Caring for the Dying: The Doula Approach to a Meaningful Death

by Henry Fersko-Weiss LCSW

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.

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Henry Fersko-Weiss, LCSW created the very first End-of-Life Doula Program in the United States with a focus on planning for the last days, conducting vigil, and reprocessing the dying experience with loved ones. Since he created that first program in 2003 at a hospice in NYC, he has built and managed many other programs based on his model at hospices in New Jersey. Henry is widely considered a pioneer in the End of Life care industry.

In 2006 Henry’s work was featured in an extensive front-page article in the New York Times, bringing national recognition to his end of life doula concept. Since 2007 he has taught the end of life Doula principles and techniques publicly at the Open Center in New York Center and, as of 2013, at the Institute for Traditional Medicine in Toronto, Canada.

Henry has directly guided and supported over 150 people and their loved ones through the dying process. He has trained many hundreds of people in the end of life doula approach. Henry is a well-respected and sought-after speaker on death and dying, presenting at conferences, hospices, and webinars nationwide.

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New York and New Jersey, he has managed social services at a number of hospices and worked with patients and families privately. In 2010, Henry received the New Jersey Social Services Manager of the Year Award. Henry can be reached at