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  • Writer's pictureDawn

Never Too Late To Learn

Earlier this year I read an article in the New York Times about End-of-Life/Death Doulas. I read through the article and the idea of being with someone at the end of their life intrigued me. I have experienced being in the room during last breath twice. Both times I felt a sense of calm and peace. They were sacred and very intimate moments. When I read the article, I felt a sense of purpose come over me. The question wasn’t “Should I try this?”, it was “Where do I sign up?”

So, back in the summer I signed up for End-of-Life Doula training from University of Vermont. I had no idea what the course involved nor what I would do with such knowledge, but I HAD to do it.

The course started two weeks ago and has been a real eye-opener so far. It is challenging, to say the least. Not only intellectually but emotionally. Part of the training is making sure we re-examine our own thoughts, processes and behaviors around death and the dying. It is pushing us to look at the journey of dying from our perspective, from the client perspective and from our role as a doula.

Each week, on Wednesday, a new module is posted. There are things to read, videos to watch, power points covering topics and more. The most important part of the course is the discussion area where we have to post specific thoughts and ideas on a variety of topics and also spend time reading others’ posts and responding in a positive and encouraging way as if we were already a doula. There are at least twenty people in the class from all over the U.S. That means we have a lot of reading outside of the ones presented in the coursework.

I was recently talking with a new friend and told him, “This class is challenging my heart. It is making me look at and examine and re-examine the deaths I have observed in my own life. It is not a bad thing to be challenged. It is good to be challenged because it forces us to learn and to grow.”

There are some days I am emotionally drained from the work done that day. I am learning to be kind to myself, to allow myself the grace to sit with my feelings. To just “be”. This is no easy task. There are feeling surfacing that I thought I had dealt with, there are new feelings that I have not felt before. I have had moments when I did not want to open my laptop and look at what I needed to do because I was tired and I wanted to avoid feeling anything. It can be overwhelming.

Yet, driven to stay the course. I feel as though everything in my life has led me to this place. Every joy and every sorrow. Every life and, most importantly, every death. If I can be a part of another person’s journey and allow them to see the beauty in living until we die, and dying peacefully in the presence of loved ones, I will be honored and blessed.

I am not sure how I will be able to tie in my role as a doula in real life. It is not recognized by hospice – and hospice is regulated by Medicare. It can certainly add a different layer of care in my work as a volunteer for hospice. Most certified doula’s set up their own businesses. It remains to be seen what I will choose to do.

I never saw myself here, in this place, in this moment, taking an intensive on-line course. I turn sixty-five in just a week! Challenging oneself to learn is good on so many levels. It keeps the brain fired up and working. It emits good endorphins. Mind, body and soul connection which we need in order to thrive in our “golden years”.

Bring on 65! Onward I go!

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1 Comment

Alan Russell
Alan Russell
Nov 12, 2021

Dawn, your experience in this area has prepared you well for it. I have always admired your compassion and this will be yet another way to have a positive impact on others. In a similar fashion, my participation in various Alzheimer's studies is as a result of my experiences. Earlier this year, my family doctor, whom I've kept up-to-date on these studies, informed me that because of my testimony she has signed up to participate in a medical study for an auto-immune disease of the skin which she suffers from. I thought that the doctors were supposed to influence us, not the other way around. One never knows what influence one will have. Go for it!

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