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It requires a village! A few learnings from my End-of-Life Doula course

Hello again!

I have decided to send you a newsletter every 2 weeks instead of weekly (if any of you profusely objects, do let me know!). I am doing this as I want to dedicate more of my time to continue building Evermore’s digital service, which is focusing on end-of-life care.

You can keep up to date here: https://joinevermore.com/

Anyway…it is Thursday evening, having just returned from my favourite restaurant and savouring a very nice glass of wine, I find myself inspired to share some thoughts and learnings. These insights come from my recent End-of-life Doula course, and I'm eager to share them with you in this post and in future ones..

What is an End-of-life Doula?

Surprisingly, this is a question I don’t often encounter. Why is that? Mainly, it seems that as soon as the phrase ‘END OF LIFE’ is mentioned, people instinctively shy away from the conversation. It’s understandable; it’s not an easy topic to grapple with.

And guess what? This very reluctance to engage with the subject is precisely why End-of-life Doulas are so essential.

As a Doula, your role encompasses walking alongside the person who is dying or their loved ones, offering support in various aspects of their life that are focused on the end-of-life journey.

It is about:

  • Providing comfort

  • Helping them think and realise their needs whether physical, emotional, cultural or spiritual. Without judgement

  • Enable them to act on those needs whenever possible

Sometimes, it’s the intangible aspects, like listening, holding space for the person and providing emotional support, that makes the most impact.

It requires a village

One person cannot do it all. Supporting someone who is dying requires different elements from people or organisations.

It is an extremely collaborative task. Think about little things that will bring the person you are caring for some comfort, such as:

  • Supermarket

  • Medicines

  • Doctor’s appointments

  • Hobbies

  • Comfort

  • Time in nature

  • Mental health support

  • Physical support

  • Cooking

  • Shopping

    & more!

A pinch (or a bunch!) of patience and openness

If you are already receiving support from a Doula, it means that either you or your family are already quite open and willing to purposely approach an expected death. However, there could be times where someone in the family or the person who is dying find it challenging to talk about end-of-life. As a Doula, it's crucial to meet individuals exactly where they are, offering support in a manner that respects their space and pace. Always being ready with a helping hand and an open ear, listening without judgment and patiently waiting until the person is ready to open up.

An individualised and personalised experience

We are all used to personalisation in our daily lives. In fact, we expect it. From the services we receive, to the products we get. This is something that also applies to dying.

Think about how you like your pillows when you go to bed, your routine breakfast or how you enjoy spending leisure / quality time by yourself or with your loved ones. We have to consider these things when supporting a person who is dying.

The person who is dying also experiences grief

Grief is unique, grief is not linear. It can show up in many different ways like emotionally or physically. This adds layers of complexity to the situation, as a Doula, your role is to decouple those complexities and make it more manageable for the person you are caring for.

We often associate grief with the period following someone's death. Yet, the person who is dying also experiences their own grief. This grief encompasses mourning for a life that is forever changed, and the sorrow over the thought of leaving loved ones behind. Don’t forget this. I did.

Right, I really enjoy writing about this topic but if I continue, this might end up being a very, very long post!

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Until next time,

Fernanda

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