End of life doulas and caregiving

End of life doulas and caregiving

As an end of life doula, I learned that it’s up to us, as the loved ones and caregivers, to make the final months, weeks, days, moments as comfortable and loving as possible.” 

Normalizing death

When my sister died of cancer in 2017, it was sudden and devastating. She died three weeks after being told the cancer had spread throughout her body. Our family was unprepared for what needed to be done to support her and ourselves during this process. 

She wanted her final time to be at home, in the comfort of her room. She needed 24 hour support and our family took shifts as her caregiver.  Those three weeks were unlike anything else I had ever experienced in my life.  We all tried our best to create an environment that was loving and supportive. Yet, I felt numb, overwhelmed and in disbelief throughout the process. 

I tried keeping my head up and being positive, while in the other room, each passing day, my sister changed as her body prepared for death. There were difficult decisions to be made, tons of paperwork to be done and people to come visit to say their final goodbyes.

After she passed away, I would drive my car around the neighborhood, play my music loud and cry. One time, I pulled over to the side of the road and wondered why had this happened? How could anything good come from her death?

And then I realized she had taught me the biggest lesson there is in life, she had shown me how to die.

I had never seen the process of death or experienced grief on that level. I had no idea what to do in terms of family support, grieving, paperwork, or arrangements.

Fortunately, there were very kind people in hospice that guided me through the basics. I did the best I could, even though I was absolutely devastated, as was our entire family.

When Covid hit in 2020, I asked myself “what is it that I really want to do with my life”? I’ve always loved psychology and therapy, and found my way into an online life coaching certification program with Jay Shetty

Through that program I met an end-of-life Doula. I did not know they even existed.

The more I learned about doulas, the more I felt a calling. 

Death Doulas support loved ones and families in the end of life process, much like a midwife or doula with the birthing process. It is “a new non-medical profession” that recognizes death as a natural, accepted, and honored part of life. One might say that death midwifery is to palliative care as birth midwifery is to obstetrics.

I never wanted to experience the helplessness that I felt with my sister in her final days of her life, again. As an end of life doula, I learned that it’s up to us, as the loved ones and caregivers, to make the final months, weeks, days, moments as comfortable and loving as possible. Educate yourself, ask questions and become aware of the amazing resources available to caregivers.

When my mom’s health was declining, I wanted to make sure I could support and take care of her through those final days and also take care of myself and my loved ones. During her final days we brought her home and began to create an environment that she could find comfort and peace in.

My mom was a beautiful, outgoing woman who loved music. She was a huge fan of The Band. We kept her TV on and played her favorites, The Last Waltz, CNN and Ram Dass. Caregiving took on a new meaning for me. I had taken the steps to learn more about end of life care, and I am so glad I did.

With my mom, I could participate as a caregiver who was present and emotionally available for her. This was again, a team effort.  Family visited to say their good-byes, play music, laugh and cry. 

When my mom was taking her final breaths, I phoned both of my daughters so they could tell her goodbye.  I held her in my arms and told her how much I loved her and then she transitioned into the next realm.

While the experience was still overwhelming and sad, I felt great peace and gratitude knowing that I had been able to participate and be present throughout the process. There was peace.

Death Doulas can help create positive, empowering end of life plans.

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End of life planning, education and knowledge brings a sense of comfort and relief. Knowing how you and/or your loved ones want to be cared for at that time is important to decide while you’re healthy and in a proper state of mind. Please go to www.darcyfeinstein.com to learn more about end of life doula support and/or life coaching, and book a complementary discovery session.

In person or virtually, we provide spiritual care, psychological and social support, and suggest ideas for optimal physical comfort. 

“There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.” ― Rosalyn Carter

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