Alice Lafferty Spotlight

1. What first brought you to end of life work?

When I was in 4th grade, I remember matter-of-factly telling my mother that if I died during the school year to be sure my funeral was during PE so everyone in my class could attend.  I am sure that was an odd thing to come out of my mouth, and I wondered what she thought of this strange child. 🙂 I don’t know where that idea came from, as the only funeral I had been exposed to was sitting out in the car with my sisters while an older cousin babysat us because my parents didn’t want us exposed to a family funeral.  I think death has just always felt natural to me.

My life and work experiences have culminated into becoming a doula. First, I am a listener and fixer and love people of all kinds. One of my Facebook banner photos was a guy sitting behind a picnic table at a college fair with a sign that said “I’ll talk to anyone about anything.”  That’s me, for sure. Professionally, I have been a teacher and am now a curriculum director for a school district where I provide training, support and resources for teachers.  I especially love working with teachers who are struggling or new to the profession and need new knowledge and confidence. Those experiences have served me well to understand families who need support to navigate overwhelm at the end of life.

Then my mother died. She was a difficult patient, and that frustration on the doctor’s part led him to refer to her Hospice. We had no idea what Hospice was or how that would change her care. Dad disappeared in the back of their home whenever it was time for a Hospice visit – refusing to participate. This was before Google and Facebook groups were the powerhouses they are today, so we didn’t know where to turn for information. We didn’t know we didn’t know! The only end-of-life process I remember being told was that her knees would mottle as she approached the final days.  That’s it!  All I knew to do was keep checking her knees.  Due to my mom’s death, I learned so much through hard experiences and wanted to use that knowledge so others didn’t have our same confusion through grief all wrapped in painful family relationships.

I did not want to waste my suffering.

I am a learner and new knowledge lights me up! One reason I love IDLM is there are constantly new options for more and deeper knowledge. It fits me like a glove.

2. How did you find IDLM? What made you decide that IDLM was the right place for you?

I have wracked my brain trying to remember where I first heard about death doulas. I just don’t know, so I can only attribute it to God who brightly lit that new path ahead of me. I do know the minute I did, I joined every Facebook group I could find.  I was really enjoying reading and learning and was totally driven to be involved.  IDLM was one of the groups I joined.

One night I was on Facebook and a notification came on of a live IDLM CE night focused on the business side of doula work. Pam Carter was leading it and there were about 5 people in the class. I loved the discussion. They were surprised when I said this was my maiden voyage into the doula world. They apologized that it was about business, but I assured them I loved it.  At the end of the class, Pam asked the attendees to each explain what they loved about IDLM. The continual learning  and sense of community hooked me from that moment! 

3. Please talk about something you have learned through IDLM or through end of life work that has meaning for you.

What I have learned from IDLM over the past couple of years has molded me simply into who I am now – so it’s hard to focus on one thing.  I have learned the need people have for us.  Everyone is not a learner or they don’t have the drive or ability to stay ahead of the end-of-life issues they find themselves in. I have also learned that each of us has grief right under the surface of our daily smiles and that we must understand and address those varying levels and types of family grief and neee of forgiveness.. But dealing with grief takes time and relationship – which simply can’t be provided through the limitations of a medical team.  And trust. Trust comes from knowing someone has character and the competence in a given situation. That takes time to learn about someone and is a doula in a nutshell. 

I recently lost my husband.  After the EOLD class, Barbara Karnes videos, Grief classes, etc. I was 100% prepared to be present and confident in Charlie’s last days.  It was truly as if all the “book learning” I had done was now being played out.  I don’t think Hospice knew what to do with me. 🙂  Charlie had an amazingly secure and comfortable ending due to what I was able to put into practice. And I also felt supported because I knew I could call Anna, Pam, Linde or many of my IDLM classmates and they would virtually stand beside me.

4. No matter where you are in your end of life work journey, there will always be those who are still behind you. What advice would you give to them as they move forward on this chosen path?

Advice I would give a new IDLM member is to take every class twice. The amount of information IDLM provides is so comprehensive, the first class opens your mind, but the second class solidifies the learning. I appreciate Anna allowing us to retake classes – like who does that?  I also suggest we take advantage of the community IDLM is building by reaching out to one another for strong relationships beyond the class times.  Everyone who is pursuing a doula life does so because they are deep and empathetic – a cut above the usual.  Let’s all share on that deeper level with one another and grow together.

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