I held my first public + in-person Death Doula event with friend Madeleine Domingue at Red Sandcastle Theatre and I really enjoyed it! We decided to do a hybrid event where the first half was us presenting what we agree is a Death Doula’s role is (as it’s not exactly a strict definition at this time… will it ever be?), and then introduced how and why we were called to death work.
I presented my journey, much in the same way that it was shared in the recent Canadian Business article:
Then we went into an Q + A and open discussion around death, inspired by Death Cafés. Sharing resources and stories is a helpful act in my humble opinion! I added more resources to my Death Doula page here on my website inspired by what we discussed. I’m looking forward to hosting another event like this one in the future at Red Sandcastle Theatre! I like the format we used with a topic exploration then open discussion and room to field general thoughts and queries around death and dying.
It’s been quite the journey to becoming (or realizing I’m) a Death Doula. I have had great training and resources through Hospice Toronto, continue to read and challenge myself with certifications and death education. But its been 2 years to the day since I applied for the End of Life Doula course and I keep finding meaningful moments that propel me forward on this path.
Just today I started with a new client who at the end of our phone conversation said, “Wow, this really helped, thank you for taking my call, I just really needed to talk to someone.” And sometimes it’s just that simple: being open to receiving another person’s story. Really listening and validating their experience. Other times its starting a discussion or sparking a debate on my TikTok about being a Death Doula – this time about the “tissue issue” and whether or not to give tissues to someone who is having a crying moment (as an act of mourning). And sometimes it’s me expressing my grief and end of life care journey for my loved ones through storytelling to help me process my grief journey and finding community. TikTok has been such a big part of my journey thus far!
With over 5k followers, I am finding like minded people and those who are curious about the death positive movement:
The more I do this, the more I find myself sharing stories and listening to other peoples stories and connecting through them – that’s the heart of or at least the focus of my doula practice. My training as an actor and playwright/English Minor in University has served me in ways I couldn’t foresee 20 years ago. What a neat evolution!
So looking forward to 2023, I already have a Doula To Do List! I am remaining curious and seeing where this path takes me.
Moving forward I am taking my skills of storytelling and putting them on TikTok as @ladydeathdoula as I start my certification as a Death Doula end of life caregiver in the new year. Combined with my years of suicide prevention and intervention training, and recently my grief literacy training, plus lived experience – I hope I can continue to be a resource for people who are dealing with loss and death.
With the pandemic putting a pause on the entertainment industry indefinitely, this seems like a good time to pause and reflect and do some work behind the scenes is it were. This is what I am doing. I still have my new agent trying to help me get voice overs, I am still producing and marketing Eldritch Theatre (we just had a great digital theatre experience/experiment!) and I just finished my term at Centennial College for the Museum Curatorial Management program – but in the new year when most all of those things hit pause until next fall I have something to lean into that fuels me forward.
And of course loving the work I get to do with puppet savvy Eldritch Theatre manning their social media/marketing/producing. And sometimes I get to hang out with fellow puppet lover Jay Fosgitt (who actually drew me into the Henson Universe as Pebbles Fraggle!)
But I so rarely get to actually play with puppets anymore.
There has to be an answer. I have puppets ON MY WALLS to play with at any time and I just… don’t? Procrastination swirls as I get bogged down in the “but what’s the story?” or the worst part of my anxiety, “this is stupid. No one will like it but me.” But really? Who cares. Some people knit, some people take up painting… I want to PUPPET. So if you enjoy a good muppet puppet time you can see me try to get into the puppet groove on my new IG account: https://www.instagram.com/muppetpuppettime/
I want to stop overthinking it and just DO IT already, so sometimes it will just be silly playtime, maybe a fun filter, or it could actually be a full story – the point is to just PUPPET everyday, even for a minute. That’s the goal, but I know life happens and this should never be a thing to stress me out so if I miss a few days that’s going to be okay too.
I’m hoping this will be as enjoyable for those watching, and hey, if you want to be a guest and hangout with Pebbles let me know!
Once upon a time I wrote about something very close to my broken heart for the stage. I wrote a 40 minute one-woman show about my first year of bereavement after my brother died by suicide. As a theatre creator it was the best way to express myself and to process and understand what had happened. It accomplished some of those things.
I workshopped it, staged it, toured it, and still do it today on request. It propelled me into a new chapter of my life sharing my story and becoming a mental health advocate, smashing stigma around mental illness and most specifically the stigma surrounding suicide. I even trained up and became an ASIST trainer and teach suicide prevention to groups of people.
It has been 9 years since my brother took his life, and I am still rattled. I still get situational depression around his deathaversary every November. I call this seasonal depression the Novembears. I wrote a children’s book about it. I have had strangers ridicule me for my open grief, I have had people leave my circle of friends because I couldn’t “get over it already”, and I have even had fallouts with family who thought the same way. This play is about a sister who loses her brother and someone says to her: “You must love that boy something fierce.” “Death changes nothing,” she replies. This is what the show is about.
It’s also about the guilt, the shame, the sadness, the grief of losing someone and how that stays with you regardless of time. The grief changes, and the grief changes you. It’s not as all consuming, it gets “easier” (air quotes, you get it right?) but it never goes away, not completely, at least not at the 9 year mark for me.
I wanted to write something that felt like my journey through grief to this point. Truthfully I wanted something ready to mark his 10th year of passing. I don’t know why, maybe because like the first year with Everything But the Cat… it would help me start a new chapter of healing.
Scarred Leather is the next chapter – the journey has been laborious just like a cowgirl on horseback – complete with saddle sores and weariness; the pistol is the aggressive blame and shame trying to take down anyone in its path; the Victorian structure is society’s rules around how to deal with death (that’s why my heroine challenges it with dressing like a man, she lives fully outside it’s rules/stigma); and the characters around her are all dealing with death in different ways and their ghosts/memories haunt them in different ways too, because we all deal with death in different ways. It can make us hide our true selves, deceive ourselves and others, it can change us for better or worse, it takes the things we love and leaves a gaping hole, and it can tear us down to build something new in its place.
Scarred Leather gets its name from a cowboy term referring to the imperfections in ones leathers, namely the saddle, which it gets after years of use. The scars are from enduring harsh weather, long rides, and being thrown around the barn. We can see these scars on our own flesh as imperfections, or as a life lived complete with mistakes and regrets and the lessons learned from them.
This workshop production is not traditional in any sense, because what you think grief is from the outside, like this Western seems to be, is very different from what it actually is.
Recently I had the pleasure of sharing a story with Stories We Don’t Tell, a storytelling gathering in Toronto. I like their mandate:
“There are some stories that we get really good at telling, we tell them to our friends, our coworkers, and even strangers at parties. We tell them because they are a part of us, and in doing so they build up our sense of self.
There are also stories we don’t tell, maybe because they’re sad, or weird, or just a little too intimate. These truths are just as much a part of who we are, despite being erased from our day-to-day conversation.
The Stories We Don’t Tell is a monthly live event, held in living rooms across Toronto, and podcast that gives you a window into experiences that are so often left unseen.”