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End-of-Life Doulas


End-of-Life Doulas

When we hear the term “doula,” we probably most often think of a birth doula – someone who helps bring new life into the world. However, increasingly, doulas are also helping people through their final days. 

Today there are approximately 400 certified end-of-life ("death") doulas in the United States, providing families with in-home end-of-life support prior to and throughout the dying experience. 

End-of-life doulas:

  • Invite open and honest discussion about dying among the dying person and people close to them
  • Encourage the dying individual to explore their life and the impact they’ve had on the lives of people closest to them
  • Help the dying person and loved ones create a dying space based on personal wishes (music, sounds, rituals, etc.)
  • Guide the dying individual and the family through the dying process (symptoms, specific signs)
  • Supporting family and friends after the death as they begin to process their emotions and reflect on the dying experience

There are a variety of directories online that will help you find end-of-life doulas in your area. Whether there is only one doula in your area, or you have several from which to choose, a formal or informal interview will help you select the one that is right for you and your family.

Questions to Ask a Prospective Doula

Selecting an end-of-life doula is likely one of the most personal decisions you’ll ever make. Therefore, asking the right questions plays an important role in ensuring a doula is a good fit for you, your family and other loved ones. The following questions can help guide your discussion when you meet with a prospective doula.

  • Are you a certified end-of-life doula? From where did you receive your certification?
  • How many families have you served?
  • How much time can I expect you’ll spend with me? Are we on an established schedule or am I able to call on you as needed?
  • How will we meet? In-person? By phone? Zoom?
  • How much conversation can I expect? If I prefer quiet sometimes, is that okay?
  • Are you willing to have a conversation with me about my religious or spiritual beliefs without imposing your own? Or…
  • I don’t have any specific religious or spiritual beliefs or beliefs about an afterlife. Can we stay away from discussions about that?
  • How might family/friends be involved in your visits?
  • How do you work with hospice or other medical professionals?
  • What if I discover, a few days or more into our relationship, that this is not a good fit for me?
  • How are your fees structured and how are payments handled?

Remembering A Life Podcast

Learn more on the Remembering A Life Podcast where we interviewed life doula Marggie Hatala. It's a great conversation about what end-of-life doulas do and how families can best work with one during a loved one's final days.

Listen Now