Most of my job is spreading the word that death doulas exist. We’re here. Doulas support those at the end of their lives. We’re a lot like birth doulas but at the other end of the spectrum. Doula work entails everything from scheduling volunteers and visitors to helping someone shed their fears about dying in order to transition peacefully. If you’re interested in how to become a death doula, explore for more information. This is a new profession, and we need supportive doulas out there to help people die good deaths.
How to Get Started
There are no state or federal guidelines regulating the death doula industry. Therefore, it’s up to each individual doula to choose the path that makes sense. My advice: find the best possible training in order to provide clients with stellar service.
If you have no experience in death work, you might want to consider:
- Volunteering at your local hospice. They will provide training and background checks that will come in handy when starting your own death doula business. You can also gain valuable experience working with and around those who are dying.
- Research death doula certification or training programs to learn more about this career path. Full disclosure: I attended the University of Vermont’s end-of-life doula program. Their remote classes allowed me to thoroughly immerse myself in this new world while also maintaining a good work/life balance.
- Start networking with local businesses who serve the same population. Get to know them. This includes funeral homes, cemeteries, at-home care services, will/estate attorneys, assisted living facilities, etc.
- Create a website for your business. This includes picking a name that isn’t already taken and creating a site that is appealing and engaging.
- Establish an online presence. Get on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Start following others in your area or national end-of-life professionals.
- Get an accountant. Make sure you follow their advice for bank accounts, taxes and appropriate fees.
- Register your business with the state/local authorities. Your accountant can help with this as well, including getting your tax ID number.
- Decide what services you’d like to offer as a death doula. Consider your background, experience, strengths and weaknesses when determining how to best support those at the end of their lives. (Click here for a list of examples.)
Before You Open Your Business…
- Get insured. Basic liability is required for doulas who work in people’s homes.
- Research legal requirements that go with starting your own business. This often depends on the state in which you live or do business.
- Join local networking groups. Get the word out and build relationships that lead to referrals. This includes those in the senior care industry, women or minority-owned business groups, etc.
- Join an alliance or professional doula association. Pick one that promotes best practices. There are several out there. Full disclosure: I’m a member of National End-of-Life Doula Alliance (NEDA).
- Talk to current death doulas. Reach out and ask them about this career path. What do they wish they’d known before getting started? Pick their brains with questions that might help better prepare you.
- Think about self-care options. You’re going to be a part of some sacred moments and heavy scenes. Find a way to deal with the emotional aspect of caring for dying people. This might include a support group, counselor or caring friends.
- Spread the word among friends, families and associates. Ask them to like your pages, follow you on social media and tell people about this important service.
- Offer to speak whenever or wherever you can. This includes local houses of worship, retirement communities and continuing education courses at local colleges that cater to older adults.
What Are Prerequisites to Becoming a Death Doula?
There aren’t any requirements when becoming an end-of-life doula. You don’t need prior training or experience in death work.
Death Doula Training
Training depends on the program you choose, but it typically covers topics like:
- death and dying
- hospice care
- palliative medicine
- death rituals
- common diseases
- legacy projects
- and more.
Basically, find a program that works best for you and is affordable.
How Much Does Training Cost?
As of early 2022, most certification programs cost between $800 – $1600. This depends on many factors, such as:
- type of program
- in-person or online
If tuition is too much, inquire about scholarships.
How Much Do Doulas Charge?
- Where do you live?
- How much experience do you have?
- What services do you provide?
These are the factors that will play a part in how much you make as a death doula. Generally speaking, this can range from $25-$100 per hour. Many doulas operate on a sliding scale. They take into account three things when determining how much to charge each client: what services does this person need, how much time do they want, and what is their ability to pay.
If you’re operating your own business, consider taxes, healthcare, transportation, and any other costs required to do this successfully. As you grow your network, advertise your services, gain more experience, and market effectively, you’ll be able to charge more per person or receive more referrals.
Although it’s not easy to support dying people, it is meaningful work. If you’re being called into this field, research how to become a death doula and reach out with questions anytime.