End-of-Life Doulas: Companions for the Dying

February 20, 2019, Counseling & Support, Doula, End-of-life doula, Hospice, Volunteers

Most people are familiar with the concept of birthing doulas—someone who provides guidance and support to pregnant women—but have you ever heard of an end-of-life doula?

What is an end-of-life doula?

Just as a birthing doula accompanies the mother and child through the beginning of life, an end-of-life doula is there to support the dying person and their family through the final hours of life.

End-of-life doulas provide emotional, spiritual and physical support at one of the most meaningful moments in a person’s life. Gilchrist believes that no one should have to die alone, and we are honored to have over 150 trained doula volunteers. When we receive a doula request for someone who is actively dying, we send one of our on-call doulas to visit.

Sometimes, the patient is by themselves until family can arrive. Other times, it’s the family who needs the support and doesn’t want to be alone as their loved one dies, or they may simply want someone there in case they need to step out of the room. Occasionally, the Gilchrist team is all that person has, and the doula is there to hold their hand and let them know that they are cared for and their life has value.

During training, these volunteers learn about what happens physically, spiritually and emotionally as death approaches. They learn what it means to be present.

Being a doula means setting aside your own agenda and being comfortable in the moment with a person who is drawing their last breath. It requires you to examine your own feelings about mortality and to set aside your own agenda. It also requires the gift of openheartedness. We hear from the families how grateful they are for the doula sitting with their loved one at the end, but we hear even more frequently how grateful the volunteer is for the privilege of sharing this sacred and personal moment.

How to become a Gilchrist Doula

Gilchrist volunteers are eligible to take the doula training after a minimum of 12 months of volunteering in direct patient care. For more information on how to become a Gilchrist volunteer, visit or contact our Onboarding Coordinator, Kimberlee Kahl at

“You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.”
– Dame Cicely Saunders, nurse, physician and writer, and founder of hospice movement (1918 – 2005)

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