by Jennifer Tipton
Just as birth doulas help mothers bring their newborns into the world, end of life doulas ease the transition of individuals leaving this world by bringing comfort and support to those that are dying.
Born in New Jersey, Dina Pielaet is one of thirteen children. In 1973, Dina’s mother and father informed the household that they were selling everything and moving west because they had heard there were junior colleges there that were free, and they wanted their kiddos to have that opportunity. So, her father bought an old VW bus (that was missing the starter), took out all the seats, built a platform and “lined us up like burritos”, Dina laughed, “we push started that bus all the way across the continent and landed in Simi Valley”.
The experience as an end of life doula started 10 years ago when her father called and asked for her help, he was dying. Returning to Simi Valley to act as her father’s caregiver, Dina realized she was “really good at it” and after her father passed, she signed up with Livingston Memorial, training to be a hospice caregiver. Now taking cases independently, she also does celebration of life documentaries as Dina and her partner, Amy Jones owns a full-service marketing and multimedia company. They sometimes work together on the doula cases, “it’s not something we charge money for”, said Dina, “Amy’s on site if it’s more than a one-person job”.
There has been a total of “7 or 8” cases so far including the recent passing of local artist Joe Cordella, “we had known each other for eighteen years and when he became ill, he asked me to be his doula because he knew I wouldn’t leave his side”.
I asked Dina if there has ever been that one “stand out case” and she responded, “well, Joe’s of course, but also a woman that lived in Temecula with her 92 year old father, she had breast cancer that had moved to her brain, City of Hope released her as there was nothing more they could do and at 92, her father was unable to care for her. She wanted her dogs with her but, there wasn’t any place that she could go with them … so, we rented a vacation condo where she could have her dogs and brought her here. It was eight days later when she passed in our arms with her dogs by her side. We were able to accommodate her end of life wish, and that’s very special to me”.