.
We can hold hands as the doorknob turns and the door opens – then softly closes. We are your personal Minister of Loneliness.
Instructor Deanna Cochran (School for Accompany the Dying) writes: Our role is NOT to take grief away, minimize grief, or “fix” any number of problems that may be going on. We are a grounding force. We are a witness.”
EOL doula work is more than a job to me. It’s a calling … a calling that I’m passionate about. If you would like to speak further, please contact me. Thank you.