We had the good fortune of connecting with Colorado End-of-Life Collaborative and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Colorado End-of-Life Collaborative, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
The Colorado End-of-Life Collaborative is a 501c6 nonprofit membership organization, led by a volunteer board of directors. The collaborative, which launched in March 2020, was created to bring together end-of-life doulas and other end-of-life and senior/aging service providers who want to help change the way we “do death” in our communities. Co-founded and led by a group of five trained, professional end-of-life doulas (a.k.a. death doulas, death midwives), the collaborative provides ongoing support and community for its doula members. It also nurtures relationships with other vetted and trusted end-of-life service providers as a way of giving clients reliable referrals for affiliate needs. Through its Speaker’s Bureau, the Collaborative works to increase awareness of what end-of-life doulas offer the dying and their families, as well as educate the community on end-of-life topics and trusted resources. Our co-founders, all end-of-life doulas, are: Cindy Kaufman, President; Valerie Nicholas, VP for Strategic Planning; Vanessa Johnston, VP for Membership; Kerry Arquette, Secretary; Marisa Verrier, Treasurer.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
An end-of-life doula provides non-medical end-of-life care. Doulas are trained to guide and support a dying person and their loved ones through one of the most meaningful and difficult transitions in life – dying and death. Doulas are not a replacement for hospice care. Doulas complement hospice care, filling the gaps that hospice care does not provide. In a culture where death is mostly a taboo topic to discuss, end-of-life doulas create a safe space in which a dying client can talk about his or her concerns and fears. Doulas explore what the dying client sees as a “best death scenario.” It is often surprising what comes out of those conversations. A dying person who initially sees their only option as passing while bed-ridden and surrounded by loving and somber faces, may decide that they want food catered for guests, an open bar, tables with jigsaw puzzles, medical marijuana, readings from favorite books, and music by specific artists. Further exploration can refine the client’s vision: ”I want the windows open, only orchids, no television, my nails painted and clean hair!” And why not? This is their occasion…it should be up to them what it looks like, smells like, feels like…theirs to dictate the details to a doula in a vigil plan. The doula then becomes their advocate, assuring when they can no longer speak for themselves, the doula will make sure the vigil plan is carried out. In a situation where one has little control over impending death and when it may come, a vigil plan offers a sense of control, a sense of personal power in an otherwise powerless situation. End-of-life doulas also advocate for clients and their choices, educate clients about what to expect during the dying process, and sit with the dying so that caretakers can have a break. They help with legacy projects, living funerals, end-of-life directives, post-death choices regarding options for the disposition of the body, and funeral plans, including home funerals. Many end-of-life doulas are trained to ease pain and reduce stress and fear through holistic modalities such as reiki, guided meditation, massage, and essential oils. End-of-life doulas sit vigil at the bedside during the active stage of dying. Some doulas are trained to assist loved ones in preparing the body for home viewings. It should be noted that clients need not wait until they are weeks or days away from death to hire an end-of-life doula. When the doula is brought onboard earlier, often just after receiving a terminal diagnosis, the doula can establish a deeper and more trusting relationship with the client and the client’s family. Being present during dying and death is a deeply intimate and sacred experience and the earlier the doula can work with a client and family, the deeper the engagement and the more assistance and advocacy the doula can provide. Our collaborative members serve and embrace all individuals and all families, by birth or choice, of any race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh my! Too many to mention, but here are those that are top of the list: Places to Go: The Wildlife Sanctuary in Keenesburg, the Kirkland Museum, Coors Field to catch a Colorado Rockies game, the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the David Cook Galleries, and lunch at the Denver Botanical Gardens Things to Do: Walk in City Park, ride a bicycle along the Platte, rock climb at REI, check out the music scene in LODO, catch a show or just visit Red Rocks amphitheater, sign up for a walking tour of Historic Denver, and lunch on the 16th Street Mall Where to Eat: The Biscuit Company (breakfast and lunch), Steuben’s, Atelier, La Lomas, The Spice Room, Queen of Sheba, Marco’s Pizza, Fruition, Coperta, Rioja, Breakfast on Broadway
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
We give our shoutout to a few of the leaders in the death positive movement who inspire us as they strive to positively change how dying and death are addressed in our communities. First, we must acknowledge that the modern death positive movement has been largely dominated by white voices, even though persons of color have done end-of-life work in their communities (a.k.a. family and community-centered death care) for generations. As such, we would like to honor Alua Arthur, founder of Going With Grace. As a death doula, attorney, adjunct professor and ordained minister, Alua Arthur is an inspiring and respected leader in the death work community. Going With Grace offers doula training, advocates for end-of-life planning, and explores the topic of death and dying from a vast and creative number of directions. Next, we recognize Caitlin Doughty, a mortician, activist and self-proclaimed “funeral industry rabble-rouser.” She founded the death acceptance collective, “The Order of the Good Death,” which launched the modern death positive movement. She is author of the best-selling books, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “From Here to Eternity,” and “Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs.” Armed with information and wit, she has normalized death, taking the sting out of the “D-Word” and making it socially acceptable to talk about dying in a voice louder than a whisper. Last but not least, we give a shoutout to BJ Miller, a palliative care physician, author, and speaker, best known for his Ted talk, “What Really Matters at the End of Life.” With intelligence and warmth, he shares stories of his own experiences working with the dying and what he has learned in the process. Miller is the subject of the Academy Award-nominated Netflix short documentary,“End Game.”