"We're all just walking each other home."
– Ram Dass
Rev. Jessica Johansson, M.Div.
End-of-Life Doula (NEDA Proficient)
Ordained Interfaith Minister
Certified Life Coach
Reiki Master Teacher
I am an ordained interfaith minister and have been a transformational life coach for ten years. I genuinely love helping people live their lives consciously and with a sense of purpose. Long before ever hearing the term “death doula” or “end-of-life doula,” I was innately drawn to serving in that role.
Over the years, I have had the honor of serving many at the end of life, each experience unique and profoundly beautiful. My first experiences began during my Senior year at Conval High School. I was President of the Rotary Interact Club, which is based on the Rotary credo of “service above self.” Having worked as a Dietary Aide at the then Pheasant Wood Nursing Home, I had gotten to know many residents there, especially in the dining room. Many never left their rooms, and I learned some did not have family visiting. So, I developed a community service plan to spend time with residents who could not leave their rooms – some of them facing end of life without their families nearby. I spent most of my Senior year there and found it rewarding and humbling, especially as some of “my residents” passed on.
The following year I was at the hospital bedside of my dear great aunt, Martha, during what would be her final day. I held her hand and sang “Be Still, My Soul” (Finlandia) to her. The nurse told me she probably wouldn’t be able to hear me, but tears rolled down my great aunt’s cheeks and, of course, down mine. I felt a deep sense of awe and peace, knowing I was with her while she was in that liminal space between “here and there.” A few years later, my husband’s grandmother spent the last few months of her life with us in our home on hospice care. I had the pleasure of making her meals every day (she LOVED Cream of Wheat and lentil soup with ketchup) and talking with her about all sorts of things. As she approached her last couple of days, she shared some things about what she saw and heard that changed my life forever. Family members were waiting for her at a feast that only she could see… On her final day, she got out of bed, got dressed, grabbed her pocketbook, and walked out of her room in an attempt to attend. When she tried to describe the beings she saw around her, she would add with a smile, “You wouldn’t understand this.” She passed peacefully hours later. That experience is something that remains with me to this day. (This phenomenon is called “nearing death awareness” and is described in detail in the book, Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley)
When my children were in college, I decided to pursue further education. My Death and Dying class was fascinating, and I wanted to learn even more. I told my professor that I didn’t know how or what exactly, but I knew I was supposed to work with those facing end of life. I went on to learn and write more about death from the Jungian perspective, with Jung’s quote being the inspiration for my writing: “Death is psychologically as important as birth, and like it, is an integral part of life.” Eventually, a series of events led me to learn about “death doulas” and then to the intensive End-of-Life Doula Professional Certificate program at the University of Vermont, developed by UVM’s Larner College of Medicine.
Becoming an end-of-life doula was one of those soul callings I could not ignore, especially given all of the little whispers, hints, and nudges I’ve experienced. My life’s journey has taught me many valuable lessons and prepared me to step into this calling in so many wonderful ways. Empowering, companioning, and supporting someone to have a “good death” is the flip side of my role as a life coach. Like many other things in our life, we may not have control over how or when we die, but we do have control over how we face it. In addition to being a minister and a life coach, I’m also a Usui Reiki Master Teacher. I incorporate all of these modalities into my “doula bag” to offer a holistic approach to end-of-life care: mind, body, and spirit.
I am an active member of the National End of Life Doula Alliance (NEDA). While there is currently no universal standard certification process for end-of-life/death doulas, being a member means I adhere to NEDA’s EOL Doula Scope of Practice and Code of Ethics. I have also demonstrated proficiency (through assessment) in NEDA’s Core Competencies, as demonstrated by my NEDA EOL Doula Proficiency Badge.
I create a safe space for my clients and their loved ones through grounded, sacred presence. I believe every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and compassion. I support ALL people of ALL ages, ALL orientations, ALL religions, faiths, and belief systems at any stage of life or death.
I serve the greater Monadnock Region of New Hampshire, with my home base in Jaffrey. However, I can connect with others anywhere, thanks to the fantastic convenience of virtual meetings.
If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to not wait until the last minute to contact an end-of-life doula. If you or your loved one have begun palliative care or have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, the sooner you get things in order, the more peace of mind you can have. And, you don’t have to be facing end of life to have an advance care plan. One certainty of life is that it is uncertain — we should all be prepared, no matter our age.
Please get in touch with me if you have any questions or want to know more about my services. It would be an honor to accompany you on your sacred journey.
“Death is not painful. It is the most beautiful experience you will have.”
– Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
End-of-Life Doula Certificate Components
After-Death Options • Anticipatory Grief • Caregiving Considerations • Comfort Measures • Common Terminal Conditions • Companioning And Serving • Complementary Care Options • Cultural Humility • Dementia Care • Dignity Therapy • Doula Professional Boundaries • Doula Role And Scope • Doula Tenets • Grief Continuum • Grounding And Centering • Guided Imagery • Holding Space • Legacy Projects • Life Reviews • Non-Medical Support • Personal Death Awareness • Self-Care Practices • Serious Illness Conversations • Specialized Pediatric Care • Therapeutic Music • Turning Toward Suffering • Unconditional Positive Regard • Universal Safety Precautions • Vigil Planning • Vigil Sitting