Dec. 7, 2021

11: From Death Phobic to Death Doula

11: From Death Phobic to Death Doula

Karen Reppen describes herself as being once "the most death phobic person on the planet." Now she's on the board of the National End-of-Life Doula Alliance (NEDA) and an advocate for death education. In this interview, she shares what she learned on her journey to overcome her fear of death, what an end-of-life doula does, and thoughts on NEDA's role in the death positivity movement.


Karen Reppen describes herself as being once "the most death phobic person on the planet." Now she's on the board of the National End-of-Life Doula Alliance (NEDA) and an advocate for death education. In this interview, she shares what she learned on her journey to overcome her fear of death, what an end-of-life doula does, and thoughts on NEDA's role in the death positivity movement.

Karen Reppen Profile Photo

Karen Reppen

Karen Reppen has been passionately learning and teaching about aging, illness, death, and grief for more than 20 years, increasing awareness about end-of-life care through outreach to patients, families, health-care providers, and the public. She is serving her second term on the board of the National End-of-life Doula Alliance (NEDA) www.nedalliance.org. As an independent death awareness educator and long-time hospice volunteer and former CNA, she provides direct support to the dying and their loved ones, in both inpatient and home settings. She offers presentations, workshops, ceremonies, and other experiential opportunities on a broad range of related topics to the greater community and facilitates Death Cafés and other gatherings through the Great Circle Collaborative of which she is a founding member. She is also part of two other local groups working to improve the way death is experienced in our culture: Solace Friends Inc., which is working to create a social-model hospice house to serve people who are experiencing homelessness, and Walking Each other Home, which provides support and education about home funerals and natural burials. She is also an educator and board member for The Farley Center and Natural Path Sanctuary, a green cemetery. Karen earned an End-of-Life Doula Certificate through the University of Vermont, Grief Support Specialist Certificate through UW-Madison Continuing Studies and, completed the Being with Dying program at the Upaya Institute in Santa Fe, NM. She is trained in advance care planning, Reike, Reflexology, and other supportive modalities and has studied for more than 11 years at Stephen Jenkinson's Orphan Wisdom School in Ottawa, Canada. Other favorite interests include gardening, dogs, camping, making art, and music.