Part how-to guide, part hopeful manifesto, Cultivating the Doula Heart provides a clear framework for supporting those facing hardship, grief, and loss. Succinct and straightforward, this “work of heart” covers: Components of Doula Care, Aspects of Loss, Ways of Being/Ways of Doing, Grief Support, and Contemplative Exercises. 

Readers will feel empowered to move from sympathy to empathy to compassion. The doula heart can be readily infused into all work and into any relationship.

SECTION ONE: Essentials of Doula Care

  • Dedication to Presence
  • Open-Mindedness
  • Understanding with Compassion
  • Listening Intently
  • Allaying Distress

SECTION TWO: Before, During, and After Loss:

  • A Doula’s Place in Sacred Space
  • Aspects of a Loss
  • The Way of the Doula
  • Soul’s Eye View
  • Self-Care While Caregiving
  • Doula Language
  • Preparatory Grief Support
  • Life Beyond Loss
  • A Sit with M. (poem)

SECTION THREE: Contemplative Practice

Tenets of Doula Care

The “Ins” of Creating and Holding Space

Ode to an Iris (epilogue)

Francesca Arnoldy’s Cultivating the Doula Heart beautifully captures the essence of doula work and compassionate care. Core qualities of doula support are described, including intentional presence, open-mindedness, understanding, listening and allaying distress. I especially appreciated her description of “the doula way” and her emphasis on the doula meeting people where they are without judgment or agenda. This is key! “We focus on empowering, not directing.” This little manual is short and concise. From creating and holding space, to self-care while caregiving and more, each idea presented is a little gem.

Patty Brennan, Doula trainer since 1998, Co-owner of Lifespan Doula Association, Author of The Doula Business Guide: How to Succeed as a Birth, Postpartum or End-of-Life Doula, 3rd ed. and The Doula Business Guide Workbook: Tools to Create a Thriving Practice, 2nd ed.

Francesca Arnoldy articulately shares the principles and practice at the heart of the end-of-life doula role. Arnoldy’s experience as a doula and commitment to compassionate care shine through in these pages. Anyone interested become an end-of-life doula or understanding how a doula can support their loved one and family would do well to sit down with this book.

Charley MacMartin, Volunteer Services Manager, Hospice & Palliative Care, The University of Vermont Health Network Home Health & Hospice

As a clinical psychologist with a specialty in trauma and critical incident stress management, I strongly believe that the work of an end-of-life doula can be superior to clinical support during and directly following trauma or loss.  Doulas are able to be with people where they are, helping to meet physical, emotional and spiritual needs.  The role doulas play for the dying patient and their families, can aid immensely in the grieving process for all involved.

Lori Gurney, Clinical Psychologist, Managing Clinician for Vermont State Police

In Cultivating the Doula Heart, I was struck by how beautifully we are guided in the art of “be”ing with our client rather than in the art of doing.    It is so often my desire to alleviate suffering, to offer advice, to take over, or to fix.  But I have learned that none of these is truly helpful, other than to give me a poor solution to my occasional uneasy feeling of not knowing how best to help.  Fixing ultimately disempowers my client.  These techniques may soothe me by giving me something I am doing, but clearly the doula heart is found in hearing, in joining, in witnessing, in validating, in affirming, and in holding sacred space.  As Francesca says, “Doulas care”, and we are “reverent allies.”  That is not possible when doing prevents the ability to be.  We strive to be a “vessel of calm” and a “well of trust.”

Chaplain Cathy Nickse, Director of Spiritual Life, Wesley Village