We are caring for our own families and friends. And, we are Professional caregivers have an increased responsibility to take care of ourselves, as we care for so many others. Not only our livelihood depends on caring for our number one asset, ourselves, but the care we give others too.
Like a birth doula, but not really.
Let us begin with a little comparison and understanding of the role in relation to birthing. In 2017, in the US, birth doulas have created a special niche for themselves as providers of practical and emotional care for a woman and her family.
The term doula comes from the Greek word meaning 'a woman who serves.' They were slaves in those early days. A doula used to serve a woman through all the life cycles from birth through death. Fast forward to the 20th century, birth doulas focus on the birthing mother and family and are usually hired on a fee for service basis providing mostly non-medical, practical, and emotional support.
As an end of life doula, we expect a lot of ourselves sometimes. How often do you get to ‘practice’ the art of being with others as they are dying? How often do you get to ‘practice’ the skills that will make you good at this? Do you expect yourself to just be great at going between the two states of 'being' without practice? That is a lot to ask of anyone.
Coming home from Maui after the International Death Doula Conference this week has been a shattering experience. And I mean that in a good way.
The conference was sold out to people from all over the world, some new to end of life and excited to see how this calling will unfold in their lives. Most were ‘old timers’ in the work, quietly and not so quietly making great strides in their communities to empower people in the realms of dying and death.
A recent article by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, "Transforming End of Life Care through Communication," states something vitally important:
We, as those who want to accompany others through dying, have a 'job' to do which is to listen and hear what a person's goals are for themselves now that they are seriously ill.