Full Spectrum Deathcare is A Community Endeavor
There are a great many death doula trainings out there and more are sprouting up all the time. Without a central scope of practice it can be really confusing which to choose to spend your money on and engage in. I was trained in community deathcare in Canada in 2017 and now I teach community deathcare — though it is different material and a different focus than what I received in my education. I have a model for compensation that I have never been offered myself, and have not seen anywhere else in death doula trainings. That is what teachers do — they learn from others, make changes that they notice did not fit or expand upon something that they feel is important and then share it with their students.
The death doula trainings are similar in that we all focus on care for the dying. We work on remaining non-judgmental, gentle, knowledgeable. We note the challenges and moving elements that contribute to the dying time and we try to be one step ahead to help the individual or family or friend with the transition. But, because there are so many different ways in which an individual dies, and so many ways in which a person does their own death nesting over their lifetime, every situation is completely unique and therefore it is impossible to be completely prepared at every turn to serve every individual. And, the trainings should reflect this- though I’m not sure this is emphasized.
Some trainings will focus on how to vigil, how to record the story of the life of the one dying, some will focus on holistic or spiritual care. Few focus on physical care beyond a foot or head massage since, for the most part, death doulas do not cross the nursing assistant or home health care boundary. Most trainings focus on your individual skills so that you can be of service to those that are dying. This makes perfect sense. One-on-one care is a beautiful thing.
Here is why I choose to teach community deathcare. I do feel as though individual skills are very valuable and one-on-one care is essential. I believe in it so much I wrote a book on it. And, we are at a point in time on earth that when it comes to dying the focus needs to go beyond the individual focus. It has always been this way but in a culture that emphasizes individual glorification of strength and skills over community empowerment, the focus on community has been completely lost.
In the United States we cannot afford to continue encouraging people to go into business for themselves. Literally, that is what it’s called. It’s a dream of so many who want to “work for themselves.” I know where this comes from — it’s the opposite of “working for someone else.” But there’s a third way. It’s not as glamorous. It’s underpaid. It’s slow. And you may not see the results of your heart-labor in your lifetime.
Community deathcare as I am defining it, though it is undefinable, incorporates all of the hard and soft death doula skills into the community rather than preserving it and coveting it for oneself. In my course Village Deathcare Citizen, I teach all of the death doula skills one might glean from a *training and encourage the students to give away all of what they have learned.
I encourage students to fumble their way out into the world to teach their neighbor, their family and friends and community- in essence to work for their community as a citizen engaged in full spectrum deathcare.
Deathcare belongs to no one though the funeral industry may tell you otherwise. Deathcare belongs to everyone though a hospital or nursing home or residential care may tell you otherwise. Announcing the timeline in which an individual has “left to live” is the not responsibility of the doctor and the doctor is not to be blamed. These are compartmentalizations and accusations that our society has come up with because we no longer have strong communities to care for our own dead and dying — how could we? We don’t even have adequate systems to care for our living. Community deathcare focus’ on the entirety of the circle; the living and the dying and the deathing are all interwoven.
What is learned in community deathcare is not anything special. It is sacred, not special. When you learn about deathcare, it does not make you special.
Deathcare is a human right. Your community deserves to have access to everything that is learned in a death doula training — and yes, you personally will benefit from what you have shared with your community. Yes, you too will die, and you may not be able to afford the one-on-one care from a death doula who is in business for themselves.
*Trainings vary greatly in depth and skill and range from one weekend to one year. Community deathcare training has no end.