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Redefining End-Of-Life Care With The Light Hereafter – Exclusive Interview With Jenna Golias

Jenna Golias is paving the way for end of life care and bringing the profession of End of Life Doulas to the forefront. With her own personal experiences with death and grief and with 20 years of experience in the healthcare profession, her mission is to not only change how we provide end of life care, but to create a world where we no longer fear the end of it. Providing mind, body, and soul support at the end of life, she is dedicated to make the transition one of comfort and peace. This is her passion and her purpose.

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Jenna Golias, RN, End of Life Doula, Grief Educator

Introduce yourself! Please tell us about you and your life, so we can get to know you better.


I'm an Ohio girl living out the California dream! I was born, and spent most of my life, in Ohio and I remember as a kid, I loved anything related to California. I would cut out pictures from magazines, hang up posters, and watch any movie or TV show based in California. I was manifesting my life before I knew what that meant. So, when a travel nursing opportunity landed me in Central Coast California, I knew I found my home.


A little bit about myself: I tell people I'm half-blooded adventure and half-blooded stability, and to me, that makes the perfect harmony. I love anything outdoors and I travel as much as I possibly can. Having new experiences and adventures fills my soul, but at the end of the day, I always feel grounded coming back home to myself. 


An introvert by nature, I’m not much for small talk. I crave deep connections and deep conversations. I choose sunrise versus sunset any day. And I deeply connect to words, music, and nature.


My weaknesses are overthinking with a tinge of perfectionism. I have a growth and self-improvement mindset that I sometimes can’t turn off.


My greatest strengths are my intuition and how deeply I love. I am authentic in everything that I do, embody, and present to the world. 


What I love: spending quality time with the people I love most in this world, experiencing everything this life has to offer, and living in my purpose.

My goal is to make this world a little bit better every day. 

What inspired you to become an end-of-life doula, and how did your background in healthcare and nursing influence this decision?


My background in healthcare and nursing greatly influenced my path to becoming an end-of-life doula. Working in cardiac and pulmonary specialties, as well as, through the pandemic, I have mainly been with patients throughout end-stage conditions and have worked with death and dying substantially. What I do know is this: as a culture, as a country, and as a healthcare system, we need to provide better death care. Conversations around death and dying, resources, dedication, and care before, during, and after the dying process should be at the forefront. There should be as much focus, emphasis, and dedication to death and dying as there is to birth, hospitalizations, wellness, and preventive care. 


This is where end-of-life doulas come in. We help bridge that gap of what is missing between the healthcare system and supportive services, caregivers, and loved ones, which encompasses emotional, physical, spiritual, and practical support and care. 


By working in the medical profession, I saw a need to provide better death care and support for the dying and I knew I wanted to make a difference.


To be even more honest, I was heavily driven towards this work by both love and fear.


Love: My best friend passed away from brain cancer. She was one of my most favorite people on this earth and my biggest inspiration. She battled this diagnosis for several years, but never once showed fear. She lived life fully and she lived life presently. She did not fear death. She lived and died the way she wanted to. She was the epitome of light and love. It was she who taught me how to live fully and to die gracefully. This was a pivotal experience for why I pursued this career path as an end-of-life doula. 


Fear: As a single woman, one of my biggest fears surrounding death is the fear of dying alone. Through my end-of-life doula training, I was forced to face and dive deep into my own fears surrounding death and worked through these. This kept coming up again and again. No one should have to be alone at the end.

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Can you describe some of the specific services you offer to clients and their families through The Light Hereafter?


As a nurse, I offer education on disease process and progression, education and preparation for the dying process, caregiver and family training, and healthcare advocacy. 


As a grief educator, I provide tools and insights to prepare for the end-of-life journey, grief support for the client, grief support and education for family, loved ones, and caregivers, and facilitation of grief support groups.


I assist with end-of-life planning, which includes assisting with medical wishes and plan of care, healthcare power of attorneys, etc, preparing and organizing affairs, connecting with local resources: palliative and hospice care, supportive and ancillary services, caregivers, respite care, community outreach, assistance with planning funerals, burials, celebrations of life, carrying out religious and other spiritual traditions, and creating a plan for how the client wants their final days/moments to look and feel.


I offer spiritual and emotional guidance, working through spiritual blocks, stuck subconscious emotions and thought patterns, unhealthy attachments, and beliefs, dissonance and repair in relationships, regrets, and Reiki and energy healing sessions.


I also help create legacy work and celebration of life ceremonies Together we create something truly beautiful to encompass their legacy: weaving together their gifts, creativity, spirituality, significant relationships, important milestones, joys, and love that will perfectly depict a beautiful legacy.

How do you approach the creation of an individualized end-of-life plan, and what key elements are included in these plans?


Individualized to me, means taking the whole person into account: mind, body, soul, and spirit. Traditionally end of life care focuses on taking care of the physical body, making sure it is comfortable and supported, but what is often neglected are the emotional, energetic, and spiritual dimensions of the person at the end of life. These, arguably are even more important as we near the end.


How I approach creating an end-of-life plan for the individual, takes all of this into account, and also involves family, loved ones, healthcare support, hospice, and caregivers. The whole team. 


During my consultations, we go into depth uncovering all the elements. From talking about the primary and secondary medical diagnoses, what healthcare services and advocacy the client may need, end-of-life planning, and important documents, to any emotional and spiritual needs. We talk about belief systems; spiritual, cultural, and religious. We discuss what a good death looks like to the individual, any fears surrounding death, and significant relationships in their life. Anything and everything that encompasses the person as a whole.


From there, together, the client and I, design an end-of-life plan specific to their needs.

Image photo of Jenna Golias

Tell us about your greatest career achievements so far.


I carry an immense amount of pride reflecting on my career achievements throughout the different facets and seasons and am grateful for all of the opportunities. Each one holds a special place in my heart. 


Working in wellness and as an exercise physiologist, I worked closely with rehabbing pre and post-heart and lung transplants and procedures. This was highly rewarding. 

I created and implemented a heart failure education class for patients in the hospital and held large fundraising events for the cancer hospital. Perhaps my biggest achievement in that realm, was the opportunity to bring in a cutting-edge exercise testing protocol and subsequent exercise prescription plans for pulmonary patients that allowed me to present my work and speak at rehabilitation conferences on the local and national level. 


As a nurse, I was privileged to work at one of the top-rated heart hospitals in the United States in coronary care units and procedural areas. I then went on to pursue travel nursing where I worked in several hospitals and specialties across the country and landed a permanent home here in Central Coast California. I currently run a new graduate nurse mentorship program that focuses on self-care, wellness, avoiding burnout, stress management, and work-life balance, tying in my wellness and holistic health background.


But by far, my greatest career achievement to date has been seeing my End of Life Doula business blossom to fruition. I have never felt so passionate and aligned in work or in life's purpose as I do in this role.

If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be and why?


I would change two things: that the world would be more open to talking about and preparing for death, and two, that end-of-life doulas would be more utilized and brought to the forefront. 


It’s funny, death is the one thing we all will eventually face, yet it's the thing people avoid talking about or even thinking about the most. We are conditioned from a very young age, to avoid conversations around death, to not expose our children to it, or to participate in anything death or dying-related. As a society, we do everything we can to avoid death, focusing on longevity, rather than quality, and so when the time comes we are not adequately prepared. 


One of my favorite things to learn was about the Bhutanese culture and how they, on average, think about their deaths at least five times a day. And Bhutan is also ranked the happiest country in the nation!


Researchers believe that when people contemplate death, their minds search for happy thoughts. When you confront death, it makes you zero into the moment and the presence is the greatest gift. It’s where happiness is found. 


How do you see the role of end-of-life doulas evolving in the future, especially in terms of public awareness and acceptance?


I truly believe that we are going to see a massive shift in the utilization of end-of-life doulas in the near future. Even though doulas are a fairly new profession when it comes to end of life, doulas have been around for centuries. The role of an end-of-life doula throughout the dying process and beyond is so vital. The world needs us and the world needs this work. I am so excited and honored to be trailblazing this path!

Follow me on Instagram, and visit my website for more info!

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