Heart and Soul Bodywork
33 Wentworth Avenue East, Suite #240 West St. Paul, Minnesota 55118

End of Life Doula

What is an End of Life Doula?

The word of Doula has Greek origins and means "person who serves."  Service is at the heart of Doula work.  Throughout time and in cultures all over the world, there have always been those individuals  who tend to the needs of the mother in labor, nurture the family in the early weeks, postpartum; and also giving care for the sick and dying.   The concept of the modern day Doula began in 1969, but the word did not come into widespread use until the early 1990s, when professional Doula training emerged.  A scope of practice for Doulas was defined and the role of the Doula became professionalized. 

Today, there are numerous organizations training  for Doulas across the globe. With the aging baby boomers upon us--many of whom are proponents of natural lifestyles and holistic approaches in health care--it makes sense that we are seeking new models of care to meet unmet needs at the end of life.  Everyone benefits from educated support when major life transitions are underway. Also, an End of Life Doula may be called a Death Doula. or Death Midwife.  I prefer to be called an End of Life Doula.

It can be scary to talk about death. End of Life Doulas fill a great need by providing professional guidance and a personal touch during a challenging time.

Key takeaways:

  • Doulas provide support during major life transitions. Birth doulas help during birth, and death doulas (or end-of-life doulas) help during death.

  • End of Life Doulas can provide a broad range of support, from spiritual and emotional help to physical comfort and logistical assistance.

  • Though they are not covered by insurance, many people find death doulas an important service, along with hospice or palliative care. 

What is the reason End of Life Doulas are needed?

End of Life Doula is a  non-medical care provider who supports people through intensive times, such as sickness and death, complementing any available Healthcare services.  The Doula role during birth was formalized training since 1990s.   A trained Doula's presence during the end of life, however, has been a more recent development over the past decade or so.  A Death Doula’s mission is to empower families to have a more positive and meaningful experience of death.  End of Life Doula training and certification programs have experienced an increase in popularity in recent years.  As the popularity of natural burial and home funerals continues to grow, it is becoming more widely understood that our dependence on a funeral home is an option, not a requirement.

What exactly does an End of Life Doula do?

Dying can be a long process with many stages, both for the dying person and their loved ones. End of Life Doulas can help at multiple parts of the end of life process.  Their work is often broken down into three main phases.

  • Planning: As death approaches, death doulas can help the dying person find meaning in their life and plan for their death.

  • Dying: End of Life Doulas can ensure that the person is comfortable and that their wishes are being carried out. 

  • Grieving: End of Life Doulas can help in the immediate time after death as family members begin to process grief. They can also help carry out logistical needs.

What services does an End of Life Doula provide for patients?

An End of Life Doula’s primary goal is to support the needs of the dying person. This may include:

  • Talking with the person about dying and helping them identify their wishes.

  • Helping the dying person plan for what they want after their death, such as what they want done with their remains or what type of memorial service they want.

  • Explaining how dying may feel and what symptoms they may experience.

  • Helping the dying person find meaning in their life and leave a legacy, such as by sharing memories, writing down stories, or writing letters.

  • Designing the physical space for death, including decorations, sounds, and smells.

  • Encouraging loved ones to provide touch and affection to the dying person.

  • Providing spiritual support or leading rituals.

What is my role as an End of Life Doula?

Provide non-medical support and care to those living with serious illness, their family and caregivers, beginning as early as initial diagnosis and continuing through palliative and hospice care, death and bereavement.  I can work with individuals and families in a home, a care facility, or even a hospital, providing continuity of care and addressing the needs of the whole person - emotional, spiritual and physical.  

Trained in the dying process, and non-medical hands on care and comfort.  Techniques include comfort touch with massage techniques to body and foot reflexology and applying essential oils to feet.   Acting as an advocate for the individual providing an extra layerof support.  Collaborating and communicate with and refer to other care providers and do not interfere in anyone's roles.  As an End of Life Doula, I can spend time with patients and families.  Member of National End of Life Doula Alliance and have met their scope of practice, code of ethics and core competencies.  Offering 30 years of experience as a massage therapist who is  Board Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and Licensed.  Also have experience with end of life transitions with some of my  massage clients and relatives.  Flexible hours.  Rates determined on an individual basis.  

*  Treat all individuals with dignity and respect showing kindness and loving support.

*  Active liistener and companion.

*  Provide comfort for the dying through massage and offering these massage services to family and caregivers.

*  Calming the terminally ill through guided visualization and soft music.

* Can use aromatherapy (if preferred).

*  Facilitating advance care planning,

*  Foot care and foot reflexology.

*  Therapeutic massage and energy work.

*  Act as an advocate on behalf of client.

*  Reading books and poetry.

*  Play cards , board games, crossword puzzles and watch movies.

*  Vigil planning and sitting.

*  Offering prayer and blessings as an Ordained Minister (if desired).

*  Assist family with the medical and legal professionals in the  end of life preparations; such as, finances, last will and testament and other directives.

*  Helping with legacy projects to memorialize the life of the soon-to-be deceased.

*  Helping with decision making of funeral preparation with family members with Funeral Director or I can personally take care of the service.  I am an ordained Minister from the  Universal Life Church and can perform funerals.

*  Helping family with their grieving process.

"May I fly with angels and sing with angels and know the angels in myself and others Henceforth and forever as You have promised.  Please hold my hand.  Please take me home.  Please move me forward.  Thank You, Lord.  Amen."
- Marianne Williamson, Author,  Illuminata: Thoughts, Prayers, Rites of Passage

What services does an End of Life Doula provide for family members?

Sometimes, the best thing for the dying person may be to help family members. An End of Life Doula can provide a lot of support for loved ones. This may include:

  • Organizing the physical space for the dying person.

  • Providing logistical support

  • Giving Therapeutic massages to relax caregiiver.

  • Helping loved ones understand the signs of death and what symptoms the person may be experiencing.

  • Supporting loved ones in providing love and affection to the dying persson.

  • Providing spiritual support (if desired).

  • Helping loved ones process grief and loss.

  • Helping loved ones identify how to continue the legacy of the dying person.

How is an End of Life Doula different from hospice or palliative care?

End of Life Doulas are different from hospice or palliative care because they do not provide medical care or participate in physician-assisted death. Hospice or palliative care will provide medical services, including medical evaluations and medications for comfort and pain. 

End of Life Doulas spend a lot of time with the dying person and their loved ones. They provide hands-on logistical, emotional, and spiritual support.  

The bottom line

The End of Life Doulas help with the transition at the end of life through death. They provide support to the dying person and their loved ones. While they don’t provide medical care, death doulas provide many additional important services. This can include emotional, physical, and spiritual support — in addition to much-needed caregiver respite and logistical assistance.


I have taken training as an End of Life Doula and have passed the proficiency exam from the National End of Life Doula Alliance and am a member of this organization.  Earned my NEDA Doula Profiiciency Badge and am NEDA proficient.  Completed PCA and CFSS Support Worker Training Certificate, Mandated Reporter for Children Certificate, and Mandated Reporter for Vulnerable Adults Certificate from the Minnesota Department of Human Services.  Also, Board Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and Licensed.   Non-denominational Ordained Minister from the Universal Life Church. 

Every individual and their environment is unique and there will be similar and/or different needs.  Open for discussion and we can find out what  you may be looking for in regard to your loved one.  Serving southern metropolitan area and surrounding communities of Faribault, Minnesota. Focusing on tbe locations of  Rice, Steele and Dakota counties.  Please contact Sharon Madison for more information by calling me or by text at (651) 399-6645.

At this time, insurance does not cover End of Life Doulas. Fees are based on case-by-case basis depending on the time and needs that you require.

Look at heading entitled "The Power of Touch" to see the benefits of massage therapy and how this can positively impact senior citizens.

'"The Soul should always stand ajar ready to welcome the ecstatic experience. "          - Emily Dickinson, Poet

"To participate in such a raw and true instance of reckoning with mortality reminds us that this process can be beautiful, communal, and ceremonial. "