A different kind of doula helps you through death
WINNIPEG -- People are waiting in Winnipeg to be apart of the next group of students to be trained in the ways of an end-of-life doula.
“Like a birth doula, you let them know what to expect as they are delivering — we let people know what to expect in their dying,” said instructor Denise Seguin Horth. She recently ran the five-day course in Winnipeg back in January.
The word doula itself originates from the Greek language meaning servant or helper.
The End of Life Doula Association of Canada defines an end-of-life doula as: 'someone who supports a person faced with an illness or terminal diagnosis or someone who wants to have plans in place for the unexpected.'
Seguin Horth told CTV News that an end-of-life doula isn’t meant to replace the care received from medical teams, psychologists or spiritual leaders, but to be a third-person who meets clients where they are at.
“A lot of people who are dying already feel like they are a burden to their family so they’re not always open about real emotions that they are feeling, they’re like, ‘I don’t want to add one more thing to my family,’” she said.
The end-of-life doula course educates students in the death and dying process so they can work in the community and advocate for clients as well as help them and their families understand what to expect so they can make plans.
“We are so in a society that has death denial,” said Seguin Horth. “We don’t talk about it, sort of like mental health or suicide. But it seems to be that once you open the doors about talking about dying people are just like, ‘ahhhhh,’ it’s like that secret that we didn’t realize we were keeping.”
CTV News attended a morning session of Seguin Horth’s class where a few participants said they already work with people near death or with grieving families and wanted to learn more about helping people prepare for their final transition earlier in the process.
“Often what I see in my work is the deep regret, the things that are left unsaid or undone that could, with just a little bit of open communication, bring so much peace, love, and healing to those prior to that transition,” said student Michelle Stokotelny.
“You don’t have to be at the end of your life or actively dying to prepare the end of life,” added her peer, Susana Harder. “As we get close to the end of life there are not only spiritual things that you need help with, companionship, there’s also so much administrative work that needs to be done. So much, and we as doulas can help guide the families through all the paperwork that needs to be done and at what time it needs to be done.”
Helen Grymaloski is an artist and said her passion is helping people plan legacy projects, which can be events or physical projects to remember someone by.
“It can be any medium, any way that you want memorialize — or leave something for someone,” she said. “So you can be doing these things now before you even are ill or in that position.”
This End-of-Life Care Doula course was offered through Douglas College. The next scheduled class in Manitoba is in Brandon, Man., for June. Seguin Horth told CTV News that plans are in the works to bring the course back to Winnipeg in July.
Students who take the course are given a certificate of completion and can become members of the End of Life Doula Association of Canada.