What is an EOL Doula?
I am an End of Life Doula. I seek to help those who are dying and their families as well. In our culture we’ve been taught to fear death and have been discouraged from talking about anything even related to the natural ending of a human life. Because our modern American society is so removed from what death looks like and because healthcare has been almost exclusively concerned with prolonging life at all costs, the completely predictable end of a human being’s lifespan has devolved to feel mysterious and somewhat accidental, unnecessarily scary, and almost devoid of any deeper meaning. It is only by examining that which scares us the most that we can begin to understand and move past the fear and attempt to glean some significance from our shared experiences.
I offer a comforting presence for the terminally ill patient. A companion who is willing to accompany another on their final journey- a supportive, yet objective person who is neither family or friend, but simply a compassionate human being who is willing to listen and hold space for families during that difficult time when death is near. I have been trained by the International End of Life Doula Association or INELDA to conduct life review sessions, sit at the bedside during vigils, and create legacy projects. I use conversation to encourage palliative and hospice care patients to shift their focus a bit, from the pain and loss they’re experiencing towards an attempt to create meaning from a life well-lived instead. The hope is to build intention for those last, final, sacred days. My job is to help implement the wishes of the dying and help loved ones feel more confident, calm, and connected.
Simply stated, a doula is an assistant who provides emotional, spiritual, and practical support during a life transition. In the case of dying, we can provide planning support early in a diagnosis, vigil support during the active dying phase, and follow-up support for loved ones two to four weeks after the death. After that we can help with any memorial planning, as well as connect families with longer-term grief support and bereavement counselors.
My passion is to serve my community in this way and be a part of the burgeoning death-positive movement. As part of the Denver EOL Doula Collective, I can put families in touch with the many professionals who are committed to easing the anxiety and anticipatory grief that often accompanies the terminal diagnosis of a loved one. I want to be that objective, non-family member who can help navigate the difficult waters surrounding the cessation of treatment and the embrace of what’s to come. Ultimately, my goal is to provide care and comfort to the person who is experiencing the most natural event that inevitably follows every single birth on earth and help make it more meaningful and maybe even beautiful. I am honored to serve others as an End of Life Doula.
Written by Vanessa Johnston.
You can meet Vanessa in person at Discover Your Spiritual Gifts at the monthly Death Doula Coffee Klatch the third Thursday of each month at 2 PM.
Vialet Rayne of Discover Your Spiritual Gifts created an inclusive and welcoming spiritual center and metaphysical store in historical downtown Littleton, Colorado. Discover Your Spiritual Gifts is a haven for those seeking and teaching spirituality. This sacred sanctuary and loving community exist to heighten our individual and collective consciousness while unearthing and sharing each individual's inner gifts.
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