What is your life’s purpose?
To help transform the way people die in our culture one person and one family at a time.
How are you living your purpose?
I am an End-of-Life Doula—someone who guides and companions people through the dying process by creating meaning, legacy, and a blueprint for as good a death as possible. This work starts well before the last days of illness, continues through the dying process and into the early stages of grief for the family. I co-founded the International End of Life Doula Association, a nonprofit organization to accomplish two things: train hospitals and hospices to have an end-of-life doula program, and train people all over the world to be an end-of-life doula.
How did you find your purpose?
I was in the financial industry for 20 years and I was starting to lose my drive and passion. It was around the time that 9/11 occurred, and I wanted to be of service and contribute to a greater cause in some way. I had just read a book about hospice and it struck a chord deep down inside me. Within days, I quit my job and began volunteering at a local hospice. I knew from the very beginning that this was right for me.
I did that for several years, then heard about a training (given by my current partner, Henry Fesko-Weiss) for end-of-life doulas. It was a brand-new concept. I took the training and having been doing the work for the last nine years. As more and more families asked why this work didn’t exist in other states, we decided to start our nonprofit. We now bring this work across the world. Each time I work with a person who is dying, it humbles me. So many touching and beautiful moments are created.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers? What resources do you recommend?
Don’t be afraid to take risks and try something new. Go out an explore what you love, and if it doesn’t exist, create it!
If you would like to learn more about training as an end of life doula, check out our website.
Caring for the Dying: The Doula Approach to a Meaningful Death – Henry Fersko-Weiss
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End – Atul Gawande
Marrow: Love, Loss, and What Matters Most – Elizabeth Lesser
BJ Miller – “What Really Matters at The End of Life”
Connect with Janie Rakow:
President – International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA)
Facebook: International End of Life Doula Association
Janie Rakow has been a hospice volunteer since 2001, providing emotional and spiritual support to patients and their families through the end of life process. In 2010, Janie became an end-of-life doula at Valley Hospice’s program started by Henry Fersko-Weiss. In 2013 Janie took on the additional role of a lead doula at Valley. She has functioned as a lead doula for many patients and their families at Valley, as well as in the programs at Holy Name Hospice and Hackensack University Medical Center that INELDA helped create.
In 2015 Janie’s passion for doula work led Janie to join Henry Fersko-Weiss in founding INELDA. The dream she shares with Henry is to bring the doula work to as wide an audience as possible. Besides her years of experience as a doula and her great energy, Janie brings to INELDA her extensive background as a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified financial planner. She worked for 20 years in the fields of tax and estate planning at a large accounting firm and a boutique law firm.
Janie’s work as a doula is complemented by her years of experience as a certified Emotional Freedom technique (EFT) practitioner, hypnotherapist, and Reiki Level II practitioner. She brings the learning from these other modalities to her work as a doula as appropriate and in the context of what people ask for as they face the end of life.