After I (Zoë) lost my mother 8 years ago, I have often thought about death and how it’s still a taboo subject.
Throughout the grieving process, I have become more interested in supporting those going through a similar journey, but also being able to help those that are dying. I was holding my mother until her last breath, and the idea that most people die alone always saddens me which is why I got more interested in hospice care.
I recently came across the beautiful work by Sierra Campbell and signed up to become a death doula with her course Choose Nurture.
In this interview, Sierra explains her work as a death doula with Choose Nurture, muses on her learnings from the people whose last moments she has shared, and much more.
Has there been a profound event in your life that has changed your path and mindset?
Experiencing cervical cancer at 13 and later, at 21, undergoing surgery for ovarian cancer. These seven years brought allopathic and natural healing practices into my life, the foundation being glyphosate-free foods.
Many people know about birth doulas, but how would you describe the work of a death doula?
Doulas emerge as the silent, steadfast guardians of transition. In the tradition of ancient wisdom teachers, modern-day death doulas embrace the essence of compassionate companionship. Our purpose transcends the clinical realms of palliative and hospice care; we are custodians of solace, guiding souls and families through the many faces of our mortality. Our energy showing up is educational/informative; a blend of profound mindfulness and unwavering presence.
Doulas offer a range of services which are all non-medical care, education-based, and supportive to the dying and their loved ones. Doula services are called upon at all stages throughout the entire end of life journey and following death. Doulas choose their specific area(s) of service as they become more experienced with this work.
Do you think death is still a taboo subject in our Western culture, and how do you envision changing this?
Talking about death is talking about life. I change this narrative with families daily. I encourage them to make a plan for a good death, especially if they are blessed to be an elder and have the capacity to plan for the miracle of death.
Do you find it challenging spending so much time with people who are dying, and if so, how do you find your balance?
Time with those who are dying is precious and surprisingly not tiring for me. The family dynamics around the dying person may become tiresome but never the patient facing death.
What has the experience of spending time with those who are dying taught you about life?
No one has ever said to me, I can’t wait to end up in a nursing home! Quite the opposite yet very few make plans and live in community to actually change this and choose a more natural death and dying process.
Where would you like to see your business grow to, what future plans do you have for Choose Nurture?
To continue to educate and help families gain the skills to cope with the uncertainty of loss of independence, navigate hospice and the EoL journey, and to empower more death doulas to serve their community with new businesses.
How do you envision the most graceful end of life care?
Exactly as the patient desires— the journey is only their’s. It is in the listening to the needs of the dying that we doulas weave the voice of the dying into the narrative of their death.
What are your ultimate daily rituals to look after your body and mind?
Quiet time in nature, tea time, yoga, breath work, and Tibetan Buddhist meditations and practices to understand the Bardos and end of life process from well-rooted perspectives.