Three islanders, who are stepping up to serve as skilled and compassionate liaisons to help islanders and their loved ones navigate death, will hold an informational meet and greet session from 2-3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, at the Tree of Life Wellness Center, at 17331 Vashon Hwy SW.
Susan Pitiger, Brad Davis and Colleen Carette will explain their services, which they are offering as a gift to the community with donations gratefully accepted.
They call themselves death doulas.
Many islanders may be familiar with the work of birth doulas — trained professionals who provide physical, emotional and informational support to clients both before, during and shortly after childbirth. But Pitiger, Davis and Carette aim to be there for islanders as they experience the opposite end of life’s spectrum.
Carette, who worked as a birth doula for 25 years, sees great parallels between helping people at the beginning of life and at its end. Both require mentoring, guiding and advocating for their clients’ wishes.
“Both [times] are very sacred, very special times for each individual, each family and each community,” she said. “[It is] important to have somebody there who is holding the space — because that is what I believe a doula does.”
In a recent interview, the trio explained that the services of death doulas are tailored to the specific needs of each patient and family. A death doula makes sure the threads are connected between the dying person and the important people in their lives, including family members, caregivers, hospice and medical teams, and spiritual communities.
“Our primary gift is our ability to be a grounding and supportive presence for individuals and their families during a deeply intense, painful, and emotional time,” Pitiger, a former nurse, said.
Death doulas, Pitiger added, may use tools such as life reviews, legacy letters, open conversations about what feels hard, planning for the active dying time and after-death rituals including home wakes and funerals, and processing loss and grief in the weeks after the death of a loved one.
It is sadly part of American culture, Davis said, to meet death with denial — something he hopes to help change in his work with Pitiger and Carette.
“Even in the end, a lot of people aren’t willing to admit they’re dying,” Davis said. “That’s where we want to come in and help — to make it normal and make it a sacred moment of being a companion and ushering in a good spirit of the end.”
To find out more, contact Susan Pitiger at 206-818-4232; Brad Davis at 206-799-7235; and Colleen Carette at 206-351-7769. The trio also invites islanders who have lost loved ones to attend a monthly grief ceremony. The ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month, starting in January, at the Tree of Life Wellness Center.