“As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.” – Leonardo DaVinci
Ask Michelle Massie to describe herself, and she may tell you she is first a wife and mother. Then a friend of Jesus and many others. Followed by a Registered Nurse and Life Coach.
Those she loves will tell you she is caring, spiritual, and empathic. A deep lover of all people and them living their best lives.
Which, all combined, led to her latest role as an End-of-Life Doula. Or as she will tell you, this leads to how the role of End-of-Life Doula actually chose her.
Michelle is the daughter of a funeral director and has spent many years of her nursing career working in hospice. But it was the personal experience of losing loved ones, some expected, some sudden and unforeseen, that made her realize the need for more support and community around the processing of death, loss, and grief.
“Doula” is a Greek word that in ancient times referred to a woman of service. An End-of-Life Doula guides people and their families through the dying process, usually beginning soon after a terminal diagnosis.
Just as the roles of an OB nurse and OB doula are quite different at the beginning of life, so too are the roles of a Hospice nurse and End-of-Life Doula.
“A hospice nurse monitors the patient for a peaceful and pain-free death,” states Massie. “The End-of-Life Doula is an additional support and advocate offering holistic tips, education, and support to their patients and families as they are passing on.”
“Too often we quiet death, when it’s one of the only for sure in life. One of the biggest questions I ask my Death Doula patients is, ‘How can I help you live your best last days?’”
As an End-of-Life Doula, Massie provides emotional, spiritual, and physical support to her patients by providing opportunities to speak openly about dying, explore the meaning of the dying’s life and legacy, help incorporate traditions, and create new memories at the end of life. She also can assist with physical and practical care to ease the burden of caregivers, process emotions and experiences with loved ones, and guide families through the early stages of grieving.
“I’ve seen first hand, personally and professionally in hospice the need for more support for families and the dying at end of life. The world also needs to normalize death, and the grief that comes with it, death doulas help with both of these,” says Massie. “I want to create space for people. For the terminal mom, who needs someone who’s not emotionally attached to help write letters to her kids; the grandma who wants to make that traditional recipe with her grandchildren; for someone who wants a chance to have a difficult conversation or finish that painting started years prior.”
Massie believes that during this time of death, there can be moments to make life-giving memories. She is here in our community to walk next to families, ask intentional questions, offer support, help them tie up loose ends, and create memories, during this unforgettably challenging time in all their lives.
“This role of an End-of-life doula chose me, and I aspire to bring hope and life, to the dying process, and after.”
Kudos is a program of the local nonprofit organization Women Empowering Women. The program recognizes the good work women do. These are women who’ve lived quietly, joyfully, or creatively to influence our lives. They are an inspiration and deserve to be recognized for their efforts and impact. Women Empowering Women is dedicated to the collaboration of women to meet needs and help women become the best versions of themselves. To learn more, see https://wewnetwork.org.