In 2014, the Natural Death Care Centre in Australia, a charity founded by Zenith Virago, offered its inaugural Deathwalker Training Programme in Byron Bay. I was one of the 14 people who took part and it changed my life.
A couple of years later, I brought Zenith to the top of the South Island to conduct the first training here in Aotearoa. Zenith has since delivered the training here in New Zealand several more times, most recently in Otautahi Christchurch last year, as part of the 2023 Death Matters post-conference workshop programme.
Anyone can be a deathwalker and many people do this work without having done the training. They have a natural aptitude for being brave in the face of death and being able to communicate openly, honestly and with compassion about death and dying.
But for everyone else, the Deathwalker Training Programme offers practical help and guidance about all things death and dying.
Until recently there were only a limited number of training opportunities but towards the end of last year, Zenith video recorded all 10 modules of the training programme and made them available online, so that people anywhere around the world can participate.
The basic premise of the training is that one really needs to explore their own mortality before they can walk beside or accompany dying and bereaved people in a considered and meaningful way. The Deathwalker Training gives you the opportunity to discover how to be more comfortable and skilled in intimate situations, at the bedside or the kitchen table, and sensitively guide people through their whole journey.
Since completing the training with Zenith twice, I’ve hosted numerous Death Cafes and have run ‘Death Literacy 101’ workshops, which are a blend of Death Cafe and creative writing workshop. And, since I had worked as a freelance journalist since the late 90s and have broadcast experience, the next step seemed to be to start my own radio show and podcast - and Deathwalker’s Guide to Life was born! I have Zenith to thank for making this show possible, and her blessing to use the term 'deathwalker'.
I’d also like to acknowledge all my fellow ‘Deathwalkers’ out there, and over time my plan is to feature more of you on the show. This work really is a team effort. Get in contact with me if you'd like to join me on the show