What is a “Death Doula”?

A Death Doula or End-of-Life Doula model was derived from that of a Birth Doula.

There is no set definition of an End-of-Life Doula. While there are many ways a Doula can be trained, there is no licensure or over-arching governance of the profession.

An End-of -Life Doula provides emotional support, non-medical care and works with the whole family. A Death Doula can guide a person and his/her family through the dying process, be an active presence in a vigil and will assist the family with early grief and grief processing.

Astral Dragonfly operates on a three phase model of care that has been designed by INELDA. The three phases are:

  • Summing up and Planning
    • Life Review and Legacy
    • Planning for Last Days
  • The Vigil
    • Holding Space for the Plan
    • Guiding Through the Process
  • Reprocessing and Early Grief
    • Retelling the Story
    • Exploring the Nature of Grief

Astral Dragonfly has also adopted the Core Components of the Doula Model of Care, as described by NEDA (National End-of-Life Doula Alliance).

Core Components of the Doula Model of Care: 6 Guiding Principles

  • Non-medical support. Doulas refrain from performing any clinical or medicalized tasks. 
  • Non-judgmental support. The Doula does not impose her/his values on the client such as acting on biases in favor of one method.
  • Family-centered approach. The individual and their family form the unit of care. Doulas do not take the place of partners, family members or other care providers. 
  • Holistic care. Doulas recognize the biopsychosocial and spiritual aspects of the whole person and provide services in the context of this understanding.
  • Empowerment. Doulas promote informed decision-making and foster maximum self-determination for the individual and family.
  • Team members. Doulas are team players with a special role.

Types of Support Provided by Doulas

  • Presence. Good listener, witness, calming influence, nurturing, support for troubleshooting challenges.
  • Emotional support. Always part of the Doula’s role. 
  • Information sharing. Education as needed and desired, non-biased and evidence-based. 
  • Proactive guidance. Anticipating needs and making a plan.
  • Resources and referrals. Making referrals to appropriate community resources and care providers, thereby increasing access to all available services.
  • Comfort measures and physical support. Can include hands-on comfort techniques, help with positioning, visualization, use of the breath, and so on.
  • Logistical support. Can include organizing household help, finding someone to run errands, arranging transportation to medical appointments and other logistics.

Excerpted from The Doula Business Guide: How to Succeed as a Birth, Postpartum or End-of-Life Doula, 3rd Edition by Patty Brennan.

The role of a Death Doula is to educate and empower families to exercise their innate right to care for their own dead. Death Doulas “provide emotional, spiritual, and physical support at an intensely personal and crucial time. They assist people in finding meaning, creating a legacy project, and planning for how the last days will unfold. Doulas also guide and support loved ones through the last days of life and ease the suffering of grief in its early stages”

– INELDA
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