of the Story
Certified Death Doula Services with Dementia Care Options
Certified Death Doula Services with Dementia Care Options
Whether we know death is coming or it is unexpected, it is still complicated, challenging and messy. It is a time when all components of living, mental, emotional, spiritual and physical meet in an elevated state of shock. And this is where an end of life care partner/doula steps in to the story. In ancient Greece a doula was a household servant. In Hebrew the word for funeral is levaya which means, to accompany. This is the role of an end of life care partner/doula. The care partner/doula is here to be your household servant and accompany you on a path to death whether it is your own or a loved one. In my doula servant role, I serve first with my ears. I listen and we create a safe space to grieve well. I apply years of experience as a facilitator of individual and group conversations, both joyful and difficult, to help you find your specific needs. The final decisions are all yours. I listen and then ask you clarifying questions. Together we sort out what you value in this life and how this final segment will reflect those values. As care partner/doula and facilitator I walk behind, beside or in front of you as needed and determined by you. You will discover your personal needs as the author of this chapter of your life story. Through this purely personal approach, I hope you will find beauty in these final days and beyond.
I begin my story by telling you who I am: I am husband of Holly and father of Eleanor (Ellie), Benedict (Ben), and Basil. I am the youngest child in a family of five. I loved my father so much I made him the best man in my wedding. On the day we buried him I vowed to let the rest of my life honor his life. Little did I know the final days of his life in a hospice and the disease that took him, dementia, would place the most influence on that commitment.
Previous to my dad’s death I had worked with young people of all ages. I was a teacher in outdoor education, a facilitator of team building experiences, youth pastor, worked in special education, and I was a stay at home dad.
After my dad’s death, I devoted myself to working with those who have dementia. I took up work in memory care facilities. Along the way I found myself in love with the people and the work. The residents were full of life and energy and all kinds of beautiful quirks. The first time death took one of our residents, I thought to myself that I could never work with the dying since it seemed too much of a burden to bear. Slowly over time I was somehow drawn more to the people I served as death occurred. Somehow I felt an even greater love for them as they passed. I loved the stories of their lives and wished I could have learned more. Though I was only with them for a very short span, as they passed I realized I felt like I had known them for years.
I became a hospice volunteer. I found myself feeling honored that complete strangers would allow me to be active in this most sacred time in the wheel of life. As I was given glimpses of the stories of those who would die at any moment, full-time work with those at the end-of-life began to become reality.
One day my wife said to me, “you should be a death doula.” My response was, “There is no such thing, you are making that up.” Our children’s births were guided by midwives and doulas. That made sense to me — but a death doula? I pursued some research and, sure enough, this was real, very new, but real.
In January 2017 I entered into a four-month death doula training through an organization called momdoulary (mourningdoula.com). Laura Saba is the trainer and mentor in this program. She has been written up in the New York Times, Psychology Today Magazine and various other media. Laura Travels the world studying death. Momdoulary offered an extensive “6 in 1 special edition training.” I now hold a Gold Star certificate from this organization as a certified end-of-life doula. Along the way I began to look back at my own story. The narrative of my life is full of memories of family. Once upon a time I was a little boy being held. Then I would become and a father holding his little boys. Playing football, watching Star Wars over and over, traveling the world and so much more have filled the pages of my narrative. My story is full of change, both difficult and joyful. It is full of obstacles overcome and disappointments lived with. It has been decorated with events, relationships and pilgrimages of all sorts. My story is full of beautiful people who I miss on a daily basis and some I don’t miss at all, but even they are shapers of my story. I have now opened a new gate with a new story that will be told. It is our stories that really make up our lives, your story and my story and so many who will weave the tapestry of our story. I see story at the center of the death process. It is the cornucopia of stories that keep us alive in the world well beyond our physical death. I am here to walk along with you in the sacred end of life story.
How does one re-die? Is this reincarnation? Is it Ground hog day?. No, it is none of the previous. But what does our culture endorse? Our trash, our plastic and even our excrement is recycled. Christian communities often look for renewal. It is now common for sports to make use of replay. In nature a forest burns and it regenerates. When a plan goes awry we re-think it. The concept of re - death pushes us to revisit what we know about death, or think we know. This blog will push the reader to swim in the conversation of death. Typically Americans do not want to swim in death. They want to look at it from the beach, from near the stream, from the airplane that flies over the ocean. Re-death challenges us to swim to death's murky depths to find a beautiful surprise. When we begin to explore death it will also force us to explore our own mortality and, maybe even more of a challenge is to face the mortality of those around us. If you are out there avoiding the death conversation, I invite you into this one. If you are looking to push into the death conversation I invite you into this one. If you have wrestled with the death conversation and want to enter further I invite you. Maybe you just want to come along for the ride. I invite you too. This invitation is to all. Whatever, your current view of death is, whatever your spirituality is, whatever your ethic is, I invite you in. I invite you to enter into intelligent, reflective dialogue. I look forward to a respectful reflection that is multicultural, multi generational, multi spiritual and all other multi's that will make this a rich place of thought and learning
Your death doula, Jim
fees are negotiable.
End of life
All services begin with an initial 1 hour consultation ( If you chose to move forward in this relationship the consultation payment will go to your payment for initial service). We will discuss your needs and create a partnership that will work for you.
Conversation: Do you want to have a conversation about death? But, you are uncomfortable, unsure or just do not know where to begin. This is for where I can help.
VIGIL DOULA: As the final hours approach, I will offer support in various ways practical, emotional, spiritual, based on individual values and needs.
LEGACY DOULA: What do you want to leave upon your death? Whether you are nearing death or you just want to begin thinking about it, this service is designed to help you. We will devise an initial plan that will allow you to create this legacy. Practical, emotional and spiritual support based on individual values and needs.
(individual and group rates available)
RE DESIGN: You have lost a loved one. You have begun the grieving process? Are you ready to begin to devise a plan for what life will look like without the loved one you have lost? Guardians of the Story will support you in devising a purely personal plan of action. Practical, emotional, mental and spiritual support is provided based on personal values and needs.
(individual and group rates available
SACRED PATH: If you have discovered death is imminent, yours or a loved ones, Guardians of the Story will support you to construct a long term plan in light of your individual needs and/or the needs of a loved one.
All Of The Sudden: Death can hit when we least expect it. If you have lost someone unexpectedly there is much to think through in a short amount of time. We will be supportive in this time of immediate need.
MOURNING DOULA: You have lost a loved one. Now you enter fully into the long road of grieving. Guardians of the Story is here to support you, emotionally, spiritually, and practically based on your personal values and individual needs.
JOHN PATRICK DOULA PROGRAM: In honor of my parents first child John Patrick Zaher, who was still born we offer this grieving service. If you have lost a child due to miscarriage Guardians of the Story will support you in creating a ritual to honor your lost child. If you have lost a baby Guardians will support you in creating a plan based on personal values that will allow you to grieve well.
My best friend for my entire life was my dad. He was a vibrant man, always on the move, always building something, working or playing with me. His mind was sharp and decisive. He always had an organized plan for anything. He was my hero. After retirement he was diagnosed with dementia. His mind slowed down rapidly. If you asked him a question, the answer only came after a long pause. He could not drive, build or do many of the industrious things he had done before. He was a completely different man than the one I new growing up. But he was still my hero, my second hero.
Activity Consulting If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia and you need guidance in keeping them active, this service will support you. We will come up with a plan based on the individual’s needs, environmental surrounding, personality, history and current life circumstances
Respite Care If there are short stretches of time where you need to be away from you loved one I will offer loving and dignified care. This care can be one time or on going.