When we think of a doula, we think of a person there to assist with the many stages of the birthing process—even the tough moments like miscarriages and or delivering a stillborn. However, there are also doulas that provide the same care and attention to those coming to their end of life. For death doula and attorney, Alua Arthur, she learned of this work—and ultimately became a part of it—after helping to support her brother-in-law, Peter Saint John, through his end of life and finding that many of her family's needs and questions were left hanging.

"I was looking for somebody kind, knowledgeable, compassionate. Someone who could offer us information, help us sort through the information we received, make decisions, offer resources," Arthur shares. "Somebody to be present with us as we journeyed through. And since I had a hard time finding somebody, I created Going with Grace to solve that problem for other people."

Arthur recently took the stage during the 2023 TED Conference in Vancouver, Canada. During her talk, she spoke to the crowd on embracing mortality and the importance of death doulas.

"I came to this work by serendipity, but mostly by necessity," she said to the audience. "I took a medical leave of absence from my job as an attorney for Legal Aid of Los Angeles because I was depressed, and I visited Cuba."

Alua Arthur
Death doula Alua Arthur. Image: Courtesy of TED Conferences.

During her time in Cuba, Arthur met a woman on a bus who was suffering from uterine cancer. The two began talking about what death looked like, and Arthur noticed how hard it was for the woman to feel comfortable approaching such a hard—but inevitable—topic. It even led her to think about her own mortality. She knew then that launching Going with Grace was needed for the thousands of families worldwide who face similar experiences during the death of a loved one.

"If you’ve ever been present for a death of somebody in your life, you understand how difficult it is and also how isolating it can be," Arthur says to EBONY. "I think it’s important that we support other people through life overall. We have wedding planners, we have therapists, we have tutors for math programs, why not also have somebody who can support us along the way as we journey toward death?"

According to the Going with Grace founder, death doulas offer the same services that a birth doula does, but rather at the end of life, and acknowledges there is never an easy way to prepare for death.

"There are no ways to ease the pain, but what we can do is bear witness to their process. Like when a child has an ouchie, and they want you to see it, then kiss it to make it better. That’s all we can do," shares Arthur. "But there are a number of things we can do to prepare ourselves for the ride afterward, including some thorough advanced planning, creating spaces for people to have conversations about their mortality, and witnessing and holding them there."