One of the skills that death doulas practice is actively listening while holding big space, and practicing neutrality. When we initiate conversations about death and dying, sometimes there is a lot of emotional release and expression… and other times it’s just the opposite. Our job is not to have a judgement about the response of the client, but to help them to get clarity on what they want and need out of their dying experience. It’s important to allow the client to come to their own conclusions, make their own choices, etc. It is, after all, their death.
Recently, I was practicing this skill with my husband. I would ask him a question about death or dying, and then set a timer for five (long) minutes. During that time, I would not talk or respond to him. I wouldn’t validate or invalidate what he said. My job was simply to ask the question and listen.
If he didn’t have anything to say about the question, we would remain in silence for the full five minutes. If he finished his answer before the five minute timer went off, we would remain in silence until the time was done.
So I asked him, “What is the purpose of death?” and set a timer for five minutes.
At first he looked at me, baffled. “Whoa… I have no clue.” We sat in silence for about a minute. He continued, “Well I guess, let me think about it… When we die, we’re buried…And that’s kind of like going back to the Earth.”
I could tell he was making some connections. He continued, “Well, we come from the Earth… and then I guess we return to the Earth… So, yeah, death is the way of returning to where we come from.”
We sat in silence for another minute or so. I could tell he was having some feelings. He shared, “Wow, I resonate with that. I feel grateful… I feel held by the Earth.”
We sat in silence for the rest of the time. Making eye contact. The timer went off.
I asked him, “How was that exercise for you?” He answered that he was surprised about how at first he thought he knew nothing about the purpose of death, but later came to have an awareness that really resonated with him.
Many of us carry much deeper levels of awareness than we know. If we are guided and feel supported, the love that in seeded within us can create expansiveness that can be surprising at times. One of the many joys of my vocation is to help people find what they desire and need at their death portal.