"We're all just walking each other home."
– Ram Dass
Rev. Jessica Johansson, M.Div.
End-of-Life Doula (NEDA Proficient)
Companion Animal End-of-Life Doula
After-Death Care Educator
Ordained Interfaith Minister
Certified Life Coach
Reiki Master Teacher
My mission is to serve and empower individuals and their loved ones through education, advocacy, coaching, grounded presence, compassionate guidance, and consistent companionship on their sacred journey toward end of life.
I am an Ordained Interfaith Minister and have been a transformational life coach for ten years. While my most recent occupation involved executive management, I have assumed many roles throughout my life, all of which shared a common thread: I genuinely love helping people to lead conscious, purposeful lives. And long before ever hearing the term “death doula” or “end-of-life doula,” I was innately drawn and connected to that vocation.
When I was five years old, I found a dead mouse outside my grandparents’ home in Dublin. I was distraught and ran to tell my grandfather, who explained that the mouse had died and gone to heaven. He suggested that we would have a funeral for the mouse and told me to go get an old cloth from my grandmother. He used the cloth as a shroud for the mouse, then he dug a hole in the ground, and laid the mouse inside. My grandfather said some nice words about the little mouse, and let me say some things too. I’m so very thankful that my grandfather took the time to honor my feelings and to show me how to honor life.
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, when I was President of the Interact Club. While working as a Dietary Aide at Pheasant Wood Nursing Home after school, I had gotten to know many residents there, especially in the dining room. However, I knew that many never left their rooms, and I learned some rarely, if ever had family visit. So, I developed an Interact community service project which enabled students to spend time with residents who could not leave their rooms; many without any regular visitors. I spent most of my senior year there each week and found it deeply rewarding.
While I was in college at Keene State, I was at the hospital bedside of my dear great aunt on her final day. I held her hand and sang songs to her, including one of her favorites, “Be Still, My Soul” (Finlandia). The nurse told me she probably wouldn’t be able to hear me, but tears rolled down my great aunt’s cheeks while I sang. This was goodbye, and it was all going to be okay. 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, Mary spent her last few months on hospice care while living with us in our home. I enjoyed making her meals daily and talking with her about all sorts of things. As Mary approached her final hours, she shared what she saw that changed my life forever: she said that people were waiting for her at a big feast (that only she could see, but couldn’t quite get to). She passed peacefully just a few hours later. That experience is something that remains with me to this day. (This phenomenon is called “nearing death awareness” and you can read more about NDA and Mary’s story here: Nearing Death Awareness)
There have been so many more experiences, just as unique and transformative…and some, deeply personal. I experienced a traumatic pregnancy loss, nearly dying in the process, and I have also walked with my husband through several life-threatening experiences, including a stage IV cancer diagnosis and successful treatment. You cannot truly hold space for death and grief for others, without being able to be present with it yourself.
“Death is not painful. It is the most beautiful experience you will have.”
– Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
It was during the pandemic shutdown that I decided to pursue further spiritual education. My Death and Dying class awakened something inside of me, and I told my professor I didn’t know how exactly, but I would be working with death. I went on to learn and write more about death from the Jungian perspective, with Jung’s quote inspiring 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 the little whispers and nudges I’ve experienced throughout my life. My journey has taught me many valuable lessons and prepared me to step into this calling in many special ways. Empowering, companioning, and supporting someone to have a “good death” is not much different than 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.
I am an active National End-of Life-Doula Alliance (NEDA) member. 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, earning the NEDA EOL Doula Proficiency Badge.
In addition to being a minister, life coach and EOL doula (for people and pets), I’m also a Usui Reiki Master Teacher. I incorporate all these modalities in my holistic approach to end-of-life care: mind, body, and spirit.
Being an active member of my community is very important to me. Beyond my professional commitments, I regularly facilitate Death Cafes in the region, and I am the volunteer webmaster for Monadnock Kitty Rescue & Adoption. I also currently serve on the Greater Monadnock Collaborative Chamber Board of Directors, the NEDA Board of Directors, and the Home Healthcare, Hospice & Community Services Board of Directors.
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 convenience of virtual meetings. I create a safe space for my clients and their loved ones through grounded, sacred presence. I believe every living being deserves to be treated with dignity and compassion. I support ALL beings of ALL ages, ALL orientations, ALL religions, faiths, and belief systems at any stage of life or death.
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 death 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 contact 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.