Doulas as Facilitators of Transformation and Grief

Description: Doula work is physically demanding, emotionally draining, and spiritually life changing. In order to create the emotional space of being present with clients and touching their hearts, the doula opens her heart. When a doula assists a woman[1], she is facilitating her emotional process into becoming a mother to this baby. She transforms her identity through her labor. In addition, there may be grief over what is left behind in this transformation, and the mother will often look to her doula to help process or feel her way through her anger, fear, sadness and acceptance of this new self and new circumstances. To help a woman negotiate her fear and pain takes an authentic connection on the part of the doula.

In this powerful session, based on grounded theory methodology and 40 interviews with experienced doulas, Gilliland explores the ideas of doula work as a spiritual path and the doula as a facilitator of personal transformation in the modern world.

Objectives: By the completion of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe the advanced doula roles of “trusted guide” and “wise witness”.
  2. Illustrate how a woman’s personal identity and sense of self shifts during the birth process and how the doula can facilitate that.
  3. Analyze a mother’s birth story for elements of the five stages of grief.
  4. Assess doula’s stories for simple and complex emotional support strategies used by doulas that facilitate the processes of grief, loss, and transformation.

[1] The participants in this research were cisgendered women and their partners. I intuitively feel that several conclusions could be extended to laboring persons and their identity transformation processes. But that would be making assumptions about a member of a stigmatized group without any evidence, which is wrong for many reasons. So this HO is written using gendered language because that is what I am able to show accurately, not because I am unaware of the exclusion that using it implies.

Length: 90 minutes

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