I started this journey over a year ago. I knew that I was embarking on new territory, not only for myself, but for everyone around me. No one knew what a death doula was or what I could offer and provide (I’m not even sure I knew). I continue to remain fluid, understanding that my role will change and morph continuously as the needs of the individuals are as unique as they are.
My last client renamed me. I started working with her in February and she passed, peacefully and surrounded by her family, last Wednesday. After one of our sessions back in March she said that she wasn’t overly fond of the title of Death Doula and said it didn’t capture who I was to her. She lovingly said I should call myself an End-of-Life Transition Coach. I realized how spot on she was. When I step back, all my clients have truly used me during that time of treatment when the thoughts creep in about stopping therapy. The thoughts are sometime just passing ideas, but ideas none the less. They find that when they voice these reflections with the doctors or family and friends, they are offered a pep talk, more treatment ideas, ignored or suggested to contact hospice. Feelings of loneliness and guilt begin to grow.
I am that sounding board. The one that is sometimes too painful for the family and friends to bear. They know I’ll be honest. I don’t dance around the elephant in the room. (I pretty much sit its lap and say, “Hey everyone, we’re here!”) I’ve made peace with sitting in someone else hell, allowing for uncomfortable silent. It’s in that time that life peaks its head up and deep questions can begin to be solved, or at least addressed. I walk next to them. Meg was right. I’m coaching people (and sometimes family). Encouraging and empowering them to write the last chapter of the book they’ve been writing their whole lives. They get to pen the final words. They own it.
Yes, I can still labor at the bedside of the dying but I’m finding that once my clients become empowered to call the shots again, they don’t need me as much. I stand back and watch as they finish the last part of the journey, by their own volition, the way it should be. And it’s beautiful!