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Community-Driven End-of-Life Specialists are Surging in Number, Changing U.S. Attitudes with Death

There are special caregivers in society who feel that their place in the world is at the bedside of a dying person, helping to comfort and calm them and their family during a difficult time.

Behind the ‘cafes of death’ and the green funeral sector, These ‘doulas of death’ are there to help with the challenging end-of-life moments, because planning and researching is often the last thing people can think of doing at a time like this, and having someone just be Presenting with a calming perspective, or offering knowledge and information, can be a great relief.

“Being a doula and a donor is a reflection of what we do,” explains Suzanne O’Brien, founder of International Institute of Doulagivers. “We are holistic non-medical professionals.”

Having trained more than 100,000 people as doulagivers, he explains how the job “calls people forward.”

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“They [doulagivers] have a comfort level with those who are at the end of life, ”says O’Brien. “It is a relatively new movement, but it has really gained momentum in recent years.”

Suzanne O’Brien; Instagram / @ suzanneobrien

From the dead restaurant to the death doula

Newly qualified death doula Lindsay Laubenstein worked as a manager at a nonprofit restaurant in Cincinnati, training people with traditionally high employment barriers to land jobs in the hospitality industry.

“The restaurant industry is basically foolproof, or at least we thought it was,” Laubenstein told me, but his workplace was ultimately affected by the pandemic.

“One morning, after all the closings, I said, ‘I’m going to look [death doula work] Upstairs, I’m going to see what’s going on, ‘”he said.

Laubenstein, who also described it as a “calling”, recently finished his level 1 training.

“I said, ‘This is it, this is what I have to do,’” he told me. “I have always felt called to death work, I have always felt called to transitions in life.”

Tools of the Trade

How does a doulagiver do his job? It’s up to the individual doula and the client before that relationship begins, Laubenstein says. O’Brien concludes that the most important aspect is being present, adding that while modern life tends to make us live in the past and the future, on our phones and in the digital space in general, there is nothing more present to see. someone disappear. in the space of several hours.

“There are groups [like] the Threshold Choir, where people come in and sing at the bedside for the dying, ”says Laubenstein. “Technically I could bring that in if someone wants me to sing to them, that’s something I could do.”

He is a special type of person who is comfortable spending hours voluntarily with a person in their last moments of life and then singing to them.

“Is death a medical experience? He’s not: he’s human, and only in the last 100 years have we gotten so far from death being a natural part of the life cycle, ”O’Brien chimed in to remind me.

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“It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done and the most rewarding job I’ve ever done,” he told me.

O’Brien would go on to explain that she and her institution, and the practice of death doulas as a general rule, tries to avoid running hospitals or the American health insurance market altogether.

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Instead, they prefer to build and provide resources for community-level doulas programs, and leverage individual doulas’ skills as private contractors, rather than leasing their services to be included in a health insurance policy, as it would generally exclude to low-income families, who O Brien feels are equally deserving of an enjoyable end-of-life experience.

“We have trained in Thailand, Zimbabwe… We had people from Japan, Singapore and Australia. People stay up until the middle of the night to have this webinar, ”he says, referring to his online training programs.

O’Brien sees this as a paradigm shift.

“Dying is very expensive, but we have literally eliminated what is most effective [from end-of-life care]. Your body knows what to do … and we forget that the end of life doesn’t have to be an embalming, a $ 20,000 ring-a-ma-rang. “

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