End of Life Doula – A New Way of Thinking about Death

By: Tiffany Cloud-Mann, M.Ed.

Before becoming a Care Manager at LifeLinks I hadn’t experienced many deaths of family members or friends. I guess that’s all relative, but I felt like I had been spared so far. I did have a friend, my first childhood romance, pass away when I was a Junior in high school, which was very tough. I then, over the years, lost an uncle, grandmother, grandfather and recently an aunt. I anticipate more death as I know it’s part of life, and getting older seems to make it seem all the nearer. In my role as a Care Manager, which I have been in a little over a year, I have now lost 3 clients. Death has been a bit closer than normal. I had gotten to know all three clients, their history, their personality and had formed special bonds with each of them. Death has been harder for me to process lately and frankly I have just been a bit sadder. 

I recently attended a Lunch and Learn at a local senior industry networking event where I got hear from an End of Life Doula (EOLDs). Did you know there was such a thing? Most of us have heard of a Doula related to pregnancy and labor. From americanpregancy.org,  Doula in the birth realm is “a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. The Doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience.” EOLDS, defined by lifespandoulas.com, “provide practical assistance, companionship and guidance, to individuals and their families as they face death. Doula support services are multi-faceted, encompassing emotional, physical, logistical and informational needs of the family. “ And aren’t we all facing death? 

 The speaker at the recent lunch and learn really left me with some new knowledge and thinking about end-of-life. I want to be comfortable with death, my death and other’s death. I want to reframe my thinking of it and feel prepared, well as much as we can be, for it. Unlike how birthing Doulas are sought out when someone is expecting, what if End of Life Doulas were consulted with on a regular basis to assist us with examining the different areas of our lives. As we all know death is not a date set in stone until it’s a date set in stone, it can happen at any time. The speaker spoke on 5 different topics related to the end of our lives and how a doula can help someone prepare. The 5 Realms of Being – spirit, emotion, mind, body, practical – are very unique to the Conscious Dying Institute.

A Doula Can Help Us Reflect on Our Lives While Living

Spirit – An end of life doula can help someone get in touch with or more in touch with their spirituality. Maybe they have never explored what they believe about the end of life here on earth and what happens next. It’s important for us all to be at peace with what we believe and connect to. 

Emotion – I don’t think anyone wants to truly leave this life on earth with broken relationships. I know my spirit has a very hard time if there are relationships that need mending or tending to, if I don’t address them quickly. A doula will help you explore those relationships that need fixing. It’s important for the spirit to have that peace and closure, whether it’s the spirit leaving or staying. 

Mind – What’s your legacy? How do you want others to remember you? There’s the saying that people won’t remember what you did, but how you made them feel. A doula can help you explore how you can fulfill your goals around legacy and service to others. 

Body – This part might be the most boring to talk about, but it’s a crucial piece. What are your Advance Directives? If you can’t speak for yourself, what do you want done for you if you are incapacitated? Do you want measures taken like a ventilator to assist you with breathing or a feeding tube for nutrition and hydration? It’s important that you tell your loved ones what you want so that they don’t have to make those decisions for you. A doula can educate you on your choices. They can also ensure that the space you live out your last days on earth is peaceful and that you have your favorite music playing or candles burning. They will advocate for you.  

Practical – This topic refers to after your spirit has left your body, what do you want the after-death care of your body to look like? Do you want to donate your organs? Are you going 6 feet under or in an urn? What does your life’s celebration to look like?

A Care Manager Can Help in The Meantime

I took much from the talk the Doula gave. End-of-life is something I want to get more comfortable with. One of the things that really stuck with me from her talk was her suggestionwhat if we gave Death a new name?  What if we referred to Death as Healer?  Teacher?  Sacred Path?  Rite of Passage? When we contemplate our own death and mortality, it teaches us to live our best life so that when death does come we are more content and at peace when it draws near.” Also, embracing our own death a bit more, might just leave the ones we love with more peace and comfort as well as prepare us for deaths in the future. Death is no doubt a difficult subject, typically the hardest for those of us left on earth. As a Care Manager, my goals are a lot like those of Doulas, when working with my clients. I want to keep them safe, provide assistance and more than anything, empower them to have the best quality of life possible. For many of them, I am also right there with them upon death. It’s an honor and privilege to walk the life journey with them. Call us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you and your loved one live out “the meantime” to your best ability. 

The speaker was Ashley Bright with Bright Pathways: Guidance for Life, who was certified by the Conscious Dying Institute as an End of Life Doula and Conscious Dying Educator.  If you are interested in learning how to create your own Vision Map and learning how to effectively communicate with your family and friends about death and dying without fear or dread, consider taking the “Best 3 Months” class with Ashley.  She will lead you on a journey through fulfilling your dreams for a peaceful end of life.  Those who have taken this class have said the Vision Map is more than a tool for planning your death – it is a tool for living.  Changing your mindset for how you view death can truly bring you peace. 

 

For more information, on the Best 3 Months class, or if you would like to see what an End of Life Doula can do for you, call Ashley Bright 615-585-2608.

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