The death doula provides support to family members and individuals who are nearing the end of their life. It’s difficult to be prepared for loss and the emotions that follow. 

Death doulas arrive in times of need to offer end-of-life care to individuals and their families. Death doulas are involved in the before, during, and after phases of loss.

Doulas are an end-of-life coach that guides individuals and families to prepare for death in a holistic way. Death doulas work to provide emotional support, spiritual support, and physical support leading to a remarkable loved one’s passing.

The Role of a Death Doula

Death doulas are also called death midwives, soul midwives, or end-of-life doulas. They assist throughout the dying process through the holistic support of family members after loss. They also help individuals execute their final wishes before passing. Doulas play a key role in the end-of-life process.

Doula services include physical, spiritual, and emotional help to patients and families.

Death doulas provide physical help by assisting with funeral planning and ensuring that affairs are in order. They may also help prepare an individual’s body for burial or for a viewing.

Doulas provide emotional support to families and individuals nearing their final moments. They help families process the complex emotions they experience before and after loss, and they spend time talking to patients about their fears surrounding death. These helpers provide comfort and a safe space for loved ones to voice their uncertainties related to death.

Doulas help patients to create end-of-life plans that can serve as a type of spiritual support. These end-of-life plans help individuals contemplate their beliefs about death and ponder the final affairs they want to settle before their souls can be at rest.

Ever since organizations such as the International End of Life Doula Association started offering a training program for doulas, the number of death doulas across the country has grown. It is becoming increasingly popular for families to hire an end-of-life doula to assist in medical support and holistic wellness.

How Doulas Help Before Loss

Doulas are typically hired by a family when they or a loved one know that they are nearing the end of life. The doula’s role before death is incredibly vital. They work to guide an individual through life’s final transition.

A death doula’s role is to provide non-medical support. They are not a replacement for a local hospice or for a caregiver. However, doulas play a significant role in the time before a person passes.

Reflect on Life

First, death doulas help patients to reflect on their life. The emotions surrounding death can be overwhelming, and doulas help individuals to understand their place in the world, see the impact they’ve made, and remember the valuable experiences they gained throughout their life.

Connect Families

Doulas also help patients and their families to engage in comforting and healing experiences together. Impending loss is never easy for families to talk about with each other. Death doulas help to guide families in honest and open conversation about loss and grief, helping families and their dying loved ones to have a sense of closure. 

These conversations help to prepare families for the painful emotions associated with loss and the grieving process.

Make Final Arrangements

Death doulas also help individuals who are nearing the end of their life to make final arrangements. Doulas may help individuals to write their will if they do not have one already. Doulas may also encourage their patients to create meaningful keepsakes for family members such as video messages or handwritten notes.

Death doulas also help patients to create an end-of-life plan. This typically refers to the ways in which a patient will prepare for death. Doulas help patients to process their thoughts and beliefs about death and the afterlife.

Doulas may also provide support by talking through unresolved disagreements or relationship hurts the patient may still be carrying. Doulas often will guide their patients in forgiving those who may have hurt or wronged them so they can be at peace.

Death doulas also help execute our dying loved one’s last wishes. They will discuss the type of memorial service they would like and that best represents their life. Doulas will play a large role in memorial service planning after an individual passes.

Provide Companionship

Doulas also provide companionship for individuals nearing the end of their life. They offer a listening ear and a safe space for patients to process their emotions as well as any fears they have. They provide emotional support for those processing the reality of death.

How Doulas Help After Loss

The role of a doula after loss shifts from a primary focus on the patient to a focus on the mental, emotional, and physical needs of the family members. Death doulas will often stay to help family members navigate the emotions associated with loss. Sometimes this can include things like creating a legacy project to remember a loved one.

Doulas will also provide assistance with funeral planning so that families can be fully present during the grieving process. Doulas may help family members to dress their loved one’s body for viewing or prepare their loved one for burial. Doulas may also help in planning and sorting out the logistics of the memorial or funeral service.

Doulas will typically also help family members to ensure their loved one’s affairs are in order. This may include closing accounts or settling estates. Doulas help to lighten the load that families shoulder after losing a loved one so they can focus on their healing journey.

Why It’s Important To Have a Doula

Not only do doulas help throughout the dying process, but they are also a part of the grieving process. Death doulas help offer paths of healing to families by including them in their loved one’s final wishes.

Talking about death can often feel difficult or uncomfortable for families. Doulas help foster an environment where these emotions can be discussed and processed together. Since doulas encourage open communication about death, families often feel that they are able to gain a sense of closure after loss.

Death doulas also advocate for individuals before and after their passing. They provide families with the peace of mind in knowing that their loved one’s wishes were honored and their loved one has a memorial or funeral that aligns with their hopes and desires. 

Doulas may stay with family members for as long as six weeks after a loved one passes, providing continuous emotional support as needed.

Doulas also offer companionship in a loved one’s final moments before death. This is an important part of a death doula’s role because family members who live far away may be unable to make it in time before their loved one’s passing. Death doulas make sure that their patients are not alone when they pass.

Death doulas also are there to make sure their patient is comfortable at all times. This could mean anything from massaging a patient who is in pain to adjust their position so they sit or lie down more comfortably.

Other Types of Doulas

The term ‘doula’ refers to a professional who provides mental, emotional, and physical support to their patients throughout life transitions.

Birth doulas provide support to women before, during, and after birth. Doulas provide moms-to-be with tips and advice for physical comfort during the birthing process and throughout the pregnancy. Birth doulas may also provide techniques such as massages to enhance comfort during pregnancy.

Before labor, doulas will often offer support for moms and their partners. Doulas create relationships with expecting mothers, giving them space to express fears and concerns about labor.

During labor, doulas are present to provide labor support. They provide pain-relieving techniques in order to create a seamless birth experience.

After labor, doulas may offer emotional support during the postpartum period. They may also guide new mothers in breastfeeding and bonding with their new babies.

How to Become a Death Doula

There are many reasons to become a death doula. Perhaps individuals are motivated by their own experiences with loss and want to help others to navigate its complexities. People who become death doulas value being with an individual during their final moments. They have come to see the importance of preparing for death.

There are various online training programs that can prepare you to be a death doula. There are no prerequisites for beginning a death doula training program. However, individuals should be aware of the physical and emotional demands that come along with a job such as a death doula.

You can consult local hospices for resources in becoming a death doula as well.

Are Doulas Certified?

Death doulas often become certified through training programs or certification opportunities. In these training programs, doulas are encouraged to volunteer at local hospices to gain experience with end-of-life care.

Doulas are also offered end-of-life training classes as well as training and exams to make them National End of Life Doula Alliance (NEDA) proficient. These exams evaluate communication and interpersonal skills, professionalism, technical knowledge, and values and ethics.

Other organizations that offer doula certifications are the International End of Life Doula Association, the International Doulagivers Institute, and the Lifespan Doula Association.

How Much Does It Cost?

The price of hiring a death doula will range depending on an individual’s needs and the doula’s certifications. Death doulas may choose to charge a flat fee or an hourly rate. Hourly rates for death doulas can range anywhere from $30 to $100 an hour. Doulas are not usually covered by any sort of healthcare.

Wrapping Up

Death doulas can be an important helper during a loss. Doulas provide families and dying persons with the holistic support they need. Doulas are acquainted with the pain associated with loss and seek to help families and patients in any way they can. 

A death doula's duties may look different from family to family. Still, they will always be there to meet families with companionship and love during these difficult times.


Five Things to Know About Death Doulas | Cremation Association of North America (CANA)

What is an End of Life Doula? | INELDA 

Why it's important to talk about death and dying | Queensland Health