Fred Rogers came on TV when I was already too old to appreciate his simple, easy, loving attitude. I do remember this helpful shortcut to life:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Given the world around us, often very close to us, I wanted to become one of those helpers. Someone people could look to and know there was help there. As a life coach, I already trained and practiced some of those skills. As a writer and trainer, I also serve, if honoring the language is serving. (I think it is.)
Still, I wanted to deepen my experience as a helper. So this weekend, I am beginning training as an End of Life Doula. I’m not going to help people write their wills or set up medical directives. Those tasks belong to others, skilled in civil law and medical law.
The word “doula” is Greek and literally means, “female slave.” Lucky for evolution of words, doulas are best known as those who support women before, during and after childbirth in a non-medical way. They help by physically and emotionally supporting the new mother grow into her role and manage the many questions and problems that come up. Those doulas give new mothers a chance to adjust to a role that will change their world forever.
And end of life doula helps at the other end of life, when we leave this world. Most people think they will die of a heart attack or simply fade away in a hospital. That happens less often than you may think. Our culture fears death, denies it, but none of us came to stay. Dying is inevitable. I want to learn how to reduce the fear of death, help people see that it is as natural as being born, help them prepare how they want to die. To have expectations and express wishes about the time when they transition from one form to another. To help the family create rituals that calm and soothe the family and friends, to help them express their love and concern in healthy ways. To see death as a sacred rite of passage, not as a fearful horror to be hidden away. I want to help others leave a legacy that can bring comfort and a sense of belonging long after the person is gone.
When I left the poetry program, part of the reason was that I could not see how I was to help, although I was clear on the why. The End of Life Doula program gives me the how.
As always, when I step into a new venture, there are people who tell me not to post this on my training site. Interesting view, as I am taking a training course to train others.
A former friend told me that “I was always running to a new class or some training to be someone new.” He thought it was an insult. I took it as a compliment. As we grow and change, we have different opportunities. As a trainer, taking training programs makes sense to me. It’s a way to learn what I don’t know yet. Calming fears, so people can die calmly, in surroundings that comfort them? Yes, that’s helping.
I will continue to be a trainer, writer, and coach. They are all parts of the same rich, sweet fruit. Rind, pulp, and seed. What we put into the ground, comes back to grow.
–-Quinn McDonald is a writer, writing trainer, and creativity coach. So far. There is more to come.