palliative care doula™
death alchemy and death cafe gatherings
“we shall find peace. we shall hear angels.
we shall see the sky sparking with diamonds.”
what can a palliative care doula™ offer?
First of all – what is a doula? In the ancient Greek, a doula is “one who serves”. A doula provides emotional, spiritual and informational support to their clients, and their families, in addition to being an advocate.
In this role, I provide supportive care for patients and families who have received a serious diagnosis. My main objective is to care for them in a holistic manner. This means that my focus is on their quality of life. That includes working with their other health providers to make sure their symptoms are well managed and help mitigate the stress that comes with a serious illness.
after receiving a serious diagnosis, many people have these types of questions:
- What does my diagnosis mean?
- How is this going to impact my life?
- What questions should I be asking my doctor?
- What are my treatment options?
- How do I maintain a good quality of life while living with a serious illness?
- How is this impacting my family?
what I do as a palliative care doula™:
- Gain an understanding of what is of ultimate importance to you
- Provide holistic support to you and your loved ones
- Help walk you through the initial diagnosis
- Gather additional information on your condition and/or illness
- Identify areas where there is more care needed
- Attend specialist appointments with you, take notes and help you ask questions, so you have all the information you need to make appropriate decisions
- Help you understand what was discussed in the appointment
- Accompany you to medical tests
- Accompany you as you get your test results and help you understand them
- Help you navigate treatment options
- Ensure that your needs and wishes are communicated
- Help coordinate treatment with the different treatment providers
- Communicate with doctors, nurses, and other providers
- Assess the need for a second opinion
“embrace uncertainty. some the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.”
~ bob goff
what an end-of-life doula can offer…
“death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.”
― haruki murakami, contemporary Japanese author
The first thing to acknowledge is that we all will die – it’s not if we will die but when. It will be a universal experience for all of us. Recognizing that death is a natural part of the human experience can help us when it becomes a reality in our own life or in the life of someone we love. Having a trained doula walk with you on this journey can be a great comfort and makes the transition from life to death a sacred time.
An end-of-life doula or midwife can help with many aspects of the dying process. I provide a supportive, compassionate, intentional, non-judgmental, and nurturing environment that encompasses the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of both the person who is dying and their loved ones.
holistic support – emotional, physical, and spiritual
- What are you feeling and thinking? Are you angry, fearful, concerned for your loved ones? Together we can explore and process these feelings and thoughts. This can be a time of deep, emotional healing.
- What unfinished business do you have? Are there relationships you want to attend to? Forgiveness you wish to seek or offer? Confessions you wish to make?
- What might you wish to do with the time you have left? What might be some ways to bring comfort to your body? What might you expect to happen as the time draws near?
- What do you think happens after you die? What have you been taught? What do you believe? What does it look like to integrate what you truly believe with where you find yourself at this moment? What does it look like to draw on your faith or spirituality as you enter into this final part of your journey on earth.
- What do you want to leave as a legacy? What does it look like to create something that reflects the meaning of your life? This could be written, painted, photographed, quilted, etc.
- I spend time with you – talking, reading, or just being present.
- I help you create meaningful and intentional rituals that can be done prior to, while you are in your last hours and even after your death. If a ritual is desired, they are unique to each individual.
creating a peaceful environment
- What do you wish to be surrounded with as you enter into the last days? Soft fabrics, special music, candles, nature? I will help you create an environment that is peaceful, serene and calm, and uniquely suited to what you want.
- Vigil is the act of sitting with you during the last hours. It includes maintaining the environment you desire, sitting by your bedside, offering non-medical comforts, helping your loved ones understand the dying process and being present to you, physically, emotionally and spiritually as you transition.
support for loved ones
education on the dying process
- What are the signs one sees in the process of dying? Because we are so disconnected from the natural process of dying, we are unfamiliar with and frightened by what the body goes through as it begins to shut down.
- I provide respite for family members sitting vigil, giving them time to refresh and renew.
- I offer support to your loved ones, both as you move through the process of dying (anticipatory grief) and after you have passed.
I will work with you to choose the elements that help you create the experience you want and/or need.
how does what I do differ from hospice?
This is a common question. I often work with patients who have Hospice services. Having both Hospice and an end-of-life doula are complimentary. While Hospice provides the medical support that doulas cannot, their services are regulated by Medicare which limits the time they can spend with each patient. End-of-life doulas are not bound by these limits, allowing them to spend as much time with the patient as is needed to provide social, emotional and spiritual support..
“death is not extinguishing the light. it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”
~ rabindranath tagore
If you’d like to have a conversation about what I may be able to provide for you as a Palliative Care Doula™ or an End-of-Life Doula, please contact me for a free consultation at
Death Alchemy –
Death Alchemy offerings will explore death – its meaning, its mystery and all the feelings surrounding it, whether it is our own death or the death of someone close to us.
One definition for alchemy is the seemingly magical and mystical process of transformation where one thing is changed into another. Think caterpillar into butterfly or lead into gold. An alchemical process occurs, and a new creation emerges.
Our desire with Death Alchemy is to help us alchemize our current view of death -not thinking of it as an ending of life but as continuation of life in a different form – perhaps in a form in which we are ‘more’ alive than we have ever been. Alchemy can also happen with our thoughts and feelings around death just as it happens with death itself, transforming our view of leaving this life for the next.
Why would you want to spend time contemplating death?
~ When we contemplate our death, it changes the way we live. It helps us live life more consciously, more intentionally.
~ Becoming present to the fact that we are all going to die allows us to have more agency in the way we die and what happens to our body once death has occurred. If we experience the slow death most of us will have, we can make informed decisions about treatment options and, eventually, when to choose comfort care.
~ And taking the time to ponder death can help us befriend it. It can take away some of the fear we might have and allow us to see it as a normal part of life rather than something to run from. This can have huge implications as we consider what we would want or not want when it comes to end-of-life decisions.
Our desire is to open conversations around death and dying, here and now. Too often, these conversations occur when we are deep in the dying process and can’t express our own wants and desires and what we would want is unknown to our loved ones.
Our next Death Alchemy Session will be Tuesday, Nov 14th. Email Deb at email@example.com to get the link.
Death Café is a gathering of people who want to talk about death over cake and coffee (or cookies, or muffins…you get the idea). Death is often a taboo topic. We want to bring it into the light. Death Café is a safe, accepting space held without an agenda or a formally-led discussion. The purpose of Death Café is to bring people to a deeper awareness of their mortality so that they might be more present to their life.
Jon Underwood founded Death Café in London in 2011. The first Death café in the US was held by Lizzy Miles, near Columbus, OH, in 2012. Since then, there have been over 6000 Death Cafes held in 85 countries.
Our first Death Café will be held on Tuesday, Oct 17, 2023 via Zoom