An end of life doula, also known as a death doula, acts as a personal guide through the process of dying. Though this career path is relatively new and only available in a small percentage of places in the country, it is rapidly growing in popularity. The fear of death can be an all-consuming worry, especially for those who are facing the prospect head on. Many ill people are doomed to die a lonely existence in the small confines of a sterile hospital room, with no one at their side to ease the pain and loneliness.

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Those who work as an end of life doula are on a mission to ensure this does not have to happen.

What is an end of life doula?

Much like hospice, an end of life doula provides services in the last weeks, days, or hours before death.

Unlike hospice, however, this type of caregiver is there to comfort the one on the journey of passing away. This may be different for each patient, as the wants and needs change from person to person. According to Sharon Henderson, an EOL doula in Alton, Illinois, soothing techniques such as soft music, diffusing essential oils, offering prayer, helping family members understand the dying process, and comforting those with the fear of death are only a few of the services offered in this line of care. There is even a new website that compares hospice locations.

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Fear of death common topic for end of life doula

According to Very Well Mind, many people suffer from the fear of death and dying. In fact, this phobia can be divided into the categories below.

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of loss of control
  • Fear of pain, illness, or loss of dignity
  • Fears concerning relatives
  • Fear of death in children

Although the latter does not apply to terminal patients, the other areas may become unbearable, causing extreme anxiety as the dying process draws near.

A death doula can help by explaining the end of life journey, listening to concerns and providing assurance that the patient's desires will be honored, communicating with medical teams and family members, and generally giving the dying person the dignity and understanding needed to relieve the fear and anxiety they feel. Carson Daly recently spoke about his struggles with anxiety [VIDEO].

An end of life doula balances life and death

A doula's job is not a focus on death, but rather the journey of living those last days well. In an interview with ABC Radio Melbourne, Carmen Barnsley says she believes that these days, death is not well done. It should be a celebration of life, not something to avoid. "A death doula isn't about dying, it's about allowing that individual to live until they die."

Carmen goes on to say that, historically, families took care of their terminally ill relatives. It was not left to clinical strangers in a cold hospital room. "But there became a fear factor with death; let's take it behind closed doors, we don't talk about it, and [there are] still people within our community that still have that."

The end of life doula community is full of compassionate caregivers who guide the dying through what is very likely the most frightening moments they will ever endure.

By providing a safe space for patients to air grievances, confide secrets, express desires, and so on, the EOL doula allows a better quality of life right up to the end.