Whole Selves and Shadow Sides: A Balanced Doula

As doulas, we enter into our clients’ end-of-life and grief journeys as our(whole)selves. This includes not only kindness and patience, but also our conditioning and triggers as well. We are not empty vessels. We carry hushed reminders of past trauma, festering wounds, and unrecognized assumptions.

We are not void of dynamic humanness—thankfully so. In truth, it is the universal nature of suffering that allows us to open our minds and hearts to the struggle of others. We are not separate or spared. Yet, when we act in the role of a doula, our focus is on each client. We must not allow our baggage to interrupt visits. How can we effectively reach a balanced stance of compassionate understanding and detachment?

By shifting into our intentional presence.

We set aside our to-do list. We pause and breathe. We engage our own ritualistic version of centering so that when we offer support, we can remain neutral and nonanxious, steady in the face of chaos or complications.

Doula work is a practice of awareness.

This is not mine becomes a crucial mantra. We know loss. We have endured grief. Yet, this particular unfolding is our client’s, not ours. We hold space and witness. We gently support and encourage, mirroring back any notes of strength and trust we hear. When our shadowy sides surface—and they will—we temporarily tuck them aside, allotting ourselves self-care time outside of our work to process and heal.

In this way, we honor the moments spent supporting others. We also honor our own needs, nudging the tender edges that no longer serve. We regularly contemplate and learn, further cultivating our doula hearts.

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