We’re Anna, an end-of-life doula and Louise, a funeral director, and together we’re the team behind Life. Death. Whatever. Our joint mission is to redesign the dialogue around death and dying, to open it up and to find new approaches to this important subject. We believe that death is a normal part of life and dying is part of living. Acknowledging and accepting that one day we will die is fundamental to living a full life. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.
Life. Death. Whatever. is many things. It began life as a ground-breaking festival, which ran in partnership with the National Trust; it developed into an international community of eclectic people from many different disciplines (artists, writers, funeral professionals, hospice and hospital workers, counsellors, medical staff and interested members of the public) who are united in a commitment to doing death differently; it’s also an approach that influences our individual work – a forward-thinking, educational, honest, approachable, transparent, bold and brave way of addressing the inevitable. Because death is going to happen to us all, and we believe that how we handle that fact matters enormously.
As an end of life doula, Anna supports people who are dying, their family and friends and sometimes, people experiencing bereavement. Her aim is to help people live as good a life as possible right up until the very end. She believes that a dying person is still living so it’s essential to help them to live a life they can enjoy, for as long as possible.
As a funeral director, Louise has an unconventional approach. She created Poetic Endings, the kind of funeral service she felt needed to exist, because after years of exploring the funeral industry and searching for it, she couldn’t find it. Her mission is to get people to really think about the kind of funerals they’re having, and why they have them. She believes that a good funeral can be transformational in helping us to accept and acknowledge that someone has died.
In our work, both independently and together, we have the privilege of unparalleled access to life at its most heightened, its most vulnerable and its most fragile. We inhabit the liminal space as people transition between life and death, bearing witness to this once in a lifetime experience. With this brings a wealth of understanding and of lessons that teach us so much about how to live, not just how to die.
Our debut book Life. Death. Whatever. is a journey through our work, an exploration of our approach and a collection of the often heartbreaking, always surprising and occasionally uplifting stories that have inspired us to live, to love and to live some more. It’s a reflection on the blessings and tragedies of life, the exquisite agony and ecstasy of being alive, and the fragility of everything we hold dear. It will be published by Green Tree (Bloomsbury) in Spring 2020.