Doulas Usher in Beginning and End of Life
A doula describes the role of a woman that provides emotional, physical and educational support to an expectant mother before labor, during the birthing process and immediately afterwards. The term is now also used in association with end-of-life care. Since 2003, with a growing trend toward a positive death movement, these doulas are being trained to provide emotional, educational and spiritual support to individuals and their families before, during and after death.
End-of-life doulas approach death as being a natural part of life and encourage individuals to maintain the option to make decisions about their own death care and experience. Doulas encourage individuals to talk with family members about their end-of-life wishes and to have open communication about this often taboo subject. Doulas advocate for clear communication with medical providers, palliative care teams and hospice care teams. They will assist in activities such as planning for memorial services or writing an obituary, and are available to discuss options for after-death care such as home funerals, green burials, cremations or traditional funerals and burials.
Along with these practical issues, end-of-life doulas focus on providing emotional support to the individual and family during this transitional period. They initiate sometimes difficult conversations and provide emotional support as the dying person makes decision about their care. Doulas can work with them to create a legacy project that reflects the individual's life, experiences, work and spiritual beliefs. They are available to sit vigil with them during the time period leading to death if the family wishes. In Gainesville, several end-of-life doulas are available to provide these services.
Lis Cherr is a retired crisis counselor who holds a master's degree in counseling psychology with a specialization in crisis, grief and loss. She is also a registered nurse, and worked for Haven Hospice until April 2020 as an RN hospital liaison. She is experienced and comfortable with the three phases of end-of-life doula work: advance planning, legacy, and unfinished business; vigil during the last 24 to 48 hours of life; and after-death reprocessing and early grief work with loved ones. Cherr works with clients and their loved ones to encourage communication, advocate for the client and serve as a calming and reassuring presence for the client and family as the end of life nears. She offers a free initial consultation.
Anna Schwait has been a registered nurse since 1981 and a Gainesville resident since 1990. She retired after working 14 years as a clinical assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Nursing. Schwait is bilingual in English and Spanish, and a board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner. In 2018, she completed end-of-life doula certification with the Conscious Dying Institute and started Compassionate Care Now to provide doula services. She has experience in providing doula care and brings a calm reverence to honoring life and death. Her doula work focuses on preparation and planning, emotional and spiritual support, vigil arrangements and grief work.
Shanti Vani, a Gainesville resident since 1979, has organized healing arts events, owned a family child care home and worked as a respiratory therapist. In 2018, after five family members died in five years, she trained as an end-of-life doula with the International End of Life Doula Association and became a volunteer at Haven Hospice. Her home-based Roots and Wings End-of-Life Doula Services provides a range of practical, emotional and spiritual support, including advanced care planning, legacy/life review, memorials and grief work.
Lee Wilberschied relocated to Gainesville from northern Ohio two years ago to be closer to family. She is a lifelong educator and has earned three certificates for end-of-life doula work. Her work in Ohio included volunteer work with two hospices and a private group practice with several clients, and active membership in an end-of-life choir. Her fluency in Spanish has helped her to connect with clients and their families. She is working to establish herself in Gainesville, and her doula work focuses include vigil, public relations, and memory/legacy work.
Lis Cherr, Day is Done Doula, LLC: 352-477-1211, [email protected]
Anna Schwait, Compassionate Care Now: 352-538-7161, [email protected], CompassionateCareNow.com
Shanti Vani, Roots and Wings End-of-Life Doula Services: 352-225-1385, [email protected]
Lee Wilberschied: 216-316-4454, [email protected]