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Communication and connection have been the Crystal Dunn Rose City Shirt and I will buy this most challenging variables for doulas and their clients. Many in-person meetings with clients and their families have gone digital. For Arthur, FaceTime and Zoom have become essential for helping with clients’ health-related questions when she can’t physically be with them. “Family members [can] scan body parts through a video call, show me and say, ‘Does that look normal?’ Or, ‘She’s breathing like this, does that sound normal?’ And [they] hold the phone up [for me to hear] somebody’s breathing pattern.” That way, even if Arthur is not with the client, she can make an informed decision as to whether they should call the doctor. Arthur has also hosted webinars to help people experience grief and facilitate rituals for transitioning. She has helped coordinate with funeral homes to livestream funerals for clients so that more family members could participate. For clients who are in assisted-living communities or the hospital, nurses often act as a bridge on behalf of doulas. Janie Rakow, a recently retired end-of-life doula and former president of the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA), has been raising money for baby monitors for local hospitals so that doulas can keep in touch with their clients, talk to social workers and chaplains, and even play music. “Nurses and medical staff have been integral in helping doulas make sure they connect with families and play music until the end,” she says.
Omisade Burney-Scott, a full-spectrum doula based in North Carolina, has been encouraging her clients to “think about how you show up energetically when you can’t show up physically. Because I’m a Southern Black woman, there’s so much ritual involved with death and dying in the Crystal Dunn Rose City Shirt and I will buy this South with Black folk,” says Burney-Scott. “It’s beautiful, it’s complex, but it’s highly ritualized.” Grieving has generally involved a lot of face-to-face interactions and “people coming to your house dropping off casserole after casserole,” so during the pandemic Burney-Scott has tried to help her clients try to find alternate activities that will create a similar feeling of closeness and community. One client with relatives spread throughout the United States and Europe had lost two family members and was looking to honor the deceased. “My question for this person was, ‘Where are they from? What are the things that are meaningful for your family? What are the things that you all love to do together?’ And one of the things that we talked about was food and how much food is a core part of their family culture.” Since their family already did a Zoom session every Sunday, Burney-Scott suggested that they make a dish that everybody in the family loves for their meeting. “Then, when you come to the Zoom call, y’all eat together and honor this person or these people who’ve made their transition,” Burney-Scott says.