Frequently Asked Questions

How will a doula help me? Your doula will listen and give you the space to process what is happening to you and around you. Deep in your soul, you know how to leave your earthly body when the time comes, but it can be unsettling for you and your loved ones. Your doula will companion you and your family through these last days. Your doula will walk with you during the end of life process, for as much or as little time as you desire.

Do I need a doula if I have hospice care? Doulas do not replace hospice; a doula is an excellent addition to the care team. Your doula does not make decisions that would conflict with hospice orders or treatment plans.

When is the best time to start with a doula? This is entirely up to you and depends on the services the doula will provide based on your needs and wishes. Your doula can be involved as soon as you hear a terminal diagnosis. For some, a doula will be called when death is imminent. The decision is up to you and what you feel will be most helpful during this final journey.

Do doulas have medical training? Some doulas have medical background, but the role of a doula is non-medical. Medical training can be helpful, but it is not required.

How are doulas trained? There are many programs available for training doulas and most have incorporated an internal certification process.

Are doulas nationally certified or licensed? At this time, there is not a governing body to certify or license end of life doulas. There is voluntary competency badge that is awarded upon completion of a comprehensive test by an independent group.

Are doulas paid by insurance? Because doula work is non-medical, it is not covered by health insurance or Medicare. Every doula offers unique services and will discuss fees with you in advance.

Please feel free to call me at 612-499-4155 with your questions. There is no charge for an initial phone consult to determine if doula services would be helpful.

If you are wondering if the time is right, it probably is.

Flame or Water? You Choose!

Flame or Water? Now you have a choice with cremation. A water, or ‘Green Cremation’, is done using water and potassium hydroxide, that reduces the body to the bone ash similar to flame-based cremation with much less impact to the environment.

I recently toured Bradsaw Funeral and Cremation Services in Stillwater, MN and was able to see their Green Cremation machine during my tour of the beautiful building and serene location. Michael Sorrell, one of the funeral directors at Bradshaw, explained the benefits of the eco-friendly Green Cremation.

The carbon footprint is what impressed me the most. The Green Cremation is 75.72% less carbon impact on the environment than traditional flame-based cremation and it uses 1/8 the amount of energy of other death preparation practices (Green Cremation brochure, Bradshaw Funeral and Cremation Services). Mercury and other particulates are not emitted into the environment during the water cremation. You still get ashes as you would with flame-based cremation; in fact, you get a bit more!

The process follows stringent guidelines, including the type of shroud you use (if you choose). The shroud must be 100% organic so it will decompose in the process. The photo below is a raw silk shroud. Funeral homes can guide you in this choice.

There is a peaceful viewing room adjacent to the cremation area. The water feature, soft lighting, and calm setting makes it a perfect place to say your final words to your loved one.

The grounds are in a prairie-like location and I was fortunate to have a bright blue sky above. I walked the labyrinth on site, and communed with the friends and family who have gone before me, then I sat awhile near one of the Columbariums. I took my time, soaking in the peaceful setting.

You have choices. You have traditional methods of burying your loved one, green burials, flame-based or water-based cremation, and in the state of Washington, you can even become compost. More on that later….

As with any service, it is wise to visit with funeral directors, tour their facilities, and become educated to your options. Your family will appreciate your forethought and it will save them the stress of making decisions in a time of mourning.

The labyrinth at Bradshaw (available to the public to walk)~

Get to Know You

You heard from me and my passion to assist at end of life. To sit with you as you face your last days. To offer assistance to your family and caregivers as they circle your bed or recliner wondering what to do next. They anxiously hold their breath when your breath slows down. Do you hear them? They might be whispering so they don’t disturb you, or maybe they are talking about the every day stuff because they think you don’t hear them. Maybe they are finally telling you they are sorry, or that you are forgiven/loved/missed.

What about you? Do you have a plan? Have you told your friends and family what they need to know? What is important to you? Have you spent time getting to know ‘you’ and what your relationship priorities are at end of life?

Ira Byock, M.D. wrote a wonderful book, The Four Things That Matter Most – A Book About Living. Dr. Byock speaks from his world as a palliative care physician and advocate for better end of life care. He shares four simple (but don’t confuse with ‘easy’) and powerful phrases we should all consider.

“Please forgive me.” “I forgive you.” “Thank you.” “I love you.”

Spend some time getting to know ‘you’ and who needs to hear these words. Yes, they are simple statements, and only 2-3 words each, but they carry enormous power for healing.

Knowing our days are numbered can create an urgency to say these words to our loved ones. Why do we wait? Wouldn’t it be freeing to say them now, so everyone can move forward without that heavy burden?

Take time to get to know you. What part of your heart remains broken because of a misunderstanding? What grudge is so old you cannot even remember how it started? Whose feelings did you hurt years ago? Maybe you aren’t comfortable saying ‘I love you’, but your words might work magic in your loved ones’ heart.

Take time to get to know you. Think about those four things….

Get to Know Me

Choosing an end of life doula can be overwhelming. You have heard of a birth doula, but a death doula? Why do you need a death doula? Why would someone want to do this work?

I have worked in the healthcare industry for most of my life. A love for aging and dying people started even before I had my drivers license as I volunteered in the local nursing home in high school.

After graduation, I attended a hospital-based program for radiologic technologists (x-ray). Over the course of a few decades, I worked in various capacities in hospitals, clinics, private offices, and an imaging center. Nothing touched my heart like the job I had in a large hospice in Colorado. The mission of the work and the passion of the teams touched me deeply.

Returning to Minnesota (home at last!), I realized my heart for hospice was even greater than before. I found a volunteer opportunity with a local hospice. Then I heard Jane.

I heard Death Doula Jane speak at an event one morning. She told of tending to patients at end of life, and being able to bring presence and clarity to the process of dying, as well as support to the family. I finally found the name for what I felt I was supposed to do with my life. Death Doula! I had a deep down response to what I was hearing; something I never felt before. The universe smacked me alongside the head…I had to heed that call.

Meeting a person who is facing death is a place of awe and respect. They have lived their life and they (usually) know it is soon ending. I bring what is often called presence or ‘holding space’; allowing the patient and their families/caregivers the emotional and spiritual room they need to process the events surrounding them at this time. I assist where you need me; and I am there if you don’t even know what you need. I will walk alongside you during this journey, whether it is the first time you lost someone, or the tenth time.

It is my honor to attend to a dying person and their family. It is my honor to witness the last breath of your loved one. It is my honor to walk alongside you.

It’s Just Stuff…or is it?

As a member of MNDC (Minnesota Death Collaborative, a group of end of life professionals), I had the opportunity to hear a professional organizer, Su-Yoon Ko recently. Su-Yoon discussed the clutter in our own lives, lives of those facing death, and our loved ones who died leaving behind their legacy of ‘stuff’.

For some, clutter goes beyond the junk drawer but might not reach official hoarder proportions. There are many reasons we hold on to our stuff, from emotional attachment to time management, indecision, and everything in between.

Let’s unpack (pun intended) this a little. But first…full transparency here. I am of the time management AND indecision camp; paper clutter can breed on my desk. There are a few boxes in the attic – a permanent home for the contents still in question. There might be a collection or two that no longer seems worthy of dusting. A cookbook or twenty…I can find anything online these days with the exception of some of the little church cookbooks but I am not ready to part with them yet! There just might be a bag or two of clothing for donation, waiting for the ‘right time’ to run that errand.

What if I become unable to tend to my ‘treasures’ and purge my papers? I plan on living to a ripe old age, but what if that doesn’t happen? We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Time to tend and purge! Since I heard Su-Yoon Ko’s talk, I have cleaned the kitchen pantry, sorted random boxes of costume jewelry (there’s that necklace!), and this week, the office got my undivided attention. Shredding and dusting and pitching, oh my! I can find my desk and have space to write again! I have more energy for work now that the piles of papers aren’t taunting me. I won’t have a random can of tomato paste drop on my toe, and my husband can reclaim the floor of his side of the closet.

What about our loved ones and their lifelong ‘collections’? If she is ready, offer to help your granny go through her treasures. Bless someone else with your children’s toys and clothes. Find a library (or an aunty who reads) for your gently-used books. Offer useful items for free or have a garage sale and donate the rest. As for yourself, conquer the clutter while you can. Do you really want to leave this task to your family or friends if you suddenly become incapacitated?

If you are helping someone clear the clutter, be gentle with them. Getting rid of ‘stuff’ can be hard and emotional attachments run deep. It can be a daunting task for many, and for some it is downright overwhelming. What you see as junk-ready-for-the-trash-heap, might have sentimental meaning for your loved one. Now is not the time to judge; be present, be helpful, and offer suggestions when asked. And don’t forget the boxes, tape, markers, and trash bags.

If you lose someone dear to you, take your time sorting through their belongings. You don’t have to get this done all at once. It might take you five months or five years. Some things, you won’t ever let go. That’s ok. There are good reasons to keep a few treasured items. A dear friend has some of her parents’ clothes zipped into bags. Occasionally, she will open the bags and savor their scent. Some things are too precious to your heart. I get that. You can, however, make it easier on your loved ones by tending and purging your own clutter now. And who knows, you might find a $20 bill hiding in a pocket.

If you need professional assistance, I suggest you call Su-Yoon at 612-578-2031 or email her at AmethystLightEOL@gmail.com.

Who Will Be Your Voice?

I checked into a large hospital recently for major knee surgery. The Admissions clerk asked if I had an Advance Directive. Doesn’t everyone? (Sadly, the answer is ‘no’.). I gave her the pages to scan into my electronic record and felt confident that if something dramatic should happen, I had all my bases covered. Did I?

Health Care Agent. Check. Alternative Health Care Agent. Check. I even have additional resources for my husband, aka my Health Care Agent. CPR decision. Check. What I want life to look like if I have precious little of it left. Check. Notarized/witnessed. Check.

We filled out our Advance Directives a few years ago and as we learn more about end of life, we make changes along the way. It can be changed; it is not a one-and-done deal, although it can be. Filling in the blanks at the dining room table when there was not a crisis on the horizon made the process so much easier.

I reviewed my choices before I went into the hospital to make sure everything was in place and I had a little chill. It seemed ‘real’ now; it wasn’t dining room table talk anymore. If I had to complete an Advance Directive with surgery looming in the next 24 hours, I might have answered the questions differently. I would have been in panic mode and not had time to thoughtfully consider what I wanted.

Advance Directive. The key word to me is ADVANCE. Do it in advance. Do it before a crisis. Do it before your family has to mull over the decisions and hope they did right by you.

My husband will be my voice. If he gets to a place where he needs backup, I have that built in for him. He was a high school athlete; he understands the value of teamwork. Each voice on my team can assist, confident they will honor my choices and will not lose sleep in the future, wondering if they did the right thing. That peace is the gift I will leave behind.

Working and volunteering in hospice and employed by clinics and hospitals for most of my career, I have heard too many horror stories of accidents, strokes, heart attacks….on and on, and too often there isn’t an Advance Directive. Young adults are not immune to life-altering events; if you consider yourself an adult, you are not too young for an Advance Directive. Do the adult thing and get your plans in order. Do your parents, family, and friends a favor so they know what you want.

Who will be your voice? Remember, it is never too late until it is.

Welcome to Adeste LLC

CELEBRATING LIFE AND HONORING DEATH

Welcome to Adeste. I am Susan Lawrence, a trained end of life doula. By definition, an EOL doula is available to attend (adeste) to someone. I attend to the dying person and their caregivers in a non-medical role.

How can I, as your doula, help you celebrate your life and honor death? That is entirely up to you!

Legacy: As we spend time together, you can decide the legacy you want to leave behind. Maybe you want to record your history or write letters to your friends and family. A photo collage? A vision board of the dreams you have for your grandchildren? Do you have poetry you wrote, but never shared and now is the time? Maybe it is that secret recipe you want to share. Video and audio recordings are a special way for your loved ones to hear your voice.

Vigil: There is the time of vigil, when death is imminent. How do you want that to look and feel? I am available to sit with you and offer respite to your family and caregivers, to answer questions, listen, and most importantly, to walk with you and your family in these last days and hours.

Grief Support: I am available to your friends and family to reprocess their emotions and if desired, assist with an annual celebration/remembrance of your life.

These moments matter. This is about you. This is your design. I will walk alongside you.