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A death doula, also known as an end-of-life coach, is a professional who provides holistic support to individuals and their families during the dying process. Their role involves holding sacred and nurturing space for those transitioning from life, which can include emotional, spiritual, and practical support. They help clients design their end-of-life experience, known as a vigil, and may use tools like sound meditation, breathwork, and Reiki healing to create a peaceful and meaningful transition. Death doulas also assist with legacy projects to honor the individual’s life, helping both the person and their family navigate the end-of-life journey with dignity and grace.

Embracing the End: A Journey with Death Doula Maria Telliano


In the realm of hospice care, the approach to the end of life is as varied as the individuals who face it. One remarkable figure in this field is Maria Telliano, a death doula and end-of-life coach who collaborates with Golden Gate Hospice to provide spiritual support during the last moments of life. Her mission is to rebrand death, transforming it from a source of fear into a sacred, nurturing process

Death doula is A Sacred Mission

Maria’s work revolves around holding sacred and nurturing space for those transitioning from life. Her unique approach includes sound meditation, breathwork, end-of-life coaching, and legacy projects, which help individuals honor their lives and aid families in the grieving process. “I help them design how they want to die, which is called a vigil,” Maria explains. This personalized approach ensures that the environment reflects the individual’s wishes, right down to the lighting and scents.

How a Death Doula Can Help Families

A death doula, like Maria Telliano, provides invaluable support to families during the end-of-life process. Their role extends beyond assisting the dying individual; they offer holistic support to the entire family, helping them navigate this emotionally challenging time. Here’s how a death doula can make a difference:

Emotional and Spiritual Support

Death doulas create a nurturing and sacred space where families can openly express their emotions and fears. They offer a compassionate presence, helping loved ones come to terms with the impending loss. By facilitating open conversations about death, doulas alleviate some of the anxiety and fear that families often experience.

Practical Guidance

Death doulas assist families in making practical arrangements, ensuring that the dying person’s wishes are respected. This can include planning the vigil, choosing the environment’s aesthetics (such as lighting and scents), and coordinating with healthcare providers. By handling these logistical details, doulas relieve families of additional stress, allowing them to focus on their emotional well-being.

Death Doula Legacy Projects

One of the unique aspects of Maria’s approach is the incorporation of legacy projects. These projects help individuals at the end of their lives create something meaningful that honors their life and provides comfort to their families. Here’s how a legacy project can benefit both the dying individual and their loved ones:

  1. Personal Reflection: The process of creating a legacy project encourages individuals to reflect on their lives, celebrate their achievements, and articulate their values and wisdom. This reflection can bring a sense of peace and fulfillment.
  2. Family Connection: Legacy projects often involve the individual’s family, fostering deeper connections and creating shared memories. This collaborative effort can be healing for everyone involved.
  3. Memorialization: The final product, whether it’s a written memoir, a collection of letters, a piece of art, or a video recording, serves as a tangible reminder of the individual’s life and legacy. It provides the family with a cherished keepsake that they can revisit and find comfort in during their grieving process.
  4. Grieving Process: Engaging in a legacy project helps families process their grief by focusing on positive memories and the enduring impact of their loved one’s life. It shifts the narrative from loss to celebration and remembrance.

Example of a Legacy Project

Maria shared an example from her experience with a client who had a beautiful setup in his home, filled with natural light and overlooking the ocean. As he approached the end of his life, he was surrounded by his family, who documented his final moments. The creation of these lasting memories, combined with Maria’s spiritual support, helped the family cope with their loss and find peace in knowing their loved one’s spirit remained with them.

In conclusion, a death doula’s holistic approach provides comprehensive support that addresses the emotional, spiritual, and practical needs of both the dying individual and their family. By facilitating legacy projects, death doulas help create meaningful tributes that honor the individual’s life and provide comfort and connection for their loved ones.

Redefining the End

One of Maria’s primary goals is to liberate people from the fear of death. “The fear of death is rooted in a lot of human suffering,” she says. “We don’t have to suffer like we thought we had to.” Through her work, she encourages people to lean into death, to interact with it rather than retreat from it. This shift in perspective can transform the experience, making it a time of peace and acceptance rather than fear and resistance.

A Personal Connection

Maria’s approach is deeply personal and spiritual. She recounts the story of a client who, though initially resistant, came to embrace her role as his end-of-life doula. Their sessions included sound healing, breathwork, and Reiki, and were tailored to help him accept and work with his cancer treatment. “He had a beautiful setup,” Maria recalls, describing a home filled with natural light and ocean views, where the client passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family.

Witnessing the Transition

Maria’s experiences have given her a unique perspective on death. She describes witnessing the spirit leaving the body, an event she has even captured on camera. “If there is proof that the spirit is energy, I feel like this is it,” she says. This profound experience reinforces her belief that death is not an end but a transition.

Overcoming Fear

For those supporting loved ones at the end of life, Maria offers simple yet powerful advice: “Don’t be afraid.” She encourages people to investigate their fear, understand its roots, and recognize that it inhibits them from fully living. “Death wants to teach us something, and it only gives back when we participate with it,” she says. By rebranding death, Maria hopes to give people a new way to live and die, free from the crippling fear that so often surrounds the end of life.

A Peaceful Transition: Maria’s Journey with a Special Client

Maria Telliano had a profound experience with a client who initially contacted her while still fighting for his life against pancreatic cancer. Despite his initial resistance to the idea of having a death doula, he felt a deep need for her presence in his life. Their relationship began with sessions focused on holistic support, including sound healing, breathwork, and Reiki healing.

This client’s home, filled with natural light and overlooking the ocean, provided a serene setting for his final days. Maria recalls how he lay under a beautiful medicine blanket with a crystal beneath him, symbolizing his connection to healing energies. The doors were opened to let in the spring breeze, creating an atmosphere of tranquility and renewal.

During his final days, he entered what Maria refers to as the “act of dying state,” marked by specific physical and emotional transitions. For three or four days, he remained in this state, surrounded by his wife and children. Maria describes this period as incredibly beautiful, with his spirit visibly leaving his body and wrapping around his loved ones. His wife captured this moment in photos, showing a visible, vibrating energy that Maria believes is proof of the spirit’s presence and transition.

This experience reinforced Maria’s belief in the spiritual aspect of dying and the importance of creating a peaceful, intentional environment for those at the end of life. The client’s transition was not just a departure but a continuation of his journey, leaving a lasting impact on Maria and his family.

A New Way to Live and Die

Maria’s work with Golden Gate Hospice exemplifies a compassionate, holistic approach to end-of-life care. Her dedication to rebranding death offers a path to a more peaceful, accepting experience, both for those passing and their loved ones. As she continues her mission, Maria’s message is clear: death is not something to be feared but embraced as a natural, even beautiful part of life’s journey.

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