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What is a death doula?

What is a death doula? We speak with Christin Ament, a US-based integrative health practitioner and death doula, about her role in helping people navigate life and death.

We speak with Christin Ament, a US-based integrative health practitioner and death doula who founded Sacred Transitions Integrative Healing care in the US. She shares her thoughts on this emerging service, and her role in helping people navigate life and death.

Ariana: How would you describe a death doula?

Christin Ament: A death doula is there to help a person pass. She sits with the family in vigil, providing emotional, spiritual, and physical support – whatever is necessary at the time. 

A: Is there an accrediting body for this profession? 

CA: There’s no medical board that certifies. However, there are organisations such as the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA), founded in 2015, that provide training and a certification process. This establishes a professional standard for the field.

A: Do doulas typically have medical backgrounds?

CA: I am a medical person, but typically doulas are not medical people. Because of that, I am able to practice in hospitals, administering medication and so on.

A: What is the typical experience like?

CA: A doula does anything from swabbing their patient’s mouth to combing their hair, washing their face, cleaning them up, and giving them a bath with anointing oils. Other tasks might include preparing and washing the body and sometimes laying flowers on the person, performing a final blessing, and aiding in grief work after the death happens.

A doula also attends to all the needs of the family, whether that’s prayer, cooking meals, or sitting and talking to somebody in need. Then some take it to another level, performing reiki or healing touch [therapy to restore and balance energy] to prepare the body and the soul to transition.

A: What’s your personal approach?

CA: Personally, talking to the person or having specific music is an integral part. I will sing to them, and hold their hand, or gently tell them it is okay to pass.