MILWAUKEE — You may know the term 'doula' when it comes to helping women before, during and after pregnancy. But have you ever heard of a 'Death Doula'?
In our Two Americas report, we show you a death doula who helped a Milwaukee family grieve the loss of their newborn child.
No parent should ever outlive their own child. For Parents Tamara Thompson and Demaryl Howard, it happened without warning. "I had a beautiful beautiful, daughter, Demara Dunia Mpatapo Howard," said Tamara.
She says her seventh child was born healthy and happy. "We went to the Wisconsin State Capitol and we advocated for the Birth Equity Act," said Thompson.
It was her husband Demaryl Howard's only daughter.
But last December, the three-month-old contracted a respiratory illness.
"I had taken her to her pediatrician four times before she died, and we thought she had a cold. I put her down to sleep, and I came back two hours later to change her diaper, and she - she was gone," said Thompson.
Caught in the fog of unimaginable grief, she turned to Death Doula Star Turpin. "I didn’t know what to say or how to verbalize what exactly I needed. I don’t think I would have made it out the other side without secondary trauma, without me having care of the end of life services Star provided," Thompson said.
We asked Turpin what is a death doula. "Very similar to a birth doula. I liken it to being an usher, leading people in and leading people out," Turpin said.
Turpin gives no medical care as a death doula. Her role can help plan the time before, during and after someone's death. For the Thompson family, she helped take the pressure off of funeral planning. "What was immediate was I wanted to have the wake at home. I particularly said I wanted comfort food. Her knowing all of those things took it away from me, so I want more people to have access to that. It's more dignified for the person who is deceased."
In the three years Star has been a Death Doula, she has had intimate conversations with terminally ill clients. She shares the conversations she's had with clients. "No one ever thinks about 'oh I should have spent more time working.' [It's more] do my kids know I love them?"
Turpin feels her role gives those dying more dignity. "You leave behind a legacy of love by preparing for your death, because we’re all going," she said.
The hardest is always the loss of a child, but Tamara Thompson believes having a doula has helped her family come out the other side. "I'm so glad that in the immediate shock of my baby's death, that I didn't feel isolated," she said.
Star's business is called 'Death Becomes Her LLC' - named after her favorite movie. Another area of her work that has been increasing in demand is helping families navigate the loss of their beloved pets.
To reach Star you can click here, or call her at (414) 999-1102.
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