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Caring for the Dying
The Doula Approach to a Meaningful Death
Henry Fersko-Weiss, LCSW
ISBN: 9781573246965
An Open Center Book
Book (Hardcover)
Red Wheel
6 x 9
256 pages
March 1, 2017


“Warm stories of client experiences give permission to imagine a death experienced with as much humanity as the rest of life, with profound results for everyone affected by the event. Fersko-Weiss’s perspective is a desperately needed reminder of the value of facing life’s most difficult transitions with open eyes and hearts.”
– Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“Written for families and caregivers, this book provides a clear overview of end-of-life doulas and a compelling case for their wider use in terminal care. It also supplies some wonderful ideas and techniques for all readers who want to have a more peaceful, meaningful death for themselves or their loved ones.
–Library Journal Starred Review

“This brave, reassuring book succeeds at eliminating the negativity surrounding death, reframing what seems like a passive, painful experience as an active journey that ‘captures the concentrated fragrance of a person’s life, its sweetest flavor.’”
–Foreword Reviews

“An extraordinary contribution to the care of the dying. Through story and instruction, Henry Fersko-Weiss offers his great wisdom on how we can offer meaningful care that cannot only ease an individual’s dying but provide consolation to family and friends as they cope with grief and loss.” —Kenneth J. Doka, author of Grief is a Journey

Caring for the Dying will not only become a standard for those wishing to train in the way of the doula. It will be a book that answers questions for those who have been in the presence of death and a sourcebook and support for those who wish to bring such a compassionate and caring role into one of life’s most challenging and sacred moments.” --Robert Sachs, LISW, author of Rebirth Into Pure Land and Perfect Endings, and Board Member of Hospice of San Luis Obispo

"This is a pitch perfect, accessible book on an otherwise inaccessible subject. Just what the world needs right now. Mr. Fersko-Weiss points us to all sorts of ways to find meaning at the end of life, or ways to create it. His beautiful and poignant stories can be used as road-maps, not only for clinicians, but also for patients, family members, or caregivers who wish to stay connected through to the end of life." -–BJ Miller, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCSF and attending specialist for the Symptom Management Service of the UCSF Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center

Caring for the Dying describes a whole new way to approach death and dying. It explores how the dying and their families can bring deep meaning and great comfort to the care given at the end of a life. Created by Henry Fersko-Weiss, the end-of-life doula model is adapted from the work of birth doulas and helps the dying to find meaning in their life, express that meaning in powerful and beautiful legacies, and plan for the final days. The approach calls for around-the-clock vigil care, so the dying person and their family have the emotional and spiritual support they need along with guidance on signs and symptoms of dying. It also covers the work of reprocessing a death with the family afterward and the early work of grieving.

Emphasis is placed on the space around the dying person and encourages the use of touch, guided imagery, and ritual during the dying process. Throughout the book Fersko-Weiss tells amazing and encouraging stories of the people he has cared for, as well as stories that come from doulas he has trained and worked with over the years.

What is unique about this book is the well-conceived and thorough approach it describes to working skillfully with the dying. The guidance provided can help a dying person, their family, and caregivers to transform the dying experience from one of fear and despair into one that is uplifting and even life affirming. You will see death in a new light and gain a different perspective on how to help the dying. It may even change the way you live your life right now.

Henry Fersko-Weiss, LCSW, is executive director of the International End-of-Life Doula Association. In 2003, Henry created the very first End-of-Life Doula Program in the US at a hospice in New York City and has built many other programs based on his model. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. He is on the faculty of the Open Center’s Art of Dying Institute.
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