Welcome back! Last week, we talked about reruns and why people like to watch them. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.
Authors note: As a free service to the public, the Northwest Osteopathic Medical Foundation will be holding a zoom meeting to go over “Advanced Planning” with anyone who is interested. We often think to buy funeral plots or purchase Life Insurance to make our death easier on our loved ones, but do you have a list readily available to them of your passwords? Do you have an extra key to your Post Office Box or home, labeled and in the possession of your next of kin? How about your pets? Do you have a detailed list of who should take care of them after your death? It’s tips like these that we will be sharing with anyone who wants to participate. The more you can do ahead of time for your family (who will be grieving your loss), the easier it will be on them when this time comes.
If you are interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for a password to get into the meeting. The date for this event has yet to be announced and will be determined by the number of participants.
This week, it was my honor to witness a precious soul transition. In my off time, I volunteer as a “Death Doula” or an “End of Life Doula“.
This sacred event got me to thinking…remember that Dr. Seuss book, “Oh the places you will go“? Have you ever stopped to contemplate the fact that you are in many, many stories during your time on earth?
People you’ve spent time with right now are saying things like, “oh, I remember when we rafted down the river“, or “I remember when they put on that silly hat in the store and pranced around…I laughed so hard“?
Like a patchwork quilt, the role you’ve played in the story of everyone’s different lives will live on, long after you’ve left this earth. Your one little square in the quilt of their journey joins other little squares to make up a lifetime of experiences.
From the time a family is told their loved one is going on hospice, the stories of their time spent together start spilling forward. Journaling, letter writing, and scrapbooking are activities that Doulas encourage families to partake in during this time. Not everyone who comes to the bedside to say goodbye will feel comfortable, but if you can hand them a photo album to look through, it takes a little bit of that “small talk” pressure off.
Doulas can hold space for the person who is dying, and give much-needed support to their loved ones as they scramble for childcare, dog walkers, and the like. Sitting with their loved one as the family goes home to rest is of great comfort because it’s really hard to leave that person “alone” at the end of their life, yet sleep is indeed a human necessity.
Cooking meals, cleaning the house, and supporting someone who prefers to die at home is another service an End of Life Doula can offer, giving them the opportunity to use what strength they do have to be with their friends, pets, and family.
Once a Doula takes on a client, the family and extended family also become “clients“. Giving people a listening ear to vent, without fear of what they say being repeated to others, can be of great help when they are trying to hold it together for the sake of the greater good, but feel like their world is falling apart.
Doulas can be the go-between, calling churches to ask questions on behalf of the family or client, contact funeral homes to “price check” if there are concerns around final resting arrangements, and speak with other professionals (caregivers, directors, hospice, hospital employees, insurance companies) providing more time for focusing on sacred interactions with their loved ones.
During the final hours of the clients’ time on earth, Doulas can bring food and drinks in for loved ones, offer prayer or meditations as requested, and answer any end of life questions such as “why is she breathing like that“? While hospice is a much-needed service during this time, their staff is spread thin. Doulas help to close that gap between hospice and clients. Hospice cannot do all the things a Doula does, because they simply don’t have the hours available.
Helping a loved one to feel comfortable enough to do something they want to do, like crawl into the hospital bed with their parent or child, washing the body of the decedent and dressing them for their final ride, clipping locks of hair to keep and treasure, taking a picture of just their hand clasped tightly with yours, or talking to their loved one as if they were still able to hear them after they’ve passed, is something Doulas can help with.
A Doula never directs, only supports. We take the lead from the people we are serving. It’s a very special honor, to come into a family’s life when they are having to face their loved ones (or their own) mortality.
It is a calling, to be sure, and not for everyone, but for those meant for this line of work/volunteer commitment, it is very, very fulfilling.
This week, maybe consider the role you play in other people’s lives. Even that stranger you pass in the store or interact with on social media gets to put your square into their quilt. What an honor to affect so many lives during the time we get to spend together!
I wish you all a colorful quilt, filled with many wonderful stories!
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