End of Life Doulas aren’t in competition with medical or other support professionals, nor do they compete with each other. The Doula approach is to provide care and support in a collaborative manner to ensure that they meet or exceed the client’s wishes.
Many British Columbians now understand the role Birth Doulas can play in a pregnancy — working in tandem with doctors, family members and other professionals before, during and after a birth to advocate for their client. End of Life Doulas work in a similar way — their services work alongside the valuable contributions of medical teams, palliative and hospice care, funeral homes and other professionals to advocate for their clients. Doulas don’t replace other professionals, but complement their services.
“We work in harmony with other aspects of death care. We fill in the practical and emotional gaps to really help people prepare without fear or judgement,” says Fiona Holoboff from Timeworks Doula Care in Qualicum Beach.
Like a wedding planner helps romantic couples coordinate with a wide range of vendors, an End of Life Doula can accompany clients to medical appointments, help access forms and fill out paperwork, suggest resources and advocate on your behalf. And just as no two wedding ceremonies are the same, the memorial or celebration for a loved one doesn’t have to follow a specific formula.
“There’s just so many ways to honour and keep your loved one with you. There are endless possibilities, and they really help the grieving process,” Holoboff says.
End of Life Doulas like Holoboff can suggest creative ways for the client and their family to create a legacy and ceremony.
“There are artists who create beautiful pendants and memorial jewelry to hold cremated remains or a lock of hair. I want my cremated remains put in fireworks.”
Artists can have their ashes put into paints or clay; the options for sports minded people are very clever as well. There are a lot of creative and talented people out there who understand the importance of honouring one’s life. Spreading ashes doesn’t have to be a sombre meeting where we open the hurt again.
“I encourage families to explore ways to honour their person in a completely fitting and appropriate way, even if it feels beyond ‘tradition.’ It doesn’t need to be a gigantic gesture or production, it’s only important that it is meaningful. For some, simplicity is the way to achieve that meaning.”
‘I want people do learn how to die better’
Like many in her profession, Holoboff became an End of Life Doula after having significant personal experiences with death and dying. She wants to change the way people think about death, and encourage our society to have more open conversations.
“Death happens to all of us!” she says. “I want people to learn how to die better. And a natural byproduct of learning how to die better is that you end up living your life better, too.”
Her company, Timeworks Doula Care, offers a wide range of services including advanced care planning, advocacy and companioning, life review and legacy projects. She does not offer medical or financial advice. She’s also developing seminars to help start the conversation here in Qualicum Beach.
“I’d love to educate employers on how to support their employees when they’re anticipating the death of a loved one. I’d love to see programs in schools when a child loses a pet — the class can learn ceremony, ritual and how to support a friend, in their own little way.”