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Thoughts on Being a Death Doula

To utter the word “death” is often seen as incredibly taboo.  The reward of being a death doula is an opportunity to create a sacred space to talk about death itself.  

 Death in itself can mean so many different things to all of us.  As a death doula I provide compassionate and connected support through the active stages of dying for the one transitioning as well as those surrounding them.  A relationship built on trust and advocacy is one that I value incredibly.  In the moments surrounding that transition, know that I am your advocate.  

 A terminal diagnosis is an unwelcome burden in one’s life and being given a limited amount of time to live can be very scary.  

 Working together with me as a death doula, the patient and the family can gain an understanding of what is valued most in life.  Death, in its permanence, gets us thinking about how we want our lives to have meaning and what we can leave for the ones grieving for us. 

 Taking time to do a life review and time to create meaningful connections with our loved ones is just one way that a death doula can be of service.  

 Considering the nature of the human body, the process of death and dying is not foreign to living organisms.  The body knows exactly what to do. 

 In grief support, there have been many who were hopeless and didn't see the joy in days in which the sun simply rose and set. In moments of despair and by working with me as a death doula, they have been able to tell me that their life has changed. 

 I look into their eyes and assure them that they are the true hero – the one who took the devastating circumstance of events and have done the work and in turn have made it into their life purpose to see joy in every day. I'm proud to say that I walked beside these humans when they needed the support, encouragement and rituals that led them to experience expansiveness of living at the time of their dying.  For this I am truly grateful! 

 There are many options for end-of-life care including Hospice care or remaining in the place you call home. In Since 2016, Canadians have had the option of MAID (medical assistance in dying).  This is another avenue for self-advocacy that every human has the right to explore. If you wish to explore this topic, look at the Dying with Dignity web site  https://www.dyingwithdignity.ca for information about assisted dying and videos made by patients and families who have shared their experience.

 It is important for everyone to have discussed Advanced Care Directives. Setting these out ahead of time gives the dying person a sense of control over the medical interventions and comfort measures which may be put in place.   

Here is a very high-level overview of some questions to think about:

  • If your heart stopped – would you want CPR? 
  • If you could not breathe for yourself – would you like a tube to breathe for you?
  • If you could not eat – would you like to be fed through a tube?

 If you don’t want these interventions, would you consider any of them as an interim to allow you to potentially recover and get to a place where your quality of life is sustainable and acceptable on your terms?

 There is also a sense of empowerment that comes from knowing that you have control in planning your own funeral.  All of your needs and wishes can be respected by your executor.  

 There are many options surrounding death and dying.  Not everyone has to die in a hospital, hospital bed, or wearing a hospital gown and covered with hospital blankets.   

 The grieving process is such a unique and personal experience.  As a death doula I want you to know that you are heard, seen, understood, welcomed and held.   There is room for you in sacred space to unravel and feel supported.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve – there is just simply your way.  I use a variety of tools to facilitate your healing; some of which are not traditional and have you think outside the box.  

Samar Sidhu is a nurse with 15 years experience in palliative and hospice care. She recently qualified to be a Death Doula and practises in the Toronto area. She invites you to visit her website at www.thesacredspace.ca or follow her on Instagram @the_sacred.space.

Tagged in: Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa Published by: Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa Inc.

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