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Midwife to the Dying, there I’ve said it

2012 March 1
by admin

I have struggled for a few years now with what term to call a person who is working along side another who is dying. Here are some of the terms and in parenthesis are some of the problems with the terminology from my perspective:

  • 11th-hour companion (takes a lot of explaining what this entails)
  • non-medical support for the dying (too heartless)
  • death midwife (using the word death makes it seem final, when really it is a process)
  • midwife to the dying (descriptive and active or process oriented)
  • midwife for/to the soul (some people object to the word soul)
  • soul midwife (some people don’t believe they have a soul, and this is used by an organization in England so it’s already taken)
  • thanadoula (too much to explain)
  • doula to the dying (many people aren’t familiar with the word ‘doula’)
  • death doula (using ‘death’ is scary for some people)
  • end of life coach (too rah rah sounding)
  • end of life guide (pretty good term)
  • end of life consultant (too businesslike)
  • psychopomp (too much to explain)

The term I’ve settled on using is Midwife to the Dying. It does not use the word ‘death’ which many people have a tough time getting past and consider it morbid. And it implies a process, which I believe is the most accurate terminology for it. For now, I’m choosing this phrase to describe the work I, and others, offer to people at the end of life.

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