Conscious Death Coach and Sacred Passage End-of-Life Doula Akaljeet Khalsa. Photo by Paula Mayer

On Monday night, Dec. 6, a group gathered at the Third Street Center to watch Tim Wilson’s 2008 documentary “Griefwalker.” The evening was hosted by Rita Marsh of The Center for Human Flourishing (formerly Davi Nikent) and Akaljeet Khalsa, a local practitioner of the healing arts, who recently completed the Conscious Death Coach and Sacred Passage End-of-Life Doula certifications offered by the Conscious Dying Institute in Boulder.

“Griefwalker” documents the work of theologian and social worker Stephen Jenkinson, of Toronto, whose mission is “to change the way we die — to turn the act of dying from denial and resistance into an essential part of life.”

Anyone who doesn’t plan on dying can stop reading now, the rest of this article won’t pertain to you…

When was the last time you spoke with someone about death? Generally, these conversations can feel pretty loaded, as the impetus for having them is often a change in one’s health, a crisis, or sudden, unexpected death. Under these circumstances, the dominant emotions can be sadness, anger, fear and grief.

What if these conversations took place under different circumstances, having more to do with exploring one’s core values than mourning loss? These are the conversations that Akaljeet shares with people in her practice as a death doula.

“I invite people into a conversation about life, gently gazing through the lens of death.” Akaljeet states that, in five to six sessions of working one-on-one, she takes you through conversations that explore each of the five pillars of life — physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and practical. “We take a deep dive into the value systems we live by. At the end, you discover you can be more present, live more fully, because you identify that what is important to you at the end of life is important to you right now.”

Where does our love of life come from? Stephen Jenkinson theorizes, “The circle of your love of life exists because it ends.” 

It may take some time to wrap your head around this, especially if you’ve experienced deep grief before. 

Jenkinson continues, “Grief is not a feeling, it’s a skill. Not as something that happens to you; not as a thing to be endured. It is not a coping strategy. It is a willingness to be engaged by deeply unwelcome things about which you know.”

Death is not a secret that is sprung on us at the last minute. We all know that dying is an inevitable part of living. As the end of a life becomes apparent, we have all wished for just a few more moments with a loved one. What would we do with that extra, precious time? What would we say? Feel? Experience? Change?

During the upcoming holidays, many of us will spend time with family and friends. For some, it might be the first family gathering since the pandemic. Consider asking your dad, or brother, or fourteen-year-old daughter: What’s important to you? What do you really care about? What have you always dreamed of doing?

 for more information and to contact Akaljeet Khalsa. Call 970-379-5620 for The Center for Human Flourishing. 

Rita Marsh explains the integral health model, the guiding light at The Center for Human Flourishing. Photo by Paula Mayer