National Death Doula Day Date in the current year: April 20, 2024

National Death Doula Day National Death Doula Day is observed annually on April 20. It was created to recognize and celebrate people who provide holistic support for the dying and their families.

The term “doula” was originally coined in 1969 to describe trained professionals who provide support to women and their families through pregnancy and childbirth, miscarriage, abortion, or stillbirth. Over time, however, its meaning has expanded to include other significant health-related experiences, including death.

Death doulas are known by many other names: death coaches, death midwives, end-of-life coaches, end-of-life doulas, end-of-life guides, home funeral guides, soul midwives, transition guides, and thanadoulas. They are non-medical professionals who care for critically ill patients, assisting them in the dying process much like regular doulas do with childbirth, and help their families cope with death.

The profession of the death doula is a relatively new one. One of the first programs pairing terminally ill people with so-called “doulas” was launched in New York City in 2000. Named “Doula to Accompany and Comfort”, it was a volunteer program funded by NYU Medical Center and the Shira Ruskay Center of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. Volunteer doulas who got paired with terminally ill patients went through training that covered both clinical and spiritual aspects of end of life health care.

Over the past years, there has been a significant increase in training programs and organizations for death doulas. Many private organizations offer certification programs, but certification is not yet widely available in traditional educational environments. However, a limited number of post-secondary institutions in Canada offer training courses to end-of-life doulas.

So what exactly do death doulas do and how are they different from, say, hospice employees? Like we’ve already mentioned above, death doulas are non-medical professionals. While they are trained to help terminally ill people deal with the physical challenges they face, the main task of a death doula is to provide psychological, spiritual, and social support to the dying and their families through various end-of-life stages. The role of death doulas can also include logistical activities such as helping plan funerals and memorial services.

The main purpose of a death doula is to help people find peace at the end of life and plan how their last days will unfold. The point at which a death doula gets involved is chosen by the patient and/or their family. Some people seek support soon after receiving a terminal diagnosis, and some wait until their health starts to decline more rapidly.

National Death Doula Day was launched in 2019 by Doulagivers, an end-of-life training program created by Suzanne B. O’Brien. The observance is designed to raise awareness of the profession of death doulas and the importance of end-of-life care. You can get involved by learning more about death doulas and spreading awareness on social media with the hashtags #NationalDeathDoulaDay and #DeathDoulaDay.

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National Death Doula Day, professional observances, observances in the US, death doulas, end-of-life care