You are not alone in your desire to serve others at the end of life. Look at all the articles listed below; it used to be that volunteering at hospice or the hospital was the only option if you had this calling.
Below are just some of the mainstream press reporting on the phenomenon of the Death Doula:
I remember when I began serving families as a death midwife (what I called myself in 2005), there was no death doula movement. I searched the internet and found only one other program that called itself 'Doula to Accompany the Dying' within Shira Ruskay Center in NYC, at the time. I only found two other individuals during my internet searching for midwives and doulas for the dying.
Now look! If you do a ‘death doula’ or ‘end of life doula’ search today, you will find pages of articles, practitioners, and trainings. It has been an amazing explosion of interest since my early days out here. It used to be quite lonely. I have participated in the developing of this service and have been privileged to have a front seat to also witness it grow exponentially since about 2013. Before then, it was pretty quiet.
What do you think happened that so many people are now interested in this role?
There are many reasons I feel this interest has skyrocketed. There has been a consciousness that the baby boomers are coming into their end years and that they are tending to their dying loved ones as well. Anytime the baby boomers are involved in a societal concern, things change!
Another trend is the ‘talk about death’ movement which really exploded with Death Cafés (which began in 2011). We have so many talk about death platforms now all over the world and death and dying awareness organizations and celebrations. The consumer movement regarding funeral practices, the home funeral movement and Medicare reform of hospice service are other huge things that have been going on.
Also, as a society, we are coming into the awareness that we do not want to fight our death at all costs anymore. More people are beginning to take responsibility for their end of life wishes and letting them be known to their families. More people want to die at home. More people want to be part of earth friendly practices in life AND death.
Along with all of this, non-hospice palliative care programs have been developing and growing within our hospitals, home health, and community clinics. Families are seeking more options in comfort care, long before their loved one is dying. We can have this with palliative care, even if you are expected to live! Palliative care is not just for the dying.
So, in a nutshell, we are evolving as a society around our needs at the end of life. In addition to this awareness, there is a huge influx of those who have the calling to serve others at the end of life - more than what we have seen in the past. They want to do so much more than what is possible as a volunteer.
Those particular people are the ones who are trying to figure out how to bridge the gaps in health and death care at the end of life. These people are the end of life guides, doulas, midwives, and coaches. They come in all shapes and sizes and their gifts are many.
You are not alone in this sacred desire to be of service in this way. Many of you tell me your friends think you are crazy for focusing on helping the dying. You are not. It is a calling.
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