My First Doula Experience


by David Herrick, End of Life Doula, Conscious Dying Educator

I have always felt that I am a healer and have searched for the modality that I aligned with, including multiple energy work disciplines. In my twenties I worked for over five years as an in-home care provider for the disabled. Providing physical care, housekeeping, laundry, shopping, driving, cooking, etc. These were great but did not feel like my path.  After receiving multiple emails from the Conscious Dying Institute about the End of Life Doula program, it occurred to me that this could well be what I was looking for. So I jumped in, completing the certification that allowed me to serve my first client as a Sacred Passage Doula. I was terrified. Even though I knew I had received great training and because of prior experience, I knew I could handle the physical care. Although they had expressed nothing but confidence I me, could I live up to the standards of the people that trained me?

His name was Will. At least it was then, I don’t know what name is preferred now. He was blessed to be at home. One of his adult sons had moved in with him to allow him to be at home when it was clear that the cancer was not going to submit. I became involved because the ex-wife was concerned her son was drowning trying to provide all the care by himself. And he was, and I was allowed to enter their world.

As trained I grounded, had my Doula kit, etc. I should have been even more focused on Beginners mind than I was.

I am not by any means Felix Unger (sorry showing my age) but the home was in what appeared to be total disarray.  Boxes, tables, bird cage, chairs, Hospital bed, dog, all in the living room. Barely room to walk. OK suspend my desire to clean!!. Initially Will was asleep. So, talk with the son. What are the needs, what is going on, this is what I can do here, how would you like to move forward? He was so relieved. He had not given himself any space and after 20 minutes or so asked if He could go out. I said I remained happily committed to the time frame we had discussed and off he went. In later visits I came to understand the son was going thru all of his father’s belongings with Will and revisiting his life.

Will woke up and some point before that and was pleased to have a visitor his son explained who I was and introduced us and he seemed pleased to have me there. The only awkward bit was that on that particular visit Will spoke only in numbers. His son told me what he thought the numbers meant, so I went with the flow and we chatted for quite some time by ourselves. I am still not entirely sure about the conversation, but it must have been ok as on my next visit Will clearly remembered me and was surprised and pleased that I returned as promised to be with him again.

My first visit also had positive bonuses for the son I did not anticipate. He was then comfortable enough that others could and would care about the situation and his father that he engaged other support services to help him with his father.

Having done health care in the distant past I was not concerned about being in that space with clients. It was surprising despite the training just how fragile his body was. He was already taking in almost nothing but fluids and was in a diaper. Some days it was a challenge to keep the diaper and any sort of bedding on him as if he was awake then his hands were busy picking at the diaper following the edge of the blanket around and around.

It was hard not to cry seeing the joy on his face every time I returned. He did not always remember my name or why I was there but was so happy I returned to spend time with him. On good days we looked thru old photos. Some days I just held his hand in silence or just held space for him. When he was still speaking he often asked his son why he was not dead yet, would It not be better if he was?

The timing of his passing did not coincide with my sitting vigil, but his son was with him and kindly called me to let me know.

With gratitude recognize David Herrick, who completed his Conscious Dying Educator Certificate in Nov 2017.