Our culture has precious few resources to help us cope with death and dying. Hospice nurse Suzanne O'Brien is working to change that. The Pine Plains-based RN has created the End-of-Life Doula Program to help train volunteers to become a resource and support to individuals and their families during one of life's most important journeys.
"Special care and preparation is given when we enter this world," says O'Brien. "Why not do the same when we leave this world?" The word doula calls to mind someone who assists a mother with emotional and physical support during childbirth. Yet the kind of assistance required at the end of life can be similar. "Both require special love and preparation."
Nine out of ten people who are terminally ill say they want to die at home rather than in a hospital, according to a National Hospice Organization Gallup Poll. Yet most of us are ill-prepared to help our loved ones with their passage, and are often held back by our own fears of death. O'Brien has an unusual talent for removing the taboo aspects of dying, and for revealing its beauty and power. She has written books, given talks, and traveled as far as Africa to help train people to support others in their most critical moments.
Eventually, O'Brien hopes to have a volunteer End-of-Life Doula resource network in every county. In the meantime, she also leads "Death Cafe" meetings where people come together in a safe setting to share thoughts, questions, and philosophies about death and dying.
O'Brien will bring her End-of-Life Doula training to Pine Plains on Sunday, March 23, from noon to 6pm. For more information and to RSVP, call 845-337-0389. The next Death Cafe will take place in Hyde Park on March 10, from 6 to 8pm. Both events are free. To learn more, visit Suzannebobrien.com.