Why you should – or should not – become an HCBD Haven Certified Bereavement Doula

Do not become an HCBD Haven Certified Bereavement Doula if:

  • You want to coach, direct, or lead people through their grief. As HCBD Haven Certified Bereavement Doulas, we follow the best practices of grief work and take a companioning approach to grief.
  • You are not yet a doula and are planning to take only expected live birth doula clients. This course will not focus on such births other than in the context of anticipated infant loss and, frankly, will therefore not prepare you very well.
    • Haven Bereavement Doulas does offer trainings for expected live birth doulas who want to strengthen their loss support skills but are not planning to specialize in bereavement support. Look into our 3-hour Caring for Clients through Loss training.
  • You want a certification or credential solely for use with insurance companies. As many insurance companies still do not provide benefits to families who experience a loss, especially before viability, pursuing insurance accreditation is not currently our primary goal.

If these descriptions don’t apply to you, read on:

  • Join us if you’re passionate about making the world a more supportive place for loss families.
  • If you’re already a doula, strengthen your skills through our training if you want to level up your support for doula clients, incorporating bereavement support as a specialization.
  • Use our comprehensive training to prepare yourself to take on the roles of both a birthworker and a griefworker, if you are not currently a doula but you want to become exclusively a bereavement doula.

Check out our How To page for more information about taking your next steps toward becoming an HCBD Haven Certified Bereavement Doula.

The HCBD Haven Certified Bereavement Doula Reading List

Like many other doula certification programs, ours has a reading list. We provide it here so that everyone who is looking for resources on bereavement support can engage with them, whether you’re currently part of our program or not!

Find this list at the St. Louis Public Library here.

Category 1: Birth Education

HCBD Haven Certified Bereavement Doula candidates read The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. Candidates who have already read The Birth Partner are encouraged to revisit it, through re-reading or through skimming, and consider how the material can be reinterpreted specifically for bereavement births.

Category 2: Grief Education

HCBD Haven Certified Bereavement Doula candidates read Counseling Skills for Companioning the Mourner by Dr. Alan Wolfelt.

Category 3: Cultural Competency – Race

HCBD Haven Certified Bereavement Doula candidates read What God is Honored Here? Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss by and for Native Women and Women of Color, an anthology edited by Shannon Gibney and Kao Kalia Yang.

Category 4: Cultural Competency – Spirituality

HCBD Haven Certified Bereavement Doula candidates choose one of the following books to read for certification:

Category 5: History of Birth/Loss Support

HCBD Haven Certified Bereavement Doula candidates read a book specific to the history of loss in their current context (i.e., most U.S.-based candidates read The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy: A History of Miscarriage in America by Lara Freidenfelds).

Category 6: Children’s Books

Children’s books can be powerful tools, both for children and adults. HCBD Haven Certified Bereavement Doula candidates choose any two of these children’s books to review.

Category 7: Business Strategy and Ethics

HCBD Haven Certified Bereavement Doula candidates read “The Bereavement Doula’s Business Manual” by Dr. Abby Jorgensen. This is available to candidates at no extra cost.

5 reasons why every doula should strengthen their bereavement support skills

Not every doula should become a bereavement doula.

But you should strengthen your bereavement support skills anyway.

Here are five reasons why:

  1. You’re going to support families through bereavement, whether you want to or not. If you do this work long enough, you are going to encounter miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. For some of us, it’s at our first birth. For others, it’s our one hundredth birth. But perinatal loss is the reality that many families face, so as a doula, it’s only a matter of time before you will face it as well.
  2. If you’re going to provide bereavement support, it’s important to do it well. We can do a lot of damage when we guess or pretend we know things. That’s true in any support role; it may be especially true when we support someone through grief.
  3. Families who have experienced a loss previously may be looking for a doula – and you can demonstrate your commitment to them and other loss families through your grief-informed practice. Families expecting after a loss may specifically seek someone who has an idea of what they’ve gone through – and is ready and willing to help them with the emotions, difficulties, and joys of a rainbow pregnancy.
  4. You’re most ready to support a family through a loss or after a loss if you’ve prepared for it. That means that ideally we all strengthen our bereavement skills BEFORE we need them. Level up your grief defaults by taking a Basics of Bereavement Support class, or a Caring for Clients through Loss class, BEFORE you need to have already taken it. (These are accredited for continuing education hours through DONA International, so they can also help you prepare for recertification.)
  5. Bereavement support skills apply in any situation of loss, not just the loss of a little one. If someone has a kind of birth they didn’t want, or loses a loved one or coworker during pregnancy, or experiences a life change they weren’t expecting, your bereavement support skills will be immediately applicable and helpful.

Don’t delay on strengthening your instincts and expanding your toolkit. Join us in one of our HCBD Haven Certified Bereavement Doula trainings, or sign up for free tips through our newsletter, today.

Free resource for clients: Bereaved Parents Community Group

Did you know that there is a free virtual community group that meets monthly, just for parents who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss?

Every loss parent is warmly and gently invited to join us as we gather for solidarity, ideas-sharing, and presence.

This group is facilitated by Julie McKay and Dr. Abby Jorgensen. We meet on Zoom on the second Monday of each month, at 7pm Central / 8pm Eastern. You can learn more about the group or send your clients to learn more about the group here.

Loss parents, you’re not alone.

Talking about loss on social media

As a birthworker, you know that social media is an important part of reaching folks and letting them know what you’re about. But you also know that creating content is a long and tiring process, especially when the content matter is sensitive.

Grief and loss are some of the hardest topics to talk about, especially in spaces such as social media. But, if you want to demonstrate your support of loss families, grief and loss *need* to show up somewhere on your grid or in your feed.

I’ve made two sets of templates to help you post about these difficult but necessary topics. The 2024 Social Media Template includes 34 posts for specific days, weeks, and months throughout the year (all of which can be simply updated with new dates and used again for future years). The October Social Media Template includes 31 posts, one for each day of October (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month).

A database of children’s books about grief and loss

When children experience a loss, finding ways to help them understand and cope is a crucial part of the grieving process for families. This is where the power of reading comes in. But, there are many, many children’s books about grief, death, and even perinatal loss. No need to find them all; we’ve reviewed them for you.

We carefully curate our database of children’s books to help you find beautifully written and illustrated stories that will help your family discuss difficult topics of grief, death, and perinatal loss. We have evaluated each listed book on its ability to assist bereaved families (especially older siblings and other children) by offering empathic, accurate, and gentle guidance.

The database includes detailed reviews, ratings, and a description of the content and tone—including note of spiritual or religious perspectives. This information helps parents, bereavement doulas, and other support people quickly find the books that are most likely to help them navigate difficult conversations. Thus, our comprehensive guide stands as your supportive companion through the process of finding the children’s book that best fits your situation and your loved ones or clients.

What does it mean to be grief-informed?

“Grief-informed” is a term I use to capture two key elements of
someone’s approach toward other people.

(1) This person anticipates that every person in her or his care may have a history of grief and loss.

(2) This person chooses to speak and act in a way that reflects that possibility of grief and loss.

It can also be applied to an organization’s or group’s approach.

Being grief-informed may require a dramatic overhaul for many of us, as society has taught us to ignore, hide, or shy away from conversations about death (especially the death of a child and prenatal death). And at Haven Bereavement Doulas, we are committed to working together to continue that dramatic overhaul, for ourselves and for our communities.

To cite this page, please reference:

Jorgensen, Abigail. “What does it mean to be grief-informed?”. Bereavement Doulas (blog). January 12, 2024.

Mentorship opportunities

You’re not in this alone.

Whether you’re working toward an HCBD Haven Certified Bereavement Doula certification or not, our team is here to support you.

Looking for support with a bereavement case right now?

Let’s chat. This free, 15-minute consultation is designed to get you connected to the info and resources you need.

Considering taking your bereavement work to the next level?

Book a mentorship call with Dr. Jorgensen, or four calls, and we’ll work through your specific challenges together.