Spring 2021 - Doula Member Spotlight
From English teacher to Death Doula
In 2015, Vanessa Johnston was looking for a new career. Her passion for teaching high school English had waned, and she wanted a different way to be of useful service in the world. Around this time she was fortunate enough to visit China and Japan with her family and was moved by the many temples and statues of Guanyin or Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion.
It was there she decided to release her worries and concerns about the direction her life might go and trust that a unique path for her would emerge.
Three months later Vanessa accepted a job as an “non-medical assistant” for a man who had ALS. By 2017, this man would become her first client after she completed training with the International End-of-Life Doula Association (INELDA). As a former literature teacher turned death doula, Vanessa encourages clients to engage in life review as a way to come to terms with their own stories. When we are able to gain an empathetic perspective on our own lives, then one may become empowered during the natural process of dying. By allowing our loved ones to participate in vigil and ritual during this time, we can allow them to experience grief and bereavement in a healthier way.
CEOLC Vice President and
The Launch of Denver EOL Doula
In 2018, Vanessa formed her own company called Denver EOL Doula. She now spends her time as an End-of-Life Doula, a death educator, and an advocate for all the new options in the field of death care. She loves to tell others about green burials, water cremation, and natural organic reduction. She also hosts the monthly Littleton Death Cafe and facilitates conversations about what it means to be mortal. However, her true calling lies in sitting bedside with those who are dying so that she may be a compassionate companion in the final weeks, days, and hours. She considers it an honor to sit vigil with loved ones so that the sacred act of final transition can happen in peace for all.
Vanessa's website and social media:
Podcast episode: Estate Planning and Elder Law Hour with Skip Reynolds- 1430AM
Presentation: Colorado Guardianship Association 11.10.20 "Embracing Life and Honoring Death with End-of-Life Doulas"
Vanessa in print:
Book: Author of, "Stepping Into your Sovereignty: Be the Queen of Your Own Happiness," in Inspirations: 101 Uplifting Stories for Daily Happiness, published by As You Wish Publishing, edited by Kyra Schaefer.
"We're all just walking each other home." ~Ram Dass
CEOLC EOL Doula Member Spotlight
Member Spotlight - Sigrid Swerdlin
I grew up a little sheltered from the world in a small rural town in Germany. Growing up I only had one living grandparent, but I was very close with my grandma, Anna, who passed away when I was 16 years old. She always said, “If ever I end up in a hospital, I will come out feet first.” And that’s exactly what happened.
Member Spotlight - Janet Reichart, LCSW
For as long as I can remember, I have experienced a fascination with death, with the dying process, and with how people grieve. Even as a child, I was drawn to stories about end of life, and about the medical aspects of death. Somehow, even in youth, I knew that the experience of leaving this physical existence is a deeply sacred transition, one that extends far beyond the cessation of a heartbeat.
Member Spotlight - Sara E. Stewart
After a stroke in October of 2015, Sara had to focus on rehabilitation. Her recovery was underwhelming. It was not until she realized she was grieving that things changed. Sara turned that grief into mourning the person she was prior to the stroke, and she began to speed up her recover process.
Member Spotlight - Vanessa Johnston
In 2015, Vanessa Johnston was looking for a new career. Her passion for teaching high school English had waned, and she wanted a different way to be of useful service in the world. She now spends her time as an End-of-Life Doula, a death educator, and an advocate for all the new options in the field of death care..
Member Spotlight - Valerie Nicholas
Valerie has always had an affinity for working with older adults, and she attributes this calling to her loving and influential grandparents. Valerie has been a life-long professional working with older adults and has devoted herself to end-of-life care as a hospice volunteer, life-cycle celebrant, and end-of-life doula.
Member Spotlight - Kerry Arquette
Kerry is the secretary and co-founder of the Colorado End-of-Life Collaborative, as well as the proprietor of End-of-Life Midwife. She has authored several books and is regularly invited to speak and teach about her work as an end-of-life doula, as well as a victim’s specialist for the Denver Police Department. Her most recent book, War Cries: Unheard Voices, Unmarked Graves, is a beautifully haunting collection of poems that give voice to the stories of many people much like ourselves who died during WWII. CEOLC is proud to feature her article, “Why Our Collaborative Is Imperative,” as we launch our new Collaborative Blog. Find out more about Kerry in this month’s Member Spotlight.
Member Spotlight - Cindy Kaufman
Cindy is the president and co-founder of the Colorado End-of-Life Collaborative, as well as the proprietor of HeartSpeak End-of-Life Companioning. She is regularly invited to speak and teach about what it means to be an end-of-life doula. Her most recent book, The Mortal’s Guide to Dying Well: Practical Wisdom from an End-of-Life Doula, was released in May 2020. Visit Cindy’s website to see more articles, publications and interviews.