The Evolution of the End of Life Doula Movement

 2018 Inaugural NHPCO End-of-Life Doula Council Meeting, April 25, Washington, DC (l-r) Merilynne Rush (LifeSpan Doulas), Jeff Markle (proxy for Tarron Estes, Conscious Dying Institute), Lee Webster (National Home Funeral Alliance), Suzanne O'Brien (DoulaGivers), Trudy Brown (Teaching Transitions), Chair Deanna Cochran (Quality of Life Care), Patty Burgess (Teaching Transitions and Doing Death Differently), Beth Fells (NHPCO Executive Office Director), John Mastrojohn (NHPCO Chief Operating Officer), and Vice Chair Henry Fersko-Weiss (International End-of-Life Doula Association)

2018 Inaugural NHPCO End-of-Life Doula Council Meeting, April 25, Washington, DC (l-r) Merilynne Rush (LifeSpan Doulas), Jeff Markle (proxy for Tarron Estes, Conscious Dying Institute), Lee Webster (National Home Funeral Alliance), Suzanne O'Brien (DoulaGivers), Trudy Brown (Teaching Transitions), Chair Deanna Cochran (Quality of Life Care), Patty Burgess (Teaching Transitions and Doing Death Differently), Beth Fells (NHPCO Executive Office Director), John Mastrojohn (NHPCO Chief Operating Officer), and Vice Chair Henry Fersko-Weiss (International End-of-Life Doula Association)

By Jeffrey Markel

There is a movement to add End of Life Doulas into the everyday discussion of end of life care.

 Sacred Passage End of Life Doula Certificate training in Vancouver, BC

Sacred Passage End of Life Doula Certificate training in Vancouver, BC

Movements are by definition a collective effort by groups of people trying to achieve something. They can be time consuming because it takes time to redefine a norm and it takes coordination of individuals and groups towards a common goal. To be at the beginning of a movement requires an understanding and a belief in the worthiness of the destination, a willingness to work towards it and the knowledge that the goal may be achieved after you have done your part.

Examples of socially conscious movements of the last few years that have relevance are as follows:

Midwifery has had an up and down history in the U.S. In the year 1900 approximately 50% of all births were attended by midwives. In the early 1960’s there were only about 70 midwives in the U.S. Today 8.3% of all U.S. births are attended by midwives. That 8.3% constitutes more than 332,000 births as reported by the American College of Nurse Midwives.

Organic Food was started in the 1940’s as non-chemical food. The growth was significant in the 1970’s as environmental concerns and other philosophical stands of the 60’s generation took hold. Prices were considerably higher than conventionally grown food and the general public believed their food was safe.  Today organic food sales are about 5% of the U.S. total and represent 43 billion dollars as reported by the Organic Trade Association.

 Death Doulas in training at the Conscious Dying Institute

Death Doulas in training at the Conscious Dying Institute

Movements take time and they take perseverance.  But one they have in common is the courage of an individual or group of individuals to take the leap of faith.  They leap because they think it is important and can offer a choice for a healthier society.

The End of Life Doula movement may be in its earlier stages but it is a worthwhile cause. By definition End of Life Doulas provide non-medical, holistic support and comfort to the dying person and their family. Death has always been a difficult subject for many.  It is a time of loss. But it is also a time of appreciation, a time of retrospection and the opportunity to share intimately with loved ones. End of Life Doulas are trained to be an integral part of the end of life process and provide essential non-medical support to a dying person and their family. Services vary based on the Doula's experience and background that they bring to their training, and may include education and guidance, as well as compassionate care support in the emotional, spiritual, mental and practical life domains.

Two major steps forward have recently occurred and speak volumes for the potential of the End of Life Doula movement. First, in late 2017 a group of wise and dedicated individuals formed The National End-of-Life Doula Alliance (NEDA), a membership organization that welcomes all trainers and practitioners regardless of background or level of experience to aspire to the highest standards for practicing as end-of-life doula professionals. Secondly on April 25, 2018, the same group of individuals took a giant step to propel the End of Life Doula movement to another level.  The inaugural meeting of a special council within The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), the leading hospice and palliative care membership organization in the US, was held. The purpose of the special Council is to provide information and resources to its members, affiliated organizations, and the public regarding the role of end-of-life doulas.

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Who steps forward to propel a movement forward?  Individuals who believe in the cause and see it as their life’s work and purpose. Individuals who see an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others as well as their own. It’s risky because it requires change and pushing against the status quo.  The same status quo that says that babies should be born in hospitals with doctors present. The status quo says vegetables and milk are safe and cannot be improved. The status quo holds death to a medical procedure handled best by medical professionals. The status quo says don’t pay more (or less) for services than already exist. We have choices, and the most important choice would be to educate ourselves.

The Conscious Dying Institute under the leadership of Founder Tarron Estes is proud to be taking a leading role in changing the status quo around dying. She has stepped forward as a founding member of NEDA and the special Council of the NHPCO. Her leadership is a valuable asset in both these groups as well as training certified End of Life Doulas.

If you are willing to join with her to make a difference in how we choose to live our lives and how we choose to die, consider going to the following websites.

 Tarron Estes, Founder | Conscious Dying Institute

Tarron Estes, Founder | Conscious Dying Institute

The Conscious Dying Institute is a transformational Learning Consultancy focused on creating a culture of care and healing for the end of life, regardless of diagnosis in all home or health care settings. The End of Life Doula certificate provides comprehensive academic and experiential training modalities which include two on-site intensives enveloping a twelve-week virtual practical training. We educate and prepare Doulas through their own inner awakenings and innate healing gifts to give compassionate care before, during and after death. Community members, health care professionals, healing arts facilitators, family members and others train with us for this professional and personal exploration of the dying process. Our ideology illuminates the path to become an authentic caring presence, restore true purpose and power as healing agents, increase precious quality moments of life, spiritual sanctity, beauty, interconnectedness and appreciation of life for everyone.