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What is a Death Doula?

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Some years ago I wrote about an unusual occupation – a music thanatologist – someone who plays music to the dying. The preferred instrument of choice is, apparently, the harp.

While technology spurs all sorts of creative businesses and services to facilitate our daily lives, death and dying also seems to be spawning discrete services just like the music thanatologist.

Some of you may have heard of a ‘Doula‘. It is a Greek word meaning ‘a woman’s servant’. Traditionally, they were women who provided what is described as non-medical support, information and assistance to other women during birth and the post-natal period. They are more commonly called ‘Birth Doulas’

However, in very recent years we have seen the development of ‘Death Doulas’. They assist in the dying process just as they do in the birthing process. Their services include creating death plans and providing spiritual, psychological and social support before and just after death. So new is the service that the international organisation, the ‘International End of Life Doula Association’ was only founded in 2015. Its mission statement states they are “dedicated to bringing deeper meaning and greater comfort to dying people and loved ones in the last days of life”.

We don’t often raise our consciousness about the importance of facilitating or easing the mental anguish involved in the process of dying and the acceptance of death, both for ourselves and our families. It tends to be more a clinical event.

Death and dying for most of us is a new experience, I wonder whether you, or me, would appreciate the assistance of a death doula?

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