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An End-of-Life Doula…What is it and Why Not?

This is a newer, lesser known, but we’re going to blow this thing out of the water concept sweeping the nation. What is an end-of-life doula and what do they offer?

An end-of-life doula, aka death doula, is a vital guide and support person in the journey of those afflicted with life limiting illness.

A life limiting illness is a medical diagnosis or condition with a poor prognosis of less than six months to live, where there are no more medical options to offer for treatment or cure and for those who do not want to undergo further medical care for their condition.

End-of-life doulas help people tackle the hardest parts of end of life care, including getting affairs in order, finding closure, and making sure a person is able to live out their days, the way they want for the rest of their lives.

Most people fear being forgotten. End-of-life doula are curators of legacy work, finding fun and innovative ways to keep your memory alive. How do you want to be remembered?

Our job doesn’t stop there.

end-of-life doulas work together alongside a person’s medical team, hospice palliative care team, specialists and alternative medicine practitioners, as a supplementary support person to assist and aid in communication of your wants and needs.

In addition, an end-of-life doula guides and supports not only the person with a life limiting illness but also those who are called “family,” because an illness affects those involved in an ill person’s life.

One can say, end-of-life doulas are the party planners for the dying.

Think of how much goes into planning a wedding, a trip, or a major life event. Why should your dying be any different?

Let’s face it, we’re all going to die at some point. Yes, I can see this statement being morbid but it’s true. Not everyone can talk about death with ease and confidence. End-of-life doulas thrive in the eye of the storm. The hope is that by normalizing the dying process, this will allow a person to see their journey with clarity and insight.

Since working in the area of hospice care, the biggest misconception I hear is that when the word HOSPICE is spoken, oh the look of terror comes over the face, eyes widen, the mind races and the heart pounds. We’re not always welcomed with open arms and pleasant greetings. It is alright, there is no offense taken, end of life care workers are made of pretty tough stuff. We, in the dying business know what we bring to the table and it allows us the chance to enlighten those who fear the worst.

The hope, if we so dare, to shift the view of Hospice Palliative Care from “the service that kills people'' to “the service that understands a person as an individual, eases their suffering and supports them while they live”. By creating this mindshift in our community, and across the country, patients, families and medical staff will be more likely to utilize this service earlier, allowing for the path of end of life to be filled with more dignity, respect, fun, laughter and even joy.

Just for education's sake, I’d like to take a moment to review the beauty and the benefits of hospice palliative care (1):

  • Pain reduction and management

  • Comprehensive symptom management

  • Increased satisfaction with care and life

  • Allowing more time, to do and complete the things you want to do

  • Respect for your spiritual and religious beliefs

  • Encouraging social and cultural individuality

  • Ongoing support for your emotional wellbeing

If you get anything from this article, take away two points: hospice and dying do not have to be scary and you don’t have to go through dying alone. The people working in the End of Life field really do understand your hurt, pain, trials and tribulations, and are willing to listen and hear your concerns.

An end-of-life doula help gives your life back to you. Let’s bring the fun and joy back to your life. And when that flame begins to burn out, an end-of-life doula will be prepared with your plan to speak up for your wants and needs.

When your time comes, don’t you want to be the captain steering your own ship to paradise?!

Anyone interested in becoming death doula can register for HHA's death doula certificate program here. The next available training weekend is April 19-21, 2024.


Jessica Serre is an HHA death doula candidate. You can learn more about Jessica at or reach out to her by email at

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