Running for Cover

In casual conversation, somebody asks me what do I “do”?

Scenario #1: I say I’m a Primary teacher (30 years)

Typical responses include:

  1. “Oh? What grades do you teach?” (They want to know more, or they’re just being polite)
  2. “Really? Where do you teach?” (Also common, not sure how relevant it is)
  3. “You teach small children? Oh, you must be so patient!” (Not strictly true, I am also human)

Scenario #2: I say I’m a death doula (4 months)

Typical responses include:

  1. “What is that????” (Most common, but they’re not sure they want to know the answer) – I imagine them running for cover!
  2. “Really? But that must be so SAD!” (Sadness is not intrinsically bad, it shows we care)
  3. “Oh! It is so needed, but I could never do that job” (What they really mean is they wouldn’t want to be involved with that kind of work. They could totally do it, but it seems so far out of their comfort zone, that it is unthinkable)

In the first scenario, people generally want to engage in conversation with me. It’s a familiar occupation , and they are comfortable with asking basic questions. Everyone has attended Primary school, and everyone has experience of good/bad/forgettable teachers, so school/education/kids are familiar topics and can easily be a topic of conversation.

In the second scenario, people are a bit wary of engaging. They are not comfortable with the subject, even though they understand, on a rational level, that each and every one of us will face it one day. They seem to think that by not engaging in the conversation, they might be able to  avoid the pain and sadness of loss?

My aim is not to force anyone to talk about something they are not ready to discuss. But I have learned, through my own personal experiences, that such conversations ahead of time can make a huge and positive difference to our lives. They enable us to fully engage in the lives we are living now, knowing and accepting that they will one day come to an end.

Final word. Since embarking on my journey as an end of life/death doula, I have learned so much and already feel more at peace with the prospect of my own mortality. I think we often fear what we don’t understand, and I have a greater understanding now. I will be continuing to learn and using that knowledge to help the people who need me. 

You can reach me any time at or