“Doula” sounded to me like a Spanish word. It is actually Greek in origin and refers to a woman who helps another in childbirth: a midwife.
In this case, it is someone who befriends a dying person, helping make the last days meaningful.
In June of 2020, I completed a 33 hour course of training for end of life doulas.
We learned about the signs and symptoms of the last weeks, days, and hours. Mostly we worked on helping people figure out ways to sum up their lives, make a legacy project to leave an artifact to which loved ones can anchor their memories, work on a vigil plan to fully take in the profound moments, and ease folks into the work of grieving.
A story that sticks with me is of a lady whose life motto was “gratitude.” She asked that people coming to visit her sit on the chair outside the door to her room, remove their shoes, and spend a few moments thinking of times they had spent together, and for which they were grateful.
Once inside they were asked to speak only of such memories, avoiding the news of the day. Think of times you might sit bedside and wonder what to say. There were 4 x 6 cards and colored pens for people to write their memories and stories and grateful thoughts.
She asked that when she died her bed be moved out from the wall so people could circle her bed. The basket of cards was passed around and people could take a card, read it, and put the card on the lady, or they could tell a story, or read a poem, or sing a song.
Only after people felt complete was the funeral home called.
I am not sure I want to sit bedside. (A friend has told me I would be good at it.) But this course will give me a fresh depth of understanding I want to bring to my clients.
The course was through INELDA, and is described at https://www.inelda.org/.