May you find joy in 2023 – with all of the ebbs and flows we will face in the new year remember to find your still point and find your joy.
Do you prepare a Vision Board as you slide into a new year?
Or, do you prepare a Vision Board at different times of the year for different areas of you life?
Do you set goals for yourself?
Have you experienced synchronicity?
At the beginning of 2022 I hadn’t heard the term End of Life Doula or Death Doula but while at Kripalu Center assisting with a Level I Mindfulness Outdoor training, two of the other assistants and I were conversing about things we would like to accomplish. I shared about my experience at the local hospital providing Therapeutic Touch (TT) sessions to patients and some were ‘actively’ dying. Sometimes when arriving a nurse may ask if I would mind going to a certain room where a patient was ‘actively dying’ and would benefit from a TT session. It was such a pleasure to be there and hold space, provide a TT session, and just sit with those at the hospital who were either suffering from an illness or actively dying. Speaking of this feels a little morbid but someone needs to be there for support and guidance. I shared that I wanted to find a way to continue doing this with those dying, with terminal illness, and for their loved ones. Knowing this would have been helpful to me and how I felt Hospice was supportive but not really present during my mother’s last days I wanted to learn a way to be that support.
In my younger days when working as a Housekeeping staff I was so frightened to walk into a room and see someone in the process of dying that I quit. When my own father was dying in the VA Hospital I panicked on his last day. After saying good bye I didn’t return to the hospital until right after his last breath. When my mother died 26 years later, we sat by her side in a bedroom in her own home. We held her hand, played her favorite music, sang and read to her, and held space for her. The difference in experiences between my father and mother’s death was like night and day. Of course he was only 61 at the time and I was 26, which made this more challenging. But, truthfully when is watching a loved one die ever easy. There is always loss and grief.
What I wanted to learn is how to hold space, the signs the body is approaching death, how to be there for the family, for the person who is terminally ill facing their own death, to be present for the grieving. After sharing this, the two assistants sharing a dorm said why don’t you become a Death Doula.
A WHAT?? This was actually a thing?
Yes, a Death Doula or more appropriately an End-of-Life Doula. Not focusing on the ending but on the life in between. Those precious moments when the sunshines and the room fills with rainbows from the sun catcher in the window or the shadows display in beautiful shapes along the wall, the sound of birds singing, the warmth of the sun on the skin, the cool breeze, the green grass or white snow, the sound of children laughing, a hug from a loved one . . . It is in those special moments that we actually live.
After the Mindfulness Outdoor training was over and I returned home, I started looking up how to become an End of Life Doula. Added this to my vision board and pursued finding a way to learn more. It took a little time and research, there are no actual rules or regulations on practicing as a EOL Doula but there are some trainings available. I reached out to the University of Vermont in the fall but the training was full. I registered for the Spring training but asked if there was a cancellation to please add me to the fall session.
Synchronicity – meeting the right people at the right time to guide you, registering for a training and discovering someone backed out so there is an opening for you to attend in the fall. Then sadly, two weeks before my training started, as I am reading the required and suggested books, find out that my sister-in-law was given 4 weeks of life. I reached out and asked if she would like me to visit and share TT sessions. She was a Reiki Master so was thrilled that I was going to come. I met with her seven times over the four weeks. Reading my books and taking the first classes was helpful for this situation. It allowed me to know what to expect, to hold space, to see the stages her body was going through as the last day became closer, to sit with her children/grandchildren, to listen to her goals (even as death approaches you will have goals/dreams), to provide TT sessions, massage her hands and feet, add essential oils to her diffuser, and anything else she needed. After the TT session she would be relaxed and fall into a deep sleep. She died at home surrounded by her family. I was still in the middle of my training and had wished to have known more but felt that she received what was needed at the time. Her family members were there and all provided her with the support needed in her final days. She was at peace and not afraid at the time of her death.
This is what I hope to share with others in the future. I reached my goal in 2022, without knowing at the beginning of the year this was even a real practice to share with others. I now hold an End-of-Life Doula certificate from The University of Vermont. Although there are no rules or regulations at this time, we know what is expected of us and are ready to hold space and provide comfort for the dying and their families who face loss and grief.
For 2023, one goal is to become certified as a Therapeutic Touch practitioner. Although practicing since 2014 under the guidance of my mentor, Sue Conlin, I still need to complete the application to be certified – for the second time. All of the hours plus have been completed, the research completed, the trainings completed, and yet I haven’t sent in the request for certification. Hoping Sue and the other practitioners will hold me accountable this year. I also plan to find a way to incorporate the End-of-Life Doula practice with Mindfulness Outdoor Experience and TT. This is a work in progress and one I look forward to sharing in the near future.
Feeling grateful for the synchronicity that led me to the path of this certificate – to Donna, Stephanie, the woman who backed out of the training, and The University of Vermont educators. Always holding a place for Norma in my heart – grateful to her for allowing me to practice being an End-of- Life Doula and being there to support her in her last days. May she rest in peace.