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 to transition peacefully. If you’re interested in how to become a death doula, welcome!
For a lot of people, this is a new profession, and we need supportive doulas out there to help people die good deaths.
Start a Death Doula Business
No state or federal guidelines regulate 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 to provide clients with stellar service.
If you have no experience in death work, you might want to consider some of the following ideas.
Volunteer at your Local Hospice
Hospice organizations provide training and background checks that come in handy when starting your own death doula business. You can also log hundreds of volunteer hours and 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.
I’m also a board member and educator at End-of-Life Psychedelic Care. We provide the highest quality training for those who want to work with the dying and include a plant medicine component.
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.
Find a program that works best for you and is affordable.
Network with Other Professionals
Start networking with local businesses that serve the same population. Get to know them. This includes funeral homes, cemeteries, at-home care services, will/estate attorneys, assisted living facilities, etc.
Join local networking groups and coalitions. 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.
Create a Website
Create a website for your business and consider getting professional marketing advice. This includes picking a name for your practice that isn’t already taken and creating a site that is appealing and engaging.
Establish an Online Presence
Get on Facebook, Instagram, 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.
Choose Your Services
Decide what services you’d like to offer as a death doula. Consider your background, experience, strengths, and challenges when determining how to best support those at the end of their lives. (Click here for a list of my services.)
Basic liability is required for death doulas who work in people’s homes.
Talk to an Attorney
Research legal requirements that go with starting your own business. This often depends on the state in which you live or do business. This is especially important if you’re considering a role in the psychedelic space.
Join an Alliance
You want to find a professional doula association that promotes best practices. There are several out there. Full disclosure: I’m a NEDA-proficient member of the National End-of-Life Doula Alliance (NEDA).
Form a Local Collective
Talk to practicing death doulas in your area. 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.
Consider forming a support group so you can all get to know each other. This comes in handy when you (or they) need to take time off for self-care, vacations, or illnesses. Covering for one another is vital with the kind of work we are doing so start building that trust and support now.
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
Talk to friends, families, and associates. Ask them to like your pages, follow you on social media, and leave rave reviews. Encourage them to tell people about this important service.
Normalize the Conversation
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.
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.
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?
How much you charge depends on where you live, your previous experience, and the specific services 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-$175 per hour or more. Many doulas operate on a sliding scale. They take into account three things when determining how much to charge each client: what services this person needs, how much time 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 to me at Anitya Doula Services with questions anytime.