As the death positive and death empowerment movements continue to evolve and grow, we see an ever-increasing need to help bridge the critical gap at the end-of-life stage. Dying is a process we will all face at some point in our life’s journey. Doulas are advocates and allies who provide continuous, compassionate, non-judgmental care and informational support.

As part of VOYCE’s Community Education Series, we were joined by Dr. Maurya Cockrell to give an insightful presentation on the important role that ‘death doulas’ can play in the end-of-life journey for long-term care residents and their families.

Dr. Cockrell, is an international author, international speaker, and practitioner from St. Louis, MO. Her journey as a Grief Walker began early on as she coped with the loss of her grandparents. Dr. Cockrell uses her experiences with grief and spiritual care to help individuals, families, communities, and workplaces with end-of-life acceptance.


Doulas can provide a wide range of support services for the resident and their families including:

  • Providing compassionate support to people at end-of-life
  • Providing emotional support to families
  • Assisting with end-of-life arrangements
  • Providing spiritual guidance

As Dr. Cockrell highlighted to our audience, “As we journey through life there are many stages at which we can experience loss and the grief that accompanies loss. Death Doulas are also sometimes known as Elder Doulas and in my case, I like to be known as a Grief Walker. During the Pandemic, we saw rising numbers of people living with and trying to cope with grief – this saw an increase in the number of people interested in the work that we do.”

“The work that we do is non-medical, and shouldn’t be confused with counseling or nursing however the Doula is very much part of the care team. A death doula might be introduced when someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness but also a death doula can help someone at an earlier stage. We are trying to move things forward to being a death-positive society, being open in talking about grief and loss, and not waiting until it’s too late. An end-of-life doula can help process those thoughts and feelings that we might find uncomfortable to talk about.”


There are many different stages of grief and we may find that we experience the stages in a non-linear order following the death of a loved one or when reflecting on our own end-of-life journey. There is no one way to experience the stages of grief and we all deal with grief and loss differently. An end-of-life doula can help us to work through our emotions on our individual journey to cope, understand and manage our grief.

  • Shock/Denial
  • Pain/Guilt
  • Anger/Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Reconstruction
  • Acceptance and Hope

Thank you to Dr. Cockrell for joining us to present as part of our Community Education Series as we learned about End-of-Life Care with Death Doulas.

For more information on our guest speaker and their services please visit:


Midwest End-of-Life Doula Collective (St. Louis)

International End of Life Doula Association

What It’s Like to be a Death Doula During COVID-19 Pandemic (TIME Magazine)

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