What Is A Doula?

    The origin of the word “doula” comes from ancient Greece meaning female slave or servant, or servant to mother.

    In the 1960s, the term described a non-medical professional whose role would be a birth companion and post-birth supporter. The Birth Doula provides assistance and emotional support to the person before, during, and after childbirth as well as providing support to the spouse, children, and other family members.

    With the success of the Birth Doula movement, Death Doulas began to surface.  The role of an end-of-life doula is to assist a dying person and the family, plan for the last days of life, the eventual process of actively dying, and helping the family reprocess the dying experience.

    The dying person and the family are encouraged to explore creating a “legacy project” that would incorporate stories, music, wisdom, and experiences of the dying person. Legacy projects can be written, recorded audio, or video. There are no limitations as how one can remember the person. The doula can also assist in creating a sacred space for the dying person and education as to the process of death.

    During the phase of a person actively dying, the doula can assist with physical care, encourage touch, visualization techniques, be a gatekeeper for visitors or vigil attendees, provide respite for caregivers, and any experience that will deepen the experience for a more meaningful death.

   After death, the doula can help the family and friends reprocess the experience, explain and possibly reframe negative perceptions and ideas, support the family and friends as they begin their journey through grief, and take care of any details that the family is unable to.

    The benefits of using a doula are quite significant when continuous support is available by someone who is not a medical professional, or family, or friend. When choosing a birth or death doula, be sure to use one that is certified or in the process of becoming certified. You may find references to certification programs listed on the “links” tab.