The time we have on Earth is precious. It’s a privilege to be able to wake up every day and have a conscious experience of this vast and fabulous universe, with all its people, beauty and mystery. As humans, we can struggle to appreciate all moments in life.
While birth is a celebration, the end of life is often viewed as a tragedy. Doulas – present at both birth and death – believe that each moment in life is equally valuable. It doesn’t matter if a person is breathing their first breath or their last, life is life, and there’s nothing that says that one moment is any more valuable than another.
But when it comes to death, people don’t always take this view. Those at the end of their lives can develop fatalistic tendencies, believing that their remaining days and hours are pointless. If they’re going to die soon, what’s the point of doing things that they will enjoy, thinking about the future, or getting things done? It call all seem hopeless.
End-of-life doulas are there to remind the dying person and their family, that moments in life are equally valuable, regardless of the health of the individual. Their experience remains constant throughout their decline, and so too does their relationship to the people around them. Death can seem like a cruel experience, but that’s often because of a patient’s attitude towards it. If death is viewed as the destroyer of life, rather than the end of life, then it can make the process seem more tragic than is necessary. Nothing about death takes away from the importance of a person’s existence, even if its close. We’re all going to die, but that doesn’t mean that we give up hope and wait for the inevitable. We do things, pursue our dreams, and live our lives with passion and vigor. There’s no intrinsic reason why a person’s death should crush the human spirit.
Caregiving should promote the idea that each moment from birth to death is equally valuable. Traditionally, it has been the job of a doula to ensure that both the patient and their family understand that life doesn’t end with a diagnosis. Senior care for those who will die soon is all about changing perspectives.
There are no clear answers from a philosophical or sociological perspective what constitutes a good death. But there are ways in which end of life doulas can help adjust viewpoints and help those affected by the prospect of their mortality realize that it’s something that they’ve always lived with. Death isn’t a surprise: we don’t take anything with us when we’re gone. End-of-life doulas remind people that they’ve always lived with the weight of that knowledge and that there’s no reason to change one’s appreciation of existence, just because the end is close.