Illustration by Benjavisa Ruangvaree

Start With the End in Mind

You’ve heard of having a doula, a person trained to give nonmedical assistance for giving birth—maybe you even used one yourself. Today, you can have a doula to support you and your family before, during and shortly after death. Yes, a death doula.

Boulder-based Conscious Dying Institute is training doulas across the country in support of the organization’s mission of “restoring death to its sacred place in the beauty, mystery and celebration of life.” Some are in the health-care field, others are hospice volunteers, massage therapists, yoga instructors, spiritual healers—the list goes on.

“Doulas who go through my training are taught to do this beautiful inquiry process,” said Tarron Estes, founder of the Conscious Dying Institute. “They ask questions: How can I support you to live fully in your remaining time? What do you want to happen before you die? What regrets do you have spiritually, and how can I support you in working through that?”

“I want people to understand they have more choices.”
—Tarron Estes, found of the Conscious Dying Institute

They create a rite of passage according to the dying person’s wishes.

“This is the last time in life the person has an opportunity to say ‘this is what I want,’” Estes said. “These are the people I want here, these are the prayers I want, this is the music I want.”

The doula uses those directives to create an atmosphere that allows the dying person—in the final days, hours and moments—the freedom to peacefully move back and forth between an awake state and inward focus as they move closer to death.

“I want people to understand they have more choices,” Estes said. “Medical care and treatment helps them live. When that time is over, we focus on supporting them in dying.”

To learn more about being an end-of-life doula or to find a doula for yourself or a family member, visit www.consciousdyinginstitute.com.

—Heather Shoning