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Here, you can learn everything you need to know about death doulas in the UK. From what death doulas actually do to whether an end-of-life doula could be right for you.

Opening up the conversation about dying and how to cope isn’t straightforward. So more people are exploring the support that’s available to them outside of their medical care, when faced with a terminal diagnosis. Here, we talk about the role of a death doula (also known as a n end-of-life doula or death midwife ), and how they can offer practical and emotional support to someone with a terminal illness.

What is a death doula?

A death doula, also known as an end-of-life doula, is a person who supports you as you approach the end of your life. This could be if you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness, if you’re very unwell from a chronic illness, or are not recovering from a serious injury or operation. Death doulas can also help your family and friends during this time.

It’s important to remember that a death doula is not a medical professional and does not replace medical care in any way. Instead, they’re there to support you emotionally , psychologically and with any practical tasks you might need assistance with.

Typically, a doula is associated with birth, and is there to support someone during pregnancy and childbirth. The term comes from the Greek  doulē ’,  meaning “female servant ”. But nowadays , there are end of life doulas too. And despite the original meaning, a doula can now be any gender.

Most people won’t have heard of a death doula before . But they’re slowly growing more popular and becoming more prominent in popular culture. For example, the death doula in Netflix’s Wellmania.

There’s also growing demand for pet doulas in the UK , like a dog death doula. These are professionals who support you and your pet as your pet approaches the end of their life or euthanasia.

What does a death doula do?

A death doula will adapt their support depending on the needs of the person they’re helping. For example, one person with a terminal illness might want more practical support like help with household chores so that their family has more time to spend with them. Another person might prefer someone to talk to and provide them with emotional support. Everyone has different needs , which a death doula will respond to.

Here are some things that an end-of-life doula might help you with :

  • Provide practical support such as preparing food, household chores, shopping, and running errands.
  • Provide emotional support, taking the time to sit with the person and talk to them to help them process what’s happening.
  • Take the time needed to talk about death with the person in a way that helps them cope or to simply be a companion.
  • Be a point of contact for other care providers, such as doctors, carers, and consultants and help co-ordinate any appointments.
  • Organise respite care so that family members caring for the person can take some time for themselves.
  • Advocate for the person and their final wishes – this could be making sure that their religious beliefs are respected or that their end- of- life care is carried out as requested. They can also help take care of legal paperwork like advance decisions and amending wills. and amending wills.
  • Be there to provide emotional support to close family members and friends before and after the person’s death.


Is there a religious aspect to end-of-life care from a death doula?

Death doulas will never push their own religious beliefs onto you or your family members. They’ll always be impartial and non-judgemental. They’ll respect your beliefs and help you carry out any religious customs you’d like. If you’re not a religious person, then they’ll respect that too. More specifically, an end-of-life doula can help with any rituals at the time of death to make sure that the right cultural traditions are carried out and you are treated with respect.

Can you only have a death doula if you’re at home?

No. An end-of-life doula can help you at home, in a hospice, or in a hospital. They’ll offer support wherever you need them.

How long do death doulas provide you with support?

A death doula will provide you with support as and when you request it. So, if you feel you and your family need more help as soon as you receive a medical diagnosis, you can request it then. Some people might ask for help from a death doula when they’re getting closer to the end of their life. It varies depending on your individual needs .

How much does a death doula cost?

This will depend on how much your end-of-life doula charges and how long you need their help. Some doulas will work on a voluntary basis. But most death doulas in the UK do charge fees . It’s worth doing some research to find death doulas near you. Then you can compare their experience, services and costs to find the right end of life doula for your individual circumstances.

Is an end-of-life doula right for you?

Choosing the support of an end-of-life doula is a very personal decision to make. And it may also depend on whether you feel a connection with the person. If you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness and you’d like more emotional or practical support, it could help you cope. Death doulas can provide your family with support and coping mechanisms too.

Again, it’s a good idea to have a chat with several end-of-life doulas first. This will help you figure out what your expectations are and what they can help you with. And it could help you figure out if it’s the right choice for you.

How to find a death doula

Making sure you find a death doula that knows what support you specifically need is important. And trust is a factor. Because this type of work isn’t regulated, it’s best to get advice from either your hospice or hospital to see if they have relationships with any experienced doulas.

Or you can contact the end of life doula association,  End of Life Doula UK . They have members who’ve gone through formal death doula training via  Living Well Dying Well  (LWDW) , so can recommend a reliable doula . These non-profit organisations can also help answer any other questions you might have.

Struggling to cope?

If you need to speak to someone  Cruse Bereavement Care  offer free counselling for those who are struggling to cope with loss and bereavement. You can call their helpline on  0808 808 1677.

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Photo by kaori aoshim on Unsplash.