“The word doula, Greek for ‘woman who serves,’ is usually associated with those who assist in childbirth. But increasingly, doulas are helping people with leaving the world as well,” explains this New York Times article. These death midwives can be women or men and provide a range of services from companionship to making arrangements. There are professional doulas with varying backgrounds (though there are programs, there are no federal or state accrediting agencies), as well as volunteers. During their visits, doulas might play cards, talk, watch TV together or just hold their hand.
The dying may have needs that their loved ones are too bereft to fulfill. For long drawn out deaths, a doula can step in for family and friends whose day-to-day lives can’t be put on hold indefinitely.
My husband’s death was not my first loss – grandparents and brother-in-laws had passed when I was younger – but it wasn’t until Robert’s passing five years ago that I became acquainted with the death industry. Then I had not heard of death doulas. Nor did I needed their services — Robert died only nineteen days after his shocking diagnosis. But it’s comforting to know that this type of caregiving exists.
The Beatles sang:
And when I touch you I feel happy inside
It’s such a feeling that my love
I can’t hide, I can’t hide, I can’t hide
What better way to depart this world?