Ask A Death Doula #


World Training Day Interview with Doulagivers Thailand Lead Trainers Susan and Jim!!

 Released: 04/13/2022

 Guest: Susan and Jim

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Episode Show Notes

The goal of the International Doulagivers Institute is to support communities worldwide with free end-of-life doula community caregiver training. Doulagivers International recognizes that education and engagement are the keys to a peaceful passing. One of the organization’s key initiatives is Death Doula Training for Families via their Annual World Training Day event – a free public education program that empowers families and takes the fear out of the end of life.

One of our greatest examples of just who worldwide this initiative and movement is can be found in looking to our Doulagivers Thailand Lead Trainers. In 2019, I had the pleasure of traveling all over the beautiful country of Thailand teaching the Doulagivers Level 1 and Family Caregiver Training to hundreds of people. Even more amazing is that we have an established group of Doulagivers Lead Trainers there who continue teaching these skills and education to the people of Thailand in partnership with the country’s Ministry of Health!

In this week’s episode of the Ask a Death Doula Podcast, you will listen to an incredible interview with Doulagivers Thailand Lead Trainers!!!

In this episode, you will hear:

1)    How we all met (there are no accidents!)

2)    The 14 Trainings we did together in 2019 in Thailand

3)    How Jim was called to single-handedly run the COVID unit during the height of the Pandemic in Thailand

4)    How Jim and Dusty have continued Doulagivers trainings in Thailand through Thailand’s Ministry of Health

5)    How when we come together in support, compassion, and kindness – we truly change the world.

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Join Doulagivers World Training Day Webinar HERE:




xoxoxo Suzanne

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Speaker 1 (00:03):

Welcome everyone. This is one of the most magical days for me. Um, I have two guests with me today that I could start to, uh, get very emotional. It’s a three year anniversary from when I was actually in Thailand. I had the honor to be in Thailand, doing trainings with these two incredible women who are now lead trainers in Thailand for doula givers. And I wanna introduce you to them and I wanna share our story. And I want you to hear from them what they’re doing with this incredible work now. So without further ado, I wanna introduce you to my lead trainers. This is Jim, and this is dusty, and I’m gonna let them do a bit of their background, an introduction. And of course we do have a beautiful Thai language, which is absolutely wonderful. So we’ll be doing some translating during this. So they’ll be a little lag time, um, in between so that we can really get clear on the beautiful, um, comments and interview for what we’re doing today. So we’ll welcome to doula givers, Thailand. My name is Susan O’Brien. Let’s start out by thanking about Saudi Deka. Thank you so

Speaker 2 (01:10):


Speaker 1 (01:12):


Speaker 2 (01:12):


Speaker 1 (01:13):

Thank you so much for being here. It is my honor to have worked with you in your beautiful country And to have,

Speaker 2 (01:27):

And as we welcome everybody and join together, the Thai national anthems playing in the background. So as it does every six o’clock every night, so perfect timing.

Speaker 1 (01:39):

I love that. Yes, serendipitous. Um, so I’d like to start out just by letting our listeners know a little bit about how we connected. And I think this is so important because you and I often talk about this about really not, um, having any agenda in life and really just showing up to see how we can contribute to this world. And for me, I talk about it all the time, how liberating that is, it’s counterintuitive to the way that we humans think, but it is so liberating cuz when you take your hands off that wheel, when you get yourself out of it, you let the universe direct you and many things open up and this was one of them. So I’m gonna share a bit about your email that came. You took my, my free level one, which we do with doula givers all the time. I think it was a four week. We did it in four weeks and you wrote me a beautiful, beautiful email.

Speaker 1 (02:36):

And I remember getting a beautiful email from you and you talking about all the beautiful volunteer work in service you do in Thailand and the need and the need for of that. And I, and I often will just go where I’m directed and I just sort of, you know, said to you, you know, I really felt if I, I really wanted to give you that full scholarship to the program and you know, that’s paying it forward and we developed this beautiful friendship and then we were on a Skype call and I out of my mouth said something like, well, if you ever want me to come to Thailand and to do some free trainings for community and you were like, really, and then, and the next thing, you know, in 2019, we were doing 14 trainings all over the country, um, in three years ago to the date almost, which is beautiful. Yeah. So going where? Correct?

Speaker 2 (03:25):


Speaker 1 (03:26):


Speaker 2 (03:26):

Was actually yesterday was the day, the final day, um, of the trainings. So it is to the day.

Speaker 1 (03:35):

So, so incredible that changed my life and it was just such a beautiful, so many different reasons. And, And one major reason is the beautiful woman that is with us today. Um, her heart, her passion, You know, when we, when we met and when we were working together, I almost felt like Jim was my, a like me in just in Thailand, that nurse, her heart is in everything she does. She works so very hard. Yeah. There was just this real kinship. And I remember when, um, she gave us a tour of the palliative care, the unit, the hospice unit that she works on and runs, and it was so incredibly moving. So

Speaker 1 (04:37):

Yeah. So for those of you who, and, and as the sun and as the sun comes up behind me, it’s just so interesting to see the colors. I just love the whole, uh, connection of everything. But as we did that whole month in March, 2019, which was incredibly beautiful when I left there and came back to the United States, you all carry, you carried on, you carried on with the work. And now I wanna hear your stories about what you’ve been doing with do givers, Thailand, um, the journey. And of course, we’re gonna talk a bit about COVID, um, during this time.

Speaker 2 (05:18):

Yes. Um, it was interesting after you left all, add a bit here then, and I’ll let Jim take this after you left Jim and I continued on and, uh, we really branched out we were already doing it, but we were asked to do more of inclusive care, which is really doula givers, heart. So we were training for people and you’ll remember doing this, working with the monks and working with Muslims and Christians and people of no faiths and all faiths and teaching them how to have unbiased presence. Yes. Compassionate presence. Yeah. With everybody and how to let the patient, the person at end of life and their families be the leaders. So of course, of course took that to many, many hospitals and did a lot of training. And then another thing it came up was we were asked to do a lot of training around caregiver burnout.

Speaker 2 (06:23):

Mm yeah. Cause we were seeing hospice was starting to grow and it was being placed as a demand upon the hospitals, by the health ministry and besides red duties, they had to start doing hospice as well. End of life care. Yeah. And the burnout and compassion, fatigue was big and so demanding. And so we took all givers as a base, as a mode of practice. And then we added a lot about, um, compassionate care for yourself as well, which is also, you know, a part of the training. And then, um, I left Thailand for a sabbatical and got stuck overseas and then had to go back to Australia and couldn’t come back to Thailand. So yeah. And I was just thinking, you know, wow, what, perfect time though, that we were able to put all this training here. Yes. Because Jim will tell her story what happened.

Speaker 2 (07:32):

Yes. With her caregiving. Yes. Was phenomenal. And I’m just so glad we were able to leave those tools and that support and yes, because boy, if there was ever a time that it was needed. So a lot of us as doula givers, we couldn’t even go to be with patients. We had to do it remotely quite often, but in some countries it was in lockdown. But Jim was frontline as a hospice nurse at the infectious disease Institute where everyone was coming to test and many people were dying, large percentage of death and she was frontline. So at

Speaker 3 (08:39):


Speaker 2 (08:54):

She said, yeah, after you left, it was really difficult for me because I had to make all the decisions on my own. But I knew from doula givers about presence and that’s what really stayed with me. But I had to make these decisions very quickly and deal directly with relatives between the relative in the hospitals. So many people were on respir, respirators in intubated, and she had to make very quick decisions and she, and of course the families couldn’t be with them. And so she had to be the bridge between everybody. Wow. So many families had COVID and they were all in different places. Maybe in hospitals, hotels separated and, or they were in field hospitals that they’d built specifically, which were really pretty, you know, like camps. So I had to walk beside them all the time, 24 hours a day, like as we talked about presence in Thai, you say the word for presence in Thai is to put your heart in another and to walk beside them. And this is what she had to do 24 hours a day and juggle all, all these different situations I had to decide who was the strongest caregiver in every family. Yeah. And then I had to tell them the truth. Yes. Very directly, yes. That they were going to die. What was going to happen? And it, you know, it was really frontline. It was like a war war time. I’m adding that. But you know, by the sounds of it, it was like warm.

Speaker 2 (11:25):

So in the case of people who are dying, I do, we do, uh, video conferences and I would have to teach the caregiver, the nurses, how to care for that person, how to have what to say. So she was doing this remotely. Yes. And then dealing with the families as well as these people were passing away.

Speaker 3 (11:51):

Yeah. To,

Speaker 2 (12:31):

So people were dying all over the place. And because everybody had to be in lockdown, they couldn’t come and get the body. They couldn’t, um, come to a funeral. And she said, particularly with Muslim sisters was very stressful because they have to bury their dead within 24 hours. But she was really impressed with them, how they responded and react. So she had to balance connecting everybody and contacting religious leaders to come and get the person and do religious ceremony and rights and things as well. So it wasn’t just with the dying, it was after the death. And you know, then follow up with the families as well.

Speaker 1 (13:15):

Wow. Did our screen

Speaker 3 (13:25):


Speaker 2 (13:30):

She said, she said, I couldn’t Perak anybody. I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t

Speaker 3 (13:47):


Speaker 2 (13:57):

So I had a Budd dying over here and a Muslim dying over here and they needed different things for the way to, you know, follow their traditions. And then the wife would be dying in one hospital and the husband in another. And then they’d be, can you wait till we get so we can put them together in the same coffin and very, very heavy stuff.

Speaker 1 (14:21):

I can’t even imagine what that must be like. But I also wanna say, I can’t imagine a better person being at the front, coordinating this because I know what heart and passion and skill you bring. Um, and I’m just so grateful that you were there during this time for a everyone

Speaker 2 (14:48):


Speaker 3 (15:09):


Speaker 2 (15:24):

Yeah. She said before, do give us for me was a lot of theory. And then she said, and then you dusty were here beside me all the time to work with me. And then I knew that I had Suzanne’s support too. But then with COVID that was all gone. And it was only me and I had to, even, it became much more than theory. It became reality. And I had to really live it and not only live that I had to find money for funerals. They didn’t even have money. So I had to find money as well for people. It was just over the top.

Speaker 1 (16:02):


Speaker 3 (16:08):

Who told they don’t okay. Can do what mentor you like. They,

Speaker 2 (16:39):

So, you know, I felt like giving up, but then I would message her or call and we’d talk, hi sister, how are you? I love you. And then you’d send, even though we didn’t share the same message of the language, you, you put a purple heart or a little, and she just knew I wasn’t alone. And people saw me and our hearts were together. And that helped me go on, even though I was so exhausted, Something very important for me is

Speaker 3 (17:20):


Speaker 2 (17:24):

I would wake at four o’clock. I would wake at four and I’d get a message from you online or something. And then I feel fine. And I, you know, then I’d go back to some, I just, again, but that, that moment would give me the strength again, to go on.

Speaker 1 (17:41):

I think it’s so important. I love you. It’s so important for people to hear this, that there are gonna be times that we are not able to be in the same space that we’re not able to offer that kind of, uh, support. However, the intention Like COVID is the great example of that. The intention that I am here with you, that I’m thinking of you, that I sent you, It’s something we can all do.

Speaker 2 (18:17):

True. Very

Speaker 3 (18:17):


Speaker 2 (18:23):

I’m so happy that we’ve had this communication and connection and meet you because if I had to, to do this just on my own, there’s no way I could do this.

Speaker 1 (18:34):

You know, I really do. I feel like, I feel like the universe in God and whatever your belief system is, is always working and orchestrating. And I know that for a fact and you and I, we would’ve never seen this coming. I don’t think anyone would what the world became, um, and how we got together. And we were able to absorb this teaching in such a place to prepare for this moment is really phenomenal. One of the, yeah,

Speaker 2 (19:15):

I made a decision. I dunno if you remember this, but I made a decision. The moment I saw you for ties, we can hold hands. And I wasn’t sure if that was your culture, but I just felt related to you that I felt close to you. And do you remember when I took your hand and walked with you?

Speaker 1 (19:36):

Oh yes. Oh yes. And I also re I remember so many moments, of course, but I also remember, and I was gonna wear it today. I should have put it on, but when I remember when I complimented a beautiful ring you had on and you just took it off and gave it to me and the heart and the love. And that’s when my,

Speaker 2 (19:58):

Oh, yes, Jim is very generous. She’s very giving. Um, she was the older sister in her family. So she did all the work for everybody. She sacrificed all her life to get her family, you know, on a good path and successful. And yes, now she does that outside of her family as well.

Speaker 1 (20:22):

Of course, yes. I mean, she has touched so many lives. I wanna highlight when we started today and it’s been a thread throughout, and I really want people to hear this. It doesn’t matter of what religion or culture that we are. We we’re human beings and humanity. And when show up, when we show up to be of service at the end of life, and even in, we need to take down those labels and we need to meet each other in presence, what we can learn from end of life, which is so important, that presence, we need to bring back into life with one another. Now, with that respect with meeting each other with not judging with that open heart. And I love that. Yeah, go ahead. Yeah. You,

Speaker 2 (21:11):

Well, this is why to hear the no religious borders. So Jim and I created a program that actually Jim won an award from the health ministry for, and it was a very radical concept at the time because the large part of Thailand is Buddhist, but a lot of people don’t believe anymore. And there’s other nationalities and cultures coming in. And there are other religions here who are feeling free now to express themselves. And you may be a Buddhist and that can mean a million different things to a million people.

Speaker 1 (21:48):

That’s right.

Speaker 2 (21:49):

So, Jim, um, it was actually a policy under the health ministry and she created a project whereby and it fits exactly with doula givers whereby just going into everyone and working on, we say this a lot before we go in, we go empty hand open. So we take out everything. We know all our bias, all our, you know, things we think we need to accomplish today or what we wanna have happen. And we just take it out and put it to the side. And our goal is to win trust and go in with it, open heart, whatever they put in our hands and put in their hand, our hands, that’s what we work with. That’s how we respond, not react. And she said, this is what I teach my nurses all the time title. So this is what I wanna leave with them so they can keep, so I teach student nurses and I always teach them empty hand, open heart to send the, mm.

Speaker 1 (22:51):

And I think, um, our trainings were such a beautiful example of that in Thailand is that you, especially, um, at the hospital where we had the Buddhist monks who do end of life, where we had nurses and we had different religions and we had community members and everyone was just on that same level.

Speaker 2 (23:15):

Yes. Thai and in may. So in may, um, yeah, we are part of the committees we were explaining before with this, with that actual organization, um, with the Abbot and then a nurse who’s a of care nurse and they’re building a hospice at that hospital. And, um, we are part of the committee and what that will mean it will. And we met with the doctor. We actually did some live work the other day with some beautiful people. And we were able to sit in with the doctor and the student doctors and see how they handled the patients. And it was beautiful. It was, you couldn’t have asked for anything better big project. And the doctor really was emphasizing on doing a living will. And the support system was amazing how they set it up. And nurse

Speaker 3 (24:12):


Speaker 2 (24:13):

Nurse volunteers, civilian volunteers, monks, who are, who are trained in, uh, psychology. And so they’ll do home visits in ward visits, um, community visits, also outpatients and on zoom as well.

Speaker 3 (24:32):


Speaker 2 (24:33):

She’ll be teaching givers to the, Yeah. So I want to teach the relatives, of course, the three principles of acute, you know, safety, acute issues and support, and also presence. That’s your goal to get that in with the relatives in

Speaker 3 (24:53):

My team

Speaker 2 (24:54):

And the whole team.

Speaker 1 (24:57):

How wonderful. So may I ask, how is COVID in Thailand right now? And what do you, I know this beautiful pride right now. Um, because I, I know that you guys have done so very much with the training, but it sounds like this will be the big project moving forward. And of course we will absolutely get together again, that I will be over there hugging you and, and seeing what you’re doing. Um, how’s COVID right now

Speaker 3 (25:28):


Speaker 2 (26:08):


Speaker 3 (26:09):


Speaker 2 (26:10):

Support. Yeah. So, um,

Speaker 2 (26:15):

At this time there’s a huge amount of cases. So like a lot of the world, they’re not so threatened by it. So before they were making everyone come in and have to go to hospital or feel hospitals or camps, now they have them stay at home. So a big part of what Jim does is it’s the support element of the three statements. So, so what she does is she talks, she finds out how they’re doing. They not, you know, she asks the three questions every time and she finds out how the family is and then how to look after themselves and how she supports them. Then she calls them back in 48 hours. And so a lot of it now is on the phone, but she still works at the hospital and there’s cases coming in as well. But because it’s, the deaths are down.

Speaker 1 (27:10):


Speaker 2 (27:11):

And the infections are up. Whereas in the beginning, the deaths percent To 80% and of her inpatients were dying in the beginning. And it just, it was just it spread through everything. It was so quick, but now people are a bit more relaxed about it and they stay home and they have, they have very good support system. The health ministry here is set up. And another thing I noticed is they had an incredible volunteer organizations that just up, and they were taking food and medicine and connecting and getting data and amazing civilians to

Speaker 3 (28:05):

My, by the time.

Speaker 2 (28:08):

So maybe 10, 10 people come with COVID in one family and three of them die. Sometimes five have died in a family and some cases, a very, so even this is a year or so later from that original, you know, Delta strain where she’s still following up on them, she’s offering bereavement support.

Speaker 1 (28:32):

Amazing. So I do have to ask this, cuz this is a great concern just in general that we talk about, but has she had any time to care for herself to have,

Speaker 3 (29:07):

Let me,

Speaker 2 (29:09):

I’m not saying this to make beautiful words. Um, how I look at it is I look at what you are all doing. She’s talking about myself, Chris, you and I see many people doing so much. And I also know there are many people that are way worse of them, me. So as all of us, you know, have this mentality of we’re here to serve. So that’s where I draw my encouragement. So, um, I’ll for her, I don’t think she looks after herself well enough, but, but she’s retiring out now, um, at the end of this month. So things will slow down. She said, actually, I look at it. You guys have been doing this a lot longer than me. You went ahead of me, you’ve gone through all the difficulties to pioneer and do this and work with people I’m just coming in at, I’m only doing this for you. So I, I think I have the strength to do it. And I hear your stories and I see other people’s stories and I feel like mine’s quite light actually my burden, but she’s actually retiring and she’s going to do one day a week and then she’s got other jobs. So she’s slowing it down where she can just not have to run a hospital ward, not have to, you know, do all those executive decisions.

Speaker 2 (30:55):

She said, I hardly ever stop. I work on the weekends, but now this will change. And she’ll have three days with her nephew and she plant trees on another day and on Monday she’ll do hospice. So she’s sort of getting a better balance.

Speaker 1 (31:09):

Wonderful, Wonderful. And so

Speaker 2 (31:12):

Remember a year she did not rest. So this

Speaker 1 (31:14):

I, I, yes. And I understand sometimes yes. But yeah, I, and I, um, understand that sometimes we just have to be in action because what it requires, but then there is that reflection. So when I do come back to Thailand, I will take, I’ll take her on holiday. We will all go on holiday and, um, celebrate the love when I come. Yes. For sure.

Speaker 2 (31:54):

Yes, yes,

Speaker 1 (31:56):

Yes. We’ll have Papa salad and we go on holiday and, and that is a promise that I make, make that promise. So what is next? So we have the, um, beautiful, the Buddhist monks doing their program. What do we see happening? And then maybe in a year’s time I will come and do that visit and we’ll go on holiday and we’ll just be able to meet once again.

Speaker 2 (32:22):

Yes. Also, you’ll be happy to hear that temple in the, we went, there was a 12 hour drive away. Yes,

Speaker 1 (32:29):

Yes. Um,

Speaker 2 (32:32):

They’ve continued on, you know, and they’re having, they promised they’re having academics come and study them because they’re doing such an amazing job and, you know, they, they, they just keep what so, and I think a lot of people now, this is the difference is I would say from when you were here that, So

Speaker 3 (33:21):


Speaker 2 (33:46):

So, um, we’re talking about before, you know, death was quite a taboo subject, whereas now COVID has opened the gate for conversation and it’s really changed how things are now. Yes. People is thinking about this, sorry. It’s, it’s actually really a time I think, to take training to another level in many ways. Absolutely. You know, and

Speaker 1 (34:12):

You know, I often will say when we bring back the sacredness of death that sacred, that people don’t know about, because we’ve removed death from really our awareness us in our world, for the most part, when we start to bring that back and it’s truth and the sacredness, it teaches you everything about life. And I think, again, COVID has broken, open this taboo because we know that we’re all gonna be touched by it, but there’s such blessing.

Speaker 2 (34:44):

And then quality of life, really? Yeah. We have to, whatever’s left with our life. We have to look at whatever our ideals are, you know, and live our ideals. She’s talking about us in particular.

Speaker 1 (35:05):

And, and maybe what we’ll do is just always have that open heart for everyone. We meet every single day. Yes. Which is

Speaker 2 (35:13):


Speaker 1 (35:17):

I love you.

Speaker 2 (35:18):


Speaker 1 (35:19):

Love you both. Yes. Yes. I love you both. So very much. I consider you my family and I wanna thank you so much for what, what you give to the world. What you’ve, what you’ve given to me personally

Speaker 2 (35:37):


Speaker 1 (35:38):

And I’m just so honored to have you in my life. And I thank you so much for all that you do. I love you so well,

Speaker 2 (35:46):

Thank you.

Speaker 1 (35:47):

Thank you. Love

Speaker 2 (35:48):

You too. Yes. And we’ll meet you again. Talk again this time to you weekend. Once I teach her how to use zoom, then we’ll talk again.

Speaker 1 (36:02):

Absolutely. So thank you. Thank you all for your service and your work being doula givers, lead trainers in Thailand, you are just, you know, you’re changing the world and that’s what we’re here to do. I love you so very much. Thank you. And we will meet again.

Speaker 2 (36:16):

Thank you. Thank you.


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