Becoming an End of Life Doula: Born in Grief

Becoming and End of Life Doula

The Seeker’s Path: Born in Grief


I was born in grief.

Even in my mother’s womb, the aura of grief surrounded me.  Less than six weeks before I was born, my aunt passed away from cancer.  She was only 31 years old and left behind a grieving husband, 3 young children, her parents, and 3 siblings. I was named after her. I was born into a world of tragic loss and equal celebration of life. You see, my birth gave hope to my family. 

My grandparents lived with us and my young cousins moved in for a little while as well.  As a child I was always a sensitive soul.  Too sensitive sometimes, always picking up on others emotions and sensing when something was off. Imagine being an infant or a small child and not knowing whose emotions you were experiencing: yours or another’s. Living the duality of celebration and sorrow with no frame of reference. For me it wasn’t “good” or “bad”, it’s simply what I grew up with and helped prepare me for my life’s journey. 

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Grief in Early Childhood

Maybe it’s because I was the youngest, and maybe it was because my birth brought hope to my family, but I had a very special connection with my grandmother. Everything she touched was like magic and she spoiled me rotten. She’d lived a hard life: her mother passed away at a young age leaving her to raise 5 siblings with an alcoholic father; and buried 2 of her 4 children. Still, she was full of love and did her best to find joy and live life to the fullest before she passed away in 1978.  I was only 9 years old. Memories from the night she died come in flashes: running downstairs after hearing the commotion; the panic level of the adults, them realizing I was witnessing it all; the ambulance taking her away; the priest sitting in our living room. Faith and culture with the traditional open-casket wake and funeral dictated the next several days. Again, with sadness as well celebration that she was in Heaven. It should have been enough for me, I think everyone likes to believe that it is. But Heaven is an obscure place to a 9 year old and I remember thinking that I could go visit her.  And it’s difficult for someone so young to wrap their head around the fact that their favorite person is never coming back. I know my parents tried to explain it to me as best they could while dealing with their own grief. But as the saying goes “they didn’t know what they didn’t know”. And I needed to “know” at my own 9 year old level of curiosity. I still had so many questions about Death beyond what our faith and culture taught.

I have always been a Seeker. 

Looking for a connection to something both greater than and within myself. My journey has been a diverse road of many paths and many different directions.  Sometimes retracing my steps like a spiral, coming back to things I thought I understood only to see the deeper truths. 

Nearly ten years ago, I took my first tentative, brave step forward into the world of holistic education and spiritual growth.  I’ve had many “aha” moments along the way: the first time I placed my hands on someone while doing Reiki, again in massage school, when I've gathered with women in Circles, when I led my first group meditation. However my most profound experience came while immersed in Hospice volunteer training. I had this deep knowing that I was being called to do this work on a deeper level. 

I began researching organizations that provide End of Life Doula Training, knowing I would need the absolute right fit. There are many out there. I found Conscious Dying Institute’s hands-on training and philosophy to be the exact program I was seeking. This program spoke to my heart and spoke my language.  Many years ago, I learned the hard lesson of “ask for what you need”.  So I took a deep breath, submitted my application along with a scholarship request and hit ‘send”. An in-depth phone interview and several follow up conversations later, I was given the life-changing news that I was accepted on a partial scholarship, payment and work-study program. 

I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to become an End of Life Doula and combine all of my gifts in the Healing Arts to work with those who are at the end of their lives, as well as support their families and caregivers. Empower them to live life to the fullest with the remaining time they have left. To leave everyone that I work with feeling balanced, whole and at peace within themselves.  Help them to leave this life with dignity; having as beautiful of a death as possible.

The fact is this: I am a Seeker and I have always been called to do this Work.  My soul-work, as well as my human life-purpose, is dedicated to helping people discover their own sense of peace and inner wisdom.  Body, mind, and soul; regardless of where they are on their own journey. 

View All Our Upcoming Sacred Passage End of Life Doula and Conscious Dying Coach Programs

This blog post was a gracious contribution made by a Sacred Passage End of Life Doula Graduate, Antoinette Leal.

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Antoinette’s journey has been a long diverse road...many paths, so many different directions.  Sometimes retracing her steps like a spiral, coming back to things she thought she understood only to see the deeper truths. 

The fact is: this deep soul, earth mama, moonchild has always been called to do this Work.  Her soul-work, as well as her human life-purpose is dedicated to helping people discover their own sense of peace and inner wisdom.  Body, mind, and soul. Learn more about Antoinette.

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