Knee-deep in research for a paper in her Anthropology of Death class, Kelly Coffey noticed a pop-up ad for end-of-life doula training. It felt like an epiphany. “I know it sounds corny,” she says today, “but I feel like this class found me. It was just what I was looking for.”
A new program for end-of-life support
Kelly signed up for the eight-week UVM End of Life Doula Professional Certificate program in January. The course, developed by the Larner College of Medicine and Cabot Creamery Cooperative, helps meet the growing demand for end-of-life support.
Being a doula for those facing the end of life means different things to different people, says Kelly. “Sometimes,” she says, “it means just checking in with family members and asking them if they’ve remembered to have lunch. For the individuals themselves, it can be as simple as just sitting with them, holding their hand, and listening.”
A personal experience
Somewhat unexpectedly, Kelly was able to put what she’d learned to use soon after graduating from the class, when a lifelong friend became terminally ill seemingly out-of-the-blue. “I was able to use my rational mind as opposed to my emotional mind, and everything I’d learned through this training to help the family truly celebrate the life of their mother in the days she had left,” she says. “It was an incredible experience.”
Aside from the personal rewards, Kelly see this work as part of a generational cultural shift in how we think about death and dying. “My generation is much more interested in playing an active role in planning their own deaths, to the degree that any of us can.”
Kelly looks forward to sharing this perspective and her experience with others in the future. “It’s work that really resonates with me,” she says, “and I believe that it’s really important. I consider it a tremendous privilege to accompany people through this experience, as best I can.”
To learn more about the End-of-Life Doula Professional Certificate Program, call 802-656-2085.