One of the privileges of being a death doula is the opportunity to be with our clients and stand witness during the most significant moment of their life, excepting maybe when they were born to begin with.

This requires your clients to put a great amount of trust in you. Trust that you will be there when you say you will. Trust that you know what you’re doing,                         c and what to expect from the transition process. Trust that you will be able to answer their questions, and that if they ask you something you don’t know, that you will be able to find out.

Most of all, your clients will inevitably end up trusting you with a great deal of personal information. Just in the process of onboarding a new client, you may learn facts about their health and medical history that would be considered protected information under HIPAA law. In working with patients and their families, you will learn things about their relationships and the way they live, things that are not exactly secret, but that most folks don’t show to other people very often. 

For someone to hire a death doula in the first place means they will be required to show a vulnerability that, for a lot of people, is not easy to do. It might mean that not everyone in the family is going to be comfortable with having you around. You might find yourself facing mistrust from someone you are trying to work with, or even hostility.

This can be a difficult situation. But the most important thing for you to remember is that if the situation is uncomfortable for you, it is almost certainly even more uncomfortable for your client. If they are in a position where they have to think about death whether they want to or not, they will certainly be experiencing a lot of anxiety, sadness, anger… all the emotions that come with the stages of grief. And it can be tough for them to have you there, a stranger, reminding them of all these things they wish they didn’t have to face.

As always, your job is to meet your client where they are, mentally and emotionally. Be ready to set boundaries if necessary about behaviors that are intolerable, but otherwise, show up with compassion, patience, and a thick skin. Remember it isn’t you they’re angry at, it’s death. And remember this is their journey to take at their own pace, as far as can be allowed. 

Show your client that you are there for them even when it’s hard, and more often than not, it won’t be too long before it gets easier—for you and for them.

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