National Heart Failure Awareness Week is celebrated by the Canadian Heart Failure Society (CHFS) during the first week of May each year. This post is in honour of this event because my heart is what has led me along the path of becoming a death doula, both figurately and literally.
I am a young mother of two beautiful boys, a doting wife, and a daughter who lives in rural Mount Hope, Ontario. I am also someone who has worked in funeral service for 12 years helping individuals in their grieving process after their loved one has died. I have worked in spiritual care for the past four years, helping patients who are in their final moments connect with spiritual or religious figures of their choice. I enjoy having deep conversations with individuals about life while also leaving space to listen to their views and their stories. I am a devout Christian, but I respect everyone's decisions and personal choices on how they would like to leave this beautiful world we are blessed to be in.
I have always had a passion for helping others go through some of the worst times in their lives. As a death doula candidate with Home Hospice Association, my goal is to help make the transition for individuals and aftercare for families as smooth and pleasant as I possibly can at the end of life. Part of my passion for end-of-life care and support has come from my first-hand experience. I know what it is like to receive life and death care and to face my own mortality directly. I was born with a rare heart disease called Truncus Arteriosus type 3, which means that my pulmonary artery is missing. Because of this condition, I have had four open-heart surgeries. I have also had two back surgeries to correct scoliosis and many other more minor surgeries as well.
While I have never had the best luck when it comes to health, I am very thankful to be alive. I want to live everyday like it could be my last day because I am aware of how fragile life can be. I am also grateful to have a lot of love and support around me. Because I spent a great amount of my childhood in the hospital, I experienced the help and compassion of nurses and doctors, and I appreciate all of the care that they have showed me. I am dedicated to doing whatever I can to give back to others and enrich someone else’s life, which may involve providing some of the care that medical professionals cannot.
I am someone who has been on the “other side,” as my heart was stopped to perform my surgeries. This was the most amazing experience of my life. I remember feeling a strong sense of love and light and comfort. This is what has inspired me to become a death doula. I want to help others understand their values and fulfill their wishes before they reach that point of transition.
As a death doula, I intend to give my talents to my community and use my personal experience to influence my end-of-life work, which will hopefully make a positive impact on those who are in need.
Anyone interested in becoming a death doula can register for HHA's Death Doula certificate program here. The next training available weekend is June 2-4, 2023.
Kate Jensen is an HHA Death Doula Candidate.