Society has become 'death illiterate,' Edmonton death doula says

Rayne Johnson's job is to be around people experiencing the most significant and vulnerable moments in their lives.

Families need to have more conversations about death, Rayne Johnson says

Death doula Rayne Johnson says families need to talk more about death. (CBC)

Rayne Johnson's job is to be around people experiencing the most significant and vulnerable moments of their lives.

Johnson is a death doula who helps families navigate through the death of a loved one.

"We basically are helping families and communities reclaim death again and kind of bring it back home, because life and death is a package deal," Johnson told CBC's Radio Active.

Rayne Johnson, a death doula based in Edmonton, says families should be talking about death more. 7:39

Johnson used to work as an actual doula in Toronto helping women through the birthing process by providing emotional and physical support.

She then moved to rural Nova Scotia and worked in palliative care, where she met a dying woman, who did not have long to live.

Johnson watched the woman draw up her will and other documents, while preparing her family members for her death.

"She was her own death doula," Johnson said.

The experienced inspired Johnson to return to being a doula, but assisting people through the process of dying rather than childbirth.

"It just became this real natural thing to do," she said.

Johnson offers personal care, helping her client be as comfortable as possible and ensure they are surrounded by loved ones.

The process helps families open up about death and see it as a natural part of life, which is especially important in a society where people don't talk about death, Jonson said.

"It's become taboo," she said. "We've become death illiterate, as well as grief illiterate."

Johnson hopes her role as death doula will open up conversations about death, making it easier for families to grieve and understand the natural course of life.

With files from Emily Rendell-Watson