What does End of Life Doula Provide?
End of Life Doula services are meant to be individualized and are determined by you or, if you are unable, by the loved ones who know you best.
One of the biggest fears around dying is that no one will carry your memory forward. The work we do together often reveals the legacy of your life which can then be turned into a tangible gift for your loved ones.
The weight of grief is real and difficult to comprehend. Though the pain of grief is unavoidable, the journey to healing can be transformative when you open your heart to the beauty that can be found along the way.
The label of caregiver is one that is given to you as soon as your person receives a life-limiting diagnosis. It suddenly usurps any professional title you may have achieved, as well as those familial titles we hold so dear, such as wife, son, brother or mother.
Welcome! I’m glad you’re here. Whether you have received a life-limiting diagnosis, have elected hospice care or are doing advance planning, my desire is to connect with you wherever you are in your journey, then help create space for you and for those around you to simply love.
My way of practicing the art of “death midwifery” is to provide room for all the possibilities. I have created Held to be a safe place where you can breathe and take solace; a place where you know you are not alone.
You can read the story of how my life changed in an instant and why it is now my desire to walk with others in one of the most sacred times of life – the end of life. It would be my honor to walk with you.
End of Life Doula is
Sacred, compassionate, positive, intentional, courageous, client-centered, transformative, open-hearted, expansive, non-judgmental, resourceful, curious
What is an end of life doula?
The word “doula” is Greek and translates as “woman’s servant.” Its roots go back centuries in many cultures where those specially recognized as doulas would help other women give birth. The modern birth doula model was developed in the U.S. in the 1960s and more recently this model has been adapted for a doula approach to death.
An end of life doula (aka death doula, death midwife) provides practical, spiritual, and emotional support to a person who is facing a life limiting illness and their loved ones. Doulas have made a study of death, dying and grief, and can empower you and your loved ones to find meaning and continue to live fully until the last breath.
What does a doula do?
Doula services are designed to be as unique as the individuals we serve. In general, there are three phases to doula work:
- summing up and planning
- conducting vigil
- reprocessing and early grief
In the first phase, doulas use deep active listening skills to help explore all aspects of a person’s life, uncover guiding values and reinforce what is most important as you face death. During these conversations, a person’s legacy will often emerge from which a tangible object can be created that can inspire family and friends and help them reconnect to their loved one after they are gone.
The summing up phase also brings an opportunity to address the harder experiences in life by exploring any regrets, unfinished business, guilt or shame (RUGS) a person may be carrying with an approach of curiosity and grace allowing transformation to take place.
Creating a vigil plan gives a person the opportunity to make choices about symptom management, how the vigil space will look, feel and sound, and invites loved ones into the experience in a way that best supports the dying person’s wishes. Approaching the vigil with intention creates a sacred space that can bring a sense of calm and peace that can ease a person’s transition and support loved ones throughout the dying process.
In the second phase, the doula will help conduct the vigil by follow the vigil plan as much as possible, helping loved ones understand the labor of dying, and hold space for all involved in an effort to reduce anxiety and fear by providing a calming and peaceful presence in the vigil space.
In the third phase, doulas help reprocess the death experience. It gives loved ones an opportunity to retell the dying story from their perspective and for the doula to offer viewed experiences from a different perspective. It is a time to share grief, continue legacy work, and honor the beauty inherently present at the threshold of life.
I have hospice, why do I need a doula?
Hospice is a wonderful model of care and is indispensable for people at end of life. The transition to hospice can be difficult for someone who has been working with the same healthcare team for any length of time. A person gets to know and trust the doctors and nurses that have been providing life-extending treatment. However, when it’s time to elect hospice, that team goes away and a whole new set of healthcare providers steps in with new medications, schedules and systems to navigate. It can be a very confusing and disorienting time. Doulas can step in to smooth the transition, help organize and set up new systems, and prepare caregivers as to what to expect throughout the dying process.
A common misconception about hospice is that there is always a healthcare provider physically present, which is not the case. Because it is a medical model, hospice is subject to regulations that limit how much time they can spend with each patient. Doulas can help fill the gaps and prepare the family to fulfill much of the caregiving that their loved one will require.
Doulas do not replace hospice, but as their role becomes more understood, doulas can become an integral resource for the dying person and their families, as well as the hospice team.
Are doula services covered by insurance?
At this time, doula services are private pay and are not covered by insurance. Many in the field prefer that private pay remain the model as doulas are then able to practice in a way that gives maximum flexibility respecting the individuality of each client they serve. Just as every life is unique, so is every death, and being able to honor both in a way that respects each individual is of utmost importance to the process.
Thank you for sharing yourself with B. and his family. It takes a special soul to take care of those in the process of dying. You are one of those special souls.
Jean Johnson, EOL Doula
As an end-of-life doula myself, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for the right person to tend me when my time comes. I have chosen Michelle for a myriad of reasons, most importantly, her authenticity. … I most sincerely and with great confidence recommend her to anyone seeking the practical, emotional, and spiritual service that an end-of-life doula provides.
Nina Guertin, Tending the Spirit
I had a chance to look over your work and am truly amazed at her EOL [end of life] plan…I have never seen something so spelled out and with such a personal focus. I can just imagine the relief she must feel…of her wishes being honored. I am so glad you are doing the work you are doing, and it is an honor to work with you.
Thank you for facilitating our family meeting about mom. While I wasn’t sure what to expect, I found myself leaving “feeling lighter” than when I came. I experienced being able to quiet, listen to each other and make space for some concrete steps that may bring comfort to mom or each of us. So again, thank-you.
I deeply appreciate the way Michelle uses her intuition wisely and gently, connects easily with people, nudges patients toward self-exploration when needed, is deeply compassionate, and brings her wonderful sense of humor to the work. Her experiential wisdom serves her well; personal losses have opened her heart with great empathy and passion for this important work. Michelle has stretched herself in difficult situations, and I have seen continued growth from those experiences.