Tips from a Death Doula During COVID-19
Updated: Apr 5, 2020
A few handy tips in this COVID-time from your friendly neighborhood end-of-life doula.
Greetings, friends. What a trying time we are in. My heart is with the whole of humanity as we navigate the coming days, weeks, months. Based on recent conversations I've been having with loved ones, I’ve pulled together the following tips for us all, informed by my work in end-of-life care. I hope you find them handy. Please stay safe and love one another.
- Protect yourself and your loved ones. The biggest expression of love that you can share with your intimates and broader community is to stay home and follow social-distancing guidelines when you must go out. Our healthcare workers and other essential workers are putting their lives on the line…we owe them all our best efforts to keep safe.
- Tend to your whole health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) as you can…letting it go when you can’t. This is the time for self-compassion…to love ourselves when we fall short. This is the time to be our own best allies…to breathe love into all our efforts, no matter how big or small. Try to have a sense of humor when you find yourself doing exactly the opposite of what you would have hoped you would do. It’s okay. This is the time to embrace the mess…there is no need to pick up right now.
- Have “that” conversation. Advance Directive conversations (or Living Will / Medical Power of Attorney outside of California) tend to be the ones that get pushed out to tomorrow. But now is a really good time to have them. One of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones is to let them know your wishes so they’re not left trying to mend loose threads on your behalf. And an even better thing to do is to document them. For tips on preparing Advance Directives during COVID, check out Nolo’s helpful article here.
- Teach your loved ones, especially those who are elderly, how to connect virtually (FaceTime, What’s App, Zoom). Since many of us are abiding by shelter-in-place orders, we are isolated from one another, which can be disquieting – especially for those who live alone. And if a loved one contracts Coronavirus, it’s possible that you will not be able to see them in-person once they’re admitted to a hospital. Though a virtual connection is not the same as an in-person visit, sharing our voices and faces virtually is a great comfort when we are all feeling isolated and afraid.
- Live in today. A global pandemic is certainly a sobering reminder that there is no guarantee that tomorrow will come. While it’s okay to be knocked to your knees by COVID-19, to take mental breaks in the form of naps, or allow yourself to think through different scenarios that we’re having to navigate, do your best to consciously choose to take time each day to arrive exactly where you are…and be grateful for that moment. Then vow to hold that spot of gratitude as long as you’re able.
- Tell your loved ones you love them. An important part of my job is protecting people from having to someday mourn not having said what they needed to say, when they had had the chance to say it. So I ask each of you today: if it’s not now, then when? And to be clear: when I talk about saying “I love you”, I’m not talking about a perfunctory, passerby version of the phrase. Now is the time to let those you love know that you love them, what memories you share with them that you cherish most, how they’ve impacted your life, and the role they’ve had in shaping you as a person. And if there are open wounds between you and a loved one, now is the time to turn to them and begin to mend them.
Remember that the answer to many questions is love: pure and simple love. Be well.