How to Become a Death Doula
Death doulas perform similar work to birth doulas, except it surrounds death and the dying process. This work can range from logistical tasks such as handling paperwork to more spiritual tasks that help the family and individual feel guided through the process. Ready to learn more about becoming a death doula? Continue reading for information on death doula training, death doula salary and more.
The path to becoming a death doula
Since there are no accredited programs or licensure requirements for this career, becoming a death doula can be an experience that varies from person to person. In general, if you're starting out with zero experience in the death industry and have decided to become a death doula, here's what the process could look like:
- Start researching what a career as a death doula looks like, how much death doulas make per year, and how you can grow your business as a death doula.
- Look into death doula certification programs or end of life midwife training programs to broaden your knowledge and gain some expertise in the field.
- Consult with local hospices and other death doula organizations for additional resources and to start growing your community and connections within the death industry.
- Start establishing an online presence for your business and consider the responsibilities you'll have in owning your own business. (Death doula are generally independent contractors.) Here's some information on some of the legal requirements that go along with starting your own business or becoming an independent contractor.
- Get in touch with local funeral homes, cemeteries, hospices, and other organizations to let them know you're offering services as a death doula. Personal and professional referrals will help here, as well.
You should consider becoming a member of or getting in touch with the major death doula organizations:
- National End-of-Life Doula Alliance (NEDA)
- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO)
- International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA)
What does a death doula do?
A death doula's responsibilities can range from helping the family gather information for things like death certificates to providing emotional support for the dying individual and their loved ones. Some death doulas are even paid by hospice care providers to visit with patients at home after they've been discharged, helping them feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings.
In addition, death doulas often provide death education to the general public, teaching people about topics like hospice care, palliative medicine, and death rituals.
Here's a list of some of the responsibilities you can expect to have as a death doula:
- Offer emotional support to both the patient and their caregivers, family, and friends.
- Offer additional insight to everyone involved about the dying process and ensuring that everyone involved is getting the type of support they need. *Assisting the family or individual with end-of-life logistics and paperwork such as gathering online passwords, closing accounts, reconciling debt and creditor requests, finding healthcare directives, wills, etc.
- Help the patient who is dying with the process, including helping them to complete projects that establish their legacy (such as writing letters, transcribing their thoughts and memories into a journal or book, helping them create a scrapbook or helping them send out messages to others).
- Working with the patient to help them establish a plan for their end-of-life experience. This can include things they want to accomplish, things they should notify their family about, how they want their arrangements planned and handled, what kind of arrangements they want, and other end-of-life tasks.
- Working with the patient's family to offer support, guide them through the end-of-life process, and be a mediator between them and the patient so that all voices are heard.
- Explain details surrounding the process of losing someone and death that can provide comfort to both the patient and their family.
Are there prerequisites to becoming a death doula?
There aren't any prerequisites or requirements to become a death doula. You don't need prior training in any field in order to pursue a career as a death midwife. Depending on the training program you choose, they may have prerequisites or prior education needed in order to complete their program, but this is unlikely.
What does death doula training look like?
Death midwife training can vary depending on the program, but it typically covers topics like death and dying, hospice care, palliative medicine, death rituals, and more. Some programs also offer certification or diploma upon completion. There are currently no national or state level exams or licensure requirements to become a death doula. You will likely need to pass certain classes and exams with your program in order to receive death doula certification from that program.
If you're interested in becoming a death doula, it's important to do your research and find a program that's right for you. Talk to death doulas in your area to learn more about their training and what they wish they had known when they started out. If you don't know any death doulas and want to talk to someone about end of life doula training, consider reaching out to the National End-Of-Life Doula Alliance on their website.
Reaching out to a death doula community can also help you figure out what to expect when it comes to becoming a death doula, including not only the logistical aspect but also, the emotional aspect as well. Working with the death community can take its toll, especially if you aren't prepared for the emotional piece of the career.
How much does death doula training cost?
For programs that can offer death midwife certifications, you can expect to pay around $700 in total cost. This depends on the program, location, whether or not it's death doula training online or if it's death doula training that's solely in-person. You can also find free end of life doula training at sites like CareDoula.
How much do death doulas make?
Death doula salaries can vary depending on the region, experience, and type of work they are doing. Generally speaking, death doulas can expect to make anywhere from $25-$100 per hour, depending on your experience and your clientele. Those who are charging death doula fees in the higher range have likely had experience in the death industry, have received client referrals, and offer a range of services to their clients which make them feel the fee is worth it. Some death doulas may find it difficult to be able to sustain themselves on a death doula salary, especially at the beginning of their careers when they're just starting out and don't have a network established.
An average death midwife salary or death doula salary per year for those who are just starting out would likely be around $45,000. If you're working for yourself, you'd also need to factor in taxes, healthcare, transportation costs, and any other costs that go along with running your own business. Increasing your end-of-life doula salary would then depend on growing your network, advertising your services, gaining more experience, and marketing your business to the right communities.
Where can I find death doula jobs?
Finding end of life doula jobs may be a bit difficult at the start, especially if you don't have a network established or connections in the death industry. You can try searching online for death doula jobs, but you'll most likely want to focus on creating a name for yourself first. This can entail setting up your own website and social media pages and getting connections in the death doula industry. Here are some ways you can connect with others in the death industry:
- Search for local death doula communities or local death industry communities.
- Search for online death doula communities, organizations, or educational resources.
- Connect with local funeral homes, cemeteries, and hospices and perform some outreach. Find out if there are other death doulas in your area that they can put you in touch with or if there are any families in need of these services.
- Connect with local religious organizations and offer information on your services that they can provide to their members.
- Share your role on social media with friends, family, and the larger community and let them know you're available for clients.
Establishing yourself in your local community and within the death doula community can offer you the opportunity to start receiving referrals from others.
Becoming a death doula is a great way to give back to your community and help patients and families go through the process in a way that's compassionate and thoughtful to all involved.