Robin Palmer Blanche
When my mother died when I was six, I became all too familiar with the impact of losing a loved one. My father was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in August 2019, and I spent the next five months as his advocate until his death. I had always feared losing him, but those months turned out to be the most precious, illuminating, life-affirming time of my life. When he died, there was nothing left unsaid between us and I know that the inner work we both did to process his life before he transitioned allowed our farewell to be bittersweet rather than regretful.
During that time, I became fascinated with the dying process—not just the physical aspect, but the emotional, psychological, and social ones as well. I went through volunteer training at the Hospice of Baton Rouge right before COVID hit so that I could be of service to my community and offer my experience, strength and hope to families. In November 2021, I underwent a biopsy on a swollen lymph node. As I waited for the results, I was forced to consider my own mortality and what I would do if diagnosed with a terminal illness. I realized at that moment that if I knew I was going to die, I would want to live as consciously as possible in the months I had left. Thankfully, my stage 1 follicular lymphoma was treatable. As frightening as it was, the experience was a huge gift in that it gifted me with the passion to train as an end-of-life doula so that I could companion dying people and their families on their journeys. I completed my initial training through INELDA (International End of Life Doula Association) in 2022 and quickly realized that because of my thirty-year writing background as a 12-time published novelist and produced screenwriter, legacy work in the form of memoir and workshops would be a large thrust of my practice. I have done numerous other trainings since then, including in dementia, pediatric death, holding space for grief, and a 111 hour-12-week doula training course with Village Deathcare Citizen. While I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with my husband and two children, I also work remotely with people across the country via Zoom as well.