July 10, 2016

Death, Mourning and the Value of Freedom by Laura Saba



Freedom and personal liberty are values I treasure, and never take for granted. My passion and commitment for these gifts infuse all I do, including my choice to work as a birth, death, and mourning doula, as well as my choice to train others to do so.

One cannot be free to make important decisions if one isn’t fully informed. One cannot be fully informed if they are too unwell, overwhelmed, or wrapped in grief to ask the necessary questions. In today’s world, even on our best day it can be hard to know which questions to ask. I support people as they discern which questions and considerations they need to address, so they can be free to make truly conscious decisions.

Some folks mistakenly think doulas provide – or give an opinion on – clinical care. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, I provide informational, physical, and emotional support, creating and holding the space for the dying and their loved ones to feel supported as they make the best choices possible. I’ve no opinion to contribute, my job is to support them on their journey.

This freedom, this focus on the client and their desire, is why I’ve opted to put a coaching model at the heart of my doula training program. Any number of programs will train you to educate, support, and inform; however, with a coaching model as the armature around which my doula support is shaped, I ensure that the primary aim is to support one’s client as they strive to identify and curate the best-fit choices for their specific situation, in their specific circumstances.

When operating from this model we are essentially transformed into everyday freedom fighters focused on helping our client(s) maintain their liberty in manifesting their desires for a Good Death, and the kind of funeral and disposition they envision. The kind that best reflects not only who they were, but the values they embraced. Again, not through telling them what to do, not by providing or advising on clinical elements of care, but by supporting them in their efforts to ensure they’re fully informed.

We get to stand on the front-lines of the good fight to take back Death, to re-humanize it, to reconnect with this core element of our humanity. We get to play our small role in the return to taking ownership of our dead in a way that does not only them, but our Selves, honor and justice. We stand there in the thick of it, doing our small part to support the true heroes, those brave enough to blaze a new path for the modern end-of-life journey, and more from traditions through which we say our final goodbyes, by being the first to demand more.

There’s a price for this work. It can break your heart, shatter it, for we hold the space for some of the most intense moments life delivers. And yet what we discover is that a shattered heart is not broken. Rather, it’s a heart that is no longer contained; it is a heart that can now love boundlessly; it is a heart that can expand beyond our wildest imaginations.

This is, as you can imagine, transformative. It feels like magic, and I believe it really is some strange kind of alchemy: When you step up for this work, when you stand in that liminal space and hold the place for others to engage there as they most need to do, you become forever changed. It’s as if all of the love and joy and heartache and loss pass through you, becoming part of you, raising you up in the process. On the other side of heartbreak you discover there is love unbounded – and an appreciation for life, with all of it’s beauty and wonder, unlike anything you’ve ever known before.

I’m often asked if the work undoes me. Yes. But not the way you think. It’s as if I’m disassembled and recreated, stronger, better, more than I was before. This is the gift you receive when you give of yourself in this way, and honestly, the death doula wins every time; we get so much more than we ever give. We are given the gift of the life uncommon, a front-row seat to that which matters most. The power and beauty of that gift is beyond my capacity for words.

So, as I stand here at the forefront of a revolution in how we engage with birth, death, and mourning, I realize that in taking a stand for the freedom and liberation of others in their time at each of the bookends of life, I am myself freed. I am freed of limitations; I’m freed of the boundaries I’d known before; I’m freed to embrace both love and life, on levels I never even dreamed imaginable. This realization rocks me to core, and I often shake my head in amazement at the wonder that is this gift that is my life’s work.

Today I ask you to take just a moment to contemplate what freedom means to you; what liberty looks like. Then ask yourself how that would look around how you engage with your own dying process, and in how you bid your final farewell to loved ones. What do you need to ensure that freedom? Information. Then you go through a curation process, selecting the best choices available to you from among the information you’ve explored. From there? Preparation. You get your document in order. You have the conversations that need to be had. You get the ducks all in a row. And through it all, you can benefit deeply from the support of a facilitator who provides physical, emotional, and informational support at every turn. Someone on your side, advocating for you, serving you and your family, and creating and holding the space so you can move through everything both as fully informed as possible, and as consciously engaged as one can be.

We must be vigilant about our freedom. We cannot take it for granted. When it comes to our relationship with death and mourning, we allowed ourselves to slip into inattention, and many have paid the price. We can do better. Many, many people are making a stand every day to do just that. The Good Death doesn’t have to be a hope or dream; it can be for so many, the reality.

The first steps are simple, whether you take them on your own, or work with a doula trained to support you through every step: If you haven’t already, fill out your Advanced Directives. Have those all important talks with your loved ones. Learn all you can about the new, less expensive, green and natural options, and about the wild and zany ones, too, such as space or reef burial, or having one’s ashes transformed into jewelry. Learn it all. Take ownership. Never, ever take your liberty for granted. I promise you, if you don’t act to ensure your liberty is guaranteed, it could be very quickly lost when things turn intense in the way they so often and unexpectedly can. Get prepared. It will bring you an unfathomable peace of mind.

If you’re ready for more, and you’re able, if you’re ready to explore the gift that is the boundless love of the death and mourning doula, working every day to provide such support, your time has arrived. People are increasingly intrigued by this kind of support; there is growing interest in changing how we engage with death. And you, you could be a part of these changes. You can take one of our trainings, either to work professionally in this field, or – as many do – solely for your own personal interest, so that you can better support friends and family. Or you may want to take one of our trainings to enhance existing skills you’re using in the hospice or care industries.

If you’re feeling called in this direction, check out our training programs. If you’re not ready for this step at this time, that’s fine too. Take the first steps. Have the talks, get the papers in order.

Now, if you haven’t done so already, check out the podcasts and catalog about our training, and do feel free to drop us a line and introduce yourself, share what has drawn your interest to the work we do here. We would love to hear from you.

Thank you for visiting. Do enjoy this amazing gift that is this adventure we call life!

~Laura Saba

Founder & CEO

Momdoulary Method

Momdoulary, LLC