Come with Me, a poem

Come with Me, a poem


Hi, Helen here, from Preparing the Way.

One of the things I have the pleasure of doing in my life is attending a writing class. And how it works is that our teacher provides a poem to us and we listen to that poem and then we’re given 15 minutes to write whatever that inspires for us. And the poem that we were given recently was by Mary Oliver and called ‘The Sunflowers’. And here is what it inspired for me. And I was asked to record this so that people could hear it again. So I hope that you get something out of this. The assignment, the name of the assignment was ‘Come with Me’.

Come with Me

To walk amongst the fields of humanity
Seeing their faces upturned to the sunny heavens seeking answers, solace and certainty.
Their spines often bent, aching with the weight of all they carry.
The leaves of their book filled with the sticky things of life.
Do come with me, visit them, sit with them, be with them…for they are often shy and do want to be friends.
Oh, avail yourself of their glorious stories of when they were young and strong, filled with vigour and dreams.
Do ask them questions and then listen…deeply. They have seeds to share a plenty. Pause, give them time to answer and listen through your heart…their lives to witness and affirm.
See their faces brighten as they bask in the radiance of your heart listening, of your attention fully given. In turn, bask in their glory and beauty as they come alive in their reminiscing and sharing.
Have your hand and heart out, calling them forward into the celebration that their lives are – for surely, to have lived is to have received and given just as the earth and sun dance together.
In our generous listening and warm focus freely given – they bloom, open and ripen. There arises a freedom to release and grow, expanding into the truth of their lives in all its droughts, floods and fires.
All their deeply rooted experiences uplifting into the air,
Strongholds loosening, relieved
Fixities softening
Oh, do come with me and be amongst the garden of our peoples,
For there, do we find ourselves
Mirrored, understood and completed
Sometimes the loudest voices come from the smallest hurt
Sometimes the softest from the largest.
Who knows until we visit the field of humanity…
I have nothing greater to show you or share with you than this.
Come with me
Come with me…

For me, that’s like an invitation to come and be with people as they’re journeying, ageing, or end of life, or in their grieving time and bereavement. Be with people. Reach out.


Helen Callanan

Founder & Lead Educator

Helen is a practising end of life doula and the Founder, Managing Director, and Lead Educator of Preparing the Way. With nearly 40 years of experience in traditional Chinese medicine and Reiki and working with the aging, very ill, and dying, Helen brings profound insight into health and the ‘circle of life’

The results of our 2023 social media survey

The results of our 2023 social media survey

Your voices have resonated deeply at Preparing the Way, and we are beyond grateful for the outpouring of insights you shared in our recent social media content survey. We wanted to share the survey results and how it will help shape our social media strategy in 2024.

Your favourite platforms

Overwhelmingly, our community uses Facebook more than other social media platforms. Instagram was a distant second, with YouTube and LinkedIn immediately behind it. Very few of you use text-based micro-blogging sites such as X (formerly known as Twitter), Mastodon, Bluesky, and Threads. Almost none of you are on the short-form video giant TikTok.

Your preferred content

We asked you what type of content you find the most valuable and enjoyable on our social media channels, and 68% of you said educational posts. You also told us you like testimonials, quotes, and feel-good stories.

We also asked you what you want to see from us in 2024. We received a wide range of answers, including book and movie reviews, more information on grief, how to interact with children, behind-the-scenes content, and ideas to spark conversations about end of life doula care. But the number one answer was personal stories.

You want to hear more about the work doulas are doing and the people and communities we support. You told us you wish to see more from regional/remote areas and more cultural inclusion and representation. Our Legends also want more content around establishing and growing their businesses as professional end of life doulas.

What’s next?

We’ve heard you, and with your insights, we embark on the next phase of our journey together. Here’s what you can expect from us in 2024:

  • Personal narratives and community spotlights
  • Educational posts and videos
  • More behind-the-scenes content
  • Book and movie reviews
  • Informative articles and other resources from around the web

In closing, a big thank you to everyone in our community. Your willingness to share, connect, and support one another sets Preparing the Way apart. We’re honoured to navigate this path with you, learning, growing, and expanding the doulaverse.


Cosette Paneque

Digital Consultant & End of Life Doula

As the Digital Consultant for Preparing the Way, Cosette excels in website and social media strategy to support the growth and outreach of end of life doula training in Australia and New Zealand. She is also a dedicated end of life doula, providing compassionate, personalised care. Visit her at

2023 year-end message and exciting plans for 2024

2023 year-end message and exciting plans for 2024


Hi there, Helen here from Preparing the Way, and this little message is sort of like a wrap-up for 2023. Frankly, I can’t even believe we’re here. This year has just been flying. Has it been like that for you, too? It certainly has. We’ve noticed it.

So, we have a lot of people to thank. We have a lot to acknowledge. We’ve had a lot of wins and big achievements this year. We’ve had a lot of challenges and a lot of tests and all of that. And life’s like that, isn’t it?

We’ve also lost close to us. I’ve had a long-term friend of 50 years die very suddenly recently, and it’s never had me more present to the precious, precious work that we do as end of life doulas. And we’ve really had a remarkable time with that. One of our team, her husband died this year, and we were very, five of our team, were involved in doula-ing, that event and there has just been so many real opportunities to do this work.

Government funding for accredited training

And another thing we did this year with our accredited training, we actually got some government funding to fund 16 places in an aged care facility, up in New South Wales, in Newcastle region. And we delivered two units to 16 of their staff. And this was funded by the government, a big win in the first place, and we did the active dying unit from our Certificate IV in End of Life Doula Services and also palliative care. And it was so effective in the aged care facility that they actually came back to our registered training organization–our program is on their scope of programs, they’re called Essential Skills Training and Recruitment. The company came back to them and said, we want to roll those two units out through all of our, aged care facilities throughout New South Wales and the ACT.

So, that’s a really big win there. Now, funding, of course, we know what it’s like; sometimes it’s there, and sometimes it’s not. But even to have that acknowledgement of the difference it made, having their staff feel more comfortable. And these were floor staff, as in the general support staff, but also there were some activities people, and some of them are RNs. And to have them feel more comfortable talking to their residents and to the residents’ families about what was happening in the active dying stage obviously made a huge, impact for them. So that was a really big thing.

The big news about our accredited training is, and we just heard this over a week ago, that our Certificate IV in End of Life Doula Services has been added to the Smart and Skilled list on the New South Wales training skills list. Now, what that means is that they have so validated the training and talked about what a needed qualification it is that they are subsidizing people who live residentially in New South Wales to be able to do that. There’s obviously criteria and different things that have to be met and boxes to tick, but this is huge that this is the government saying, we recognize the need for this qualification, and we want to subsidize people to do it because it can be cost prohibitive for people. So that’s huge. To have that happen so quickly in this qualification being out, there’s a big deal. Now, next year, we go on to working with other states and seeing if we can’t get that out there in other states so other people have access to that subsidy as well.

Skills Set and the Certificate IV

The other thing we’ve started this year is our End of Life Doula Skill Set, and that’s actually four of the units from the Certificate IV. So, four, what we call, enterprise units. In other words, units that are absolutely unique to Preparing the Way, but also to Natural Grace, holistic funeral directors, who we work very closely with. So, we’ve led our first one of those. So that’s one unit a month for four months. We’ve finished our first one of those. We’ll be starting our next one in March. The Certificate IV will be continuing from mid-year next year. For people that have done the End of Life Doula Skill Set, we’re starting there.

We’ve had so many learning curves, well, I’m calling them learning spirals around the Certificate IV. It’s been a massive, massive undertaking. And, truthfully, there’ve been times I’ve been like, what on earth was I thinking to take this on? But I tell you, our team and Catherine, my co-owner and bestie–Catherine is the manager of the Certificate IV–and honestly, without her and her loving and holding that course and everyone in it, and all the trainers and working so closely with Essential Skills, I don’t know that we would’ve made it. I really want to pay my respects and thank Catherine enormously for everything she’s done for that.

So next year’s even bigger. And we’re starting, as I said, the Skill Set so people can come along and just do those four units and when they successfully complete them, they get what’s called a Statement of Attainment. So it is an accredited thing. So, we’ve got quite a bit of interest in that, a great way to start. And then people can really work out, do I want to go on and do the Certificate IV, as in the remaining subjects. So that’s sort of it in the world of accredited training. And, as I said, it’s been a huge learning curve.

One of the things that happened in the first round of the Certificate IV was that we had half of the participants leave, and that was a big learning curve. When we interviewed people to find out why they’d left, the majority of people who left all, all bar one, had not done our non-accredited training before they came and did the Certificate IV. So, what that taught us was a few things happened. When people have done our Foundation Workshop and have done our four-day Intensive Course, when they get to the end of those, they really have a strong deep sense of what doula is, and also if it’s their sweet spot, if it’s their happy place, if it is the thing that really inspires them to make the difference they want to make in the world. And as I said all bar one of the people who left the Certificate IV, their comments were things like, well, it wasn’t what I thought, and it didn’t go. So we’ve really switched it up with that, and we are really recommending to people they do our Foundation Workshop and our four-day Intensive, and then look at, do you want to go on into the Skill Set or do you want to go in onto the Certificate IV? And we obviously make a change in the price in honour of having done that four-day Intensive. So that’s been a big learning curve and had a big impact.

The Certificate IV takes a lot of resources, and so, we’ve been really challenged in that area, but what, we’ve made it through. We’ve had some big breakthroughs, and I think one of my personal big learnings this year is just to hang in and to keep going and not give up. And there’s times I’ve wanted to chuck the towel in, let me tell you, but we’ve managed it with a lot of support around us. There’s a lot of people to thank, and I will do that before I finish, but I wanted to share some other bits with you that we’ve been doing this year.

Community engagement

We had a presence, along with several other end of life businesses at the Palliative Care Conference and the doula–sorry, the ELDA, which was End of Life Doulas and Allies, that exhibition booth was the busiest exhibition booth at the conference apparently.
So much interest in doula and so much interest from people wanting to do this who are already in the conventional care setting but are looking to maybe get to do something different in their lives. They want to continue to give, but they’re looking for something else to do. For some people coming to this training, they’re coming from, they want to make a difference to one person special to them, or maybe they want to look at changing careers, or some people already in either the care setting or maybe complimentary therapies or got some other skillset. Counsellors, we’ve had funeral directors come do the training, we’ve had celebrants–all of this range of people who want to add another string to their bow because this doula-ing training is just so needed. We are seeing a real swell and a rise in people starting to look for doulas to be able to support them and their families, which is really great. And we get a lot of people coming to us and we share that work out with our people.

Compassionate Communities

Another thing that’s been great this year is we’ve been really encouraging our doulas that have done the training to create local hubs. We’ve been getting underneath that. One of the things on our slate for 2024 is to really get up under that because we know that you can’t do this work in a silo. It takes everyone takes community. We’re very passionate here about the Compassionate Communities movement, and we talk about that in all of our training.

As Professor Allan Kellehear says, and I’m probably badly paraphrasing, but that there’s this 95%-5% rule, and that is that only 5% of the time a person is aging, dying, grieving are they in front of a doctor or a nurse, 5%. 95% of the time they’re either alone, with their family, friends, community, the dog, with their tv, or their internet.

Doulas are all about that 95%. We’re non-medical, non-clinical. So, that’s where we’re working. And I’m so proud of our training. We put a lot into it.

We’re in the process of revising them all. We’ve got to keep updating everything because there’s so much change. So that’s an exciting thing, as well. And, we’ve been having master classes. I’ve got some interviews and we’re going to do a new series coming up in 2024. We’re going to be talking with Dr Kathryn Mannix. We’re going to be talking with Dr Michael Barbato. I’ve already got those videos done. I want to do a whole big thing about advanced care planning.

End of Life Planning Form

Doula Connections this year, that’s Julie Fletcher, they created this, Cherie working with her, did an amazing, amazing job creating this incredible 38-page end of life planning form. It’s the bomb, I tell you. I’ve seen a lot of end of life planning forms, and this is the most thorough thing I’ve ever seen.

It’s all about from your planning and all of that, but then what about if you were aging and you needed care? What important to you there? What if you’ve got a diagnosis and you’re in hospital? Then there’s the traditional advanced care planning, like the medical aspects of it, but then it’s like, well, what care do you want? Who do you want around you? What do you want for your funeral? What do you want for your after death care? Do you get what I’m saying? And then what supports do you want in place for your family? It’s the most thorough thing. So, I’m going to be doing a big thing about that this year as well. I’m also going to be doing something this year I did, too…

End of Life Doula Roadshow

Oh, that’s right, the roadshow! I spent nine months of the year basically on the road, and it was so nice to get out of Victoria and Melbourne just because we’d been locked down so much. It was something I wanted to do prior to COVID happening, but we didn’t get there before the door shut. And so, me and my trusty Hyundai, off we went and moved my car packed to the gills, and I went. So, right up to Queensland, Sunshine Coast, and down to Dubbo and Orange and Maitland and Newcastle. And, uh, where else did I go? Sydney, the Illawarra, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tassie. Had the most amazing time and it was just so great to just get out on the road and see our beautiful, beautiful country and visit with lot of our doulas around.

And we had gatherings, and I showed the incredible palliative care movie, Live the life you please, which we’ll be doing again next year as well to really show what’s possible. And the great thing about showing that movie, it’s called Live the life you please, it’s all about palliative care and it’s a range of stories. It’s beautifully put together by Moonshine Agency. And that movie really opened people’s eyes, but as it says at the end of the movie, and one of our doulas, Rani Foreman, is actually in the movie and talks a bit about being an end of life doula, but that if an end of life doula does this much, they sort of showed about this much, right?

So what we were doing was we would show the movie in a town and we would then have a panel of our local doulas and they could ask questions afterwards because what we wanted to do was go, because the truth is, as it says in the movie, that good palliative care can be a postcode lottery, really depends on where you live. And if you think back to that 95%-5% rule that I just talked about, then doulas are in that 95%. So, then we would do a Q&A after the movie introducing local end of life doulas. So that has been very successful as well, which I’ve been really proud to do.

And we’ve been doing some training on the road with our doulas, and I got to go to some lovely wineries around– oh, the Hunter Valley, oh my God, love out there–the Barossa, I got to see a little bit of. Love, love having a glass of good wine; we love that. So yeah, it’s been a massive year. I’m just trying to think of some other things to, to share with you that we’ve done before I sort of go into some thank yous.

Coming in 2024

Next year, we’re going to have two Certificate IV running. We’re going to have End of Life Doula Skill Set, so people could come and do the four or the full thing. We’ve got more master classes. We’re really going to be focusing in on our doulas and really getting up under our doulas and building those doula hubs and supporting them. We wat to be adding some more training available for them.

I started to say about the End of Life Doula Roadshow, something I did this year was also I did some face-to-face training. So, our Foundation Workshop, which is a one-day or two half-days, I led that face-to-face in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra. Where else was I? I think that was it. I can’t remember. Sydney. Sydney, I said that. Anyway, so this year I want to take it regionally! So, if you are out there in a regional area and you can get eight to 10 people together, I’ll come.

We are going to Orange. We’re starting in February. There’ll be two one-day Foundation Workshops there. And our doula there on the ground, Serena, and, there’s also Melinda in Dubbo, and Karen in Narromine. So, they’re going to be pulling that together; they’re our local doulas. We’ll probably do a film while we are there. And so, it’s just time to really spread the word.

Julie Fletcher said once, and I love this, it’s a real driver for me, is we need to get doula as well-known as nurse, so that we can truly make the difference that doula makes. And to be able to really share with people what’s available in holistic home-based after death care, what’s available in holistic funeral care, holistic active dying, holistic doula-ing where we’re working collaboratively rather than as silos.

The importance of self-care

So, the other big thing we’ve been focusing on this year is really about self-care. And doulas really are champions for wellness and health and wellbeing and can be those eyes and ears on the ground with families and people, which leads of course then to early intervention and harm reduction because, and I don’t know whether you’ve ever been a long-term caregiver, I have; I lived with my mum for seven years while she was living with dementia and, to do that role, and I learned a stat the other day that astounded me, so it’s something I really want to get to work on next year, and the stat was that around 30% of long-term caregivers die before the person they’re caring for. That’s a big stat. So, I really want to chase down a bit about self-care next year and really start to promote that in our doula-ing and have our doulas out there promoting that in their communities as well.

Thank you

I want to say a few thank yous before I wrap up. And, and firstly a thank you to you.

We’ve been really growing our following. We know that more and more people are interested in this, but without you, there is no Preparing the Way. And whether you care for one person or whether you want to do this work, we really do have the resources, the training, the education, and the community to back you up. Our doula community is absolutely extraordinary. We put a lot of attention on our after-training support. So, I want to thank you.

I also want to thank all of our teachers and mentors and champions.

I want to thank Catherine, my co-owner and bestie. I could not do this without her at all, and she’s brilliant and loves talking to people about this work.

I also want to thank all of our team, every single one of them.

We’ve got a team of educators. We’ve got Jo and Estella and Kit and Jackie. Ones that have left, are not working with us right now, Carolyn and Roz. God, I hope I don’t forget anybody; that would be dreadful.

And then we’ve got our amazing admin team. We’ve got Tilly over in New Zealand. We’ve also got Mel and Kathy are here. Kit’s also on our admin team as well. And we have Cosette, who is our digital marketing person who really puts all of this together and does a beautiful job with that. We’ve also got my sister Sue, who helps me behind the scenes with getting all the manuals out and doing all of that stuff. So, our, our team really is quite remarkable.

Also, this year we’ve had two wonderful team members who’ve been with us a long time and have contributed so much to Preparing the Way finish. And that’s Jancine and Cherie. And we really want to thank and acknowledge them for all they’ve contributed, as well.

And two other people in particular I really want to thank are Libby Maloney from Natural Grace and all the Natural Grace team and Jackie. Also, Julie Fletcher because Libby and Julie truly have championed me this year and have really supported me as a business, but as a friend and as a doula. I really want to thank and acknowledge them. I could not do this, what I do, without it.

So that’s a bit of a wrap for 2023. We really look forward to coming back. I’m looking forward to having some time off, as is our team, and really looking forward then to a very strong 2024.

Please take good care of you. Be kind to you and really take care. It’s such a precious life and there’s no guarantees. We really want to honour and support each other and our families and our communities.

Thank you to you and take good care. May this end of the year be gentle and restorative for you, and may 2024 be one that knocks our socks off in the best possible way.

Thank you so much. Take good care. Bye for now.

Helen Callanan

Founder & Lead Educator

Helen is a practising end of life doula and the Founder, Managing Director, and Lead Educator of Preparing the Way. With nearly 40 years of experience in traditional Chinese medicine and Reiki and working with the aging, very ill, and dying, Helen brings profound insight into health and the ‘circle of life’. 

Highlights from the Celebrants Training College Conference

Highlights from the Celebrants Training College Conference

I’m thrilled to share that I had the incredible opportunity to attend Holding Space – Celebrating the Circle of Life, the 2023 conference from Celebrants Training College in beautiful New Zealand.

The conference kicked off on Friday. I set up Preparing the Way’s table and went to the meet-and-greet; it’s always fun to connect with like-minded professionals and learn more about the fantastic work everyone is doing.

Day one, on Saturday, was designed for celebrants and focused mainly on weddings. I popped in for afternoon tea and Yvonne Adele’s session, 5 Pillars of Online Marketing: Build an Army of Advocates. Are you among the doulas that struggles with digitally marketing your business? You’re not alone! Remember that at Preparing the Way, we’ve got masterclasses, workshops, and special offers to help you along.

Day two, on Sunday, was designed for anyone working or interested in end of life. I got to attend Conversations About Death, a session by Elisabeth Price, a doctoral student at the University of Auckland. She discussed her fascinating research on classroom conversations and preparing primary-aged students for encounters with death.

Little has been written about preparing children for future encounters with death. The study aims to identify the current situation, explore how teachers feel about talking to students about death, and investigate approaches to support children in coming to terms with death and grief. I have no doubt that will significantly contribute to the voices calling for death and grief literacy in schools in New Zealand. Watch this space!

Treza Gallogly and Tilly Stevens at the Celebrants Training Conference.

Treza Gallogly and Tilly Stevens at the Celebrants Training Conference.

Our dazzling doula legend Treza Gallogly gave a beautiful presentation, Introducing the Doulaverse, on how doulas can make a difference in someone’s end of life journey. She asked us to consider how end of life doulas and celebrants can work together. Following Treza’s presentation, several people were curious about the end of life doula role and asked for more information.

End of life doula training can benefit celebrants in a variety of ways. It can enhance their understanding of the end of life process and the emotional needs of individuals and those close to them, hone communication skills, expand their service offerings, foster a holistic approach to end of life, and create collaborative opportunities. By incorporating end of life doula training, celebrants can expand their skills, offer comprehensive support, and create truly memorable ceremonies that honour the entire spectrum of life’s journey.

All the presentations were excellent, and Yvonne, the MC, was great at encouraging people to take an action point from each and consider how to implement it. There’s no doubt that learnings will last long beyond the conference weekend. That’s what I loved the most–an actionable to-do list that is unique and specific to my work.

Thank you to our friend and colleague Sally Cant, pictured above, and the entire team at Celebrants Training College for organising this fabulous event! I look forward to next year’s!

For more information about the Celebrants Training College and the 2024 conference, visit

Portrait of Tilly Stevens.

Tilly Stevens

Trainer and Administration Support & End of Life Doula

Tilly’s primary area of end of life doula work is on helping to raise awareness around end of life planning and the importance of conversations so that individuals and their families feel supported and empowered to plan and prepare well for end of life.

The silver tsunami of baby boomers is coming

The silver tsunami of baby boomers is coming

Media Release
For Immediate Release
August 26, 2022

For information
Helen Callanan – 0413917574

The ‘silver tsunami’ of Baby Boomers is coming: Australia’s health system already under pressure.

Death rates will peak in 2044 and last-minute fixes won’t cut it!

We need to plan now and get everyone to the table to create cost effective solutions that will work for our communities across Australia.

With baby boomers creating a ‘silver tsunami’ of ageing, chronic illnesses and rising death statistics, there has never been a greater need for planning the future support workforce.

The Palliative Care institution carries a heavy load given the statistics. How can this model of care safely, holistically, and realistically meet the growing demands whilst navigating the deepening crisis in trained staff availability?

Collaboration is key. Pull up extra seats to the table so that we can all contribute and plan for what we know is coming together.

Conventional care settings currently provide predominantly medical and nursing clinical care to people at end of life. However, death is not a medical event: – it is an individual, family, community event and is a complex and deeply emotional time for all involved.

Helen Callanan, Managing Director of Preparing the Way says: “Given the statistics around ageing, end of life and the baby boomer ‘silver tsunami’ on our horizon there is a pressing and growing need to be able to support people, those close to them and our communities at large.

At Preparing the Way, we have spent two years designing and developing the world’s first nationally accredited qualification for end of life doulas. The 10966NAT Certificate IV in End of Life Doula Services is a game-changer.

This new qualification will support the current Palliative Care model with the provision of non-medical support services that can bridge the present and widening gaps in service provision cost-effectively by way by working alongside our burdened nursing and allied health teams. In addition, it will provide relevant training and support the engagement of our young people, our retirees and those wanting to contribute to their communities.

In addition, this qualification opens doors into our more conventional care settings so we really can provide the end of life support that individuals and families deserve and need.”

No stranger to innovative approaches to end of life support and services, Preparing the Way has trained over 500 end of life doulas (death doulas) through their non-accredited training. These end of life doulas are equipped to deliver practical, emotional, spiritual, educational and non-medical support and resources to those reaching the end of their lives, their families, carers, and those close to them.

“End of life doulas are all about giving three basic and precious human rights back to people ~ capacity, choice and control. We know that caring for people at end of life in their own homes will not only satisfy the choice many would make, but it will also save millions of health dollars.”



For more information on end of life issues, doulas, palliative, home based end of life and after death care contact:

Helen Callanan, Managing Director Preparing the Way 0413 917574

Julie Fletcher, Director Doula Connections & Essential Skills Training and Recruitment (RTO ID:91729) 0434 574252

Download media release here