Though the term, End of Life Doula (EOLD), is a fairly recent phenomenon, the deeply sacred act of caring for a loved one in their final days and hours is a practice going back millenia, transcending specific cultural or spiritual definitions and practices.
It is an interesting cultural phenomenon, particularly in western cultures, that caring for the dying in the home was abandoned so thoroughly that generations of children now have grown up without the experience of watching their elders become frail and bedridden and eventually die surrounded by the extended family. We no longer watch and help our mothers care for our dying relatives, so have no frame of reference for how to do it ourselves. We gave the dying process over to hospitals, and nursing homes, to funeral directors and embalmers, the experts – and gave away a very important experience of the full circle of life.
The End of Life Doula role was created in response to a growing sense that we need to reclaim the process of dying so that we can learn its lessons for living. Spirituality is certainly an important part of that process, and EOLDs are trained to be sensitive to the needs of the family and their loved one.
Some EOLDs will wish to practice from their own personal religious or spiritual traditions, and will serve families from that same tradition, who surely appreciate the cultural familiarity that offers.
However, many EOLD training programs and their codes of ethics emphasize that the EOLD is and should always be respectful of the spiritual traditions of the family and their loved one, and that her own spiritual traditions do not take precedence.
At RiverHome Doula Services, a new client is asked, among other things, “Do you have a spiritual tradition or practice around death and dying that the EOLD should be mindful of and honor during her service to your family?” I will always keep your answer confidential, and will make it an important part of my work with you and your loved one.
Contact us for a free and confidential 30-minute consultation with an End of Life Doula.