A Sacred Passing (ASP) is a 501C-3 nonprofit founded as an educational resource for those seeking to learn more about death, grief, and dying-- as well as a space to build skills for those who choose to become death professionals, such as a doula, midwife, companion, or accompaniment.
In 2013, the organization was founded by a single director Ashley Benem in Bellingham, Washington. Ashely was an EMT who wanted to shift the ways that death is discussed in the community. Alongside other doulas and educators, Ashley used her experience as an EMT, massage therapist, and witch, to create the first written doula curriculum in the United States. In Bellingham, ASP also cultivated a collective of doulas who worked alongside the organization and provided death care to clients for a fee; this program was stopped in July 2019 as ASP began to reorganize.
Since 2018, the organization has shifted in a variety of significant ways. A Sacred Passing transitioned from Bellingham to create a nonprofit with many directors based in South Seattle. The nonprofit has blossomed alongside many local death workers, caretakers, and educators. Since then, ASP has adjusted its mission and vision to reflect our praxis of explicitly anti-oppressive curriculum and a volunteer-led structure through engaging in direct care, mutual aid, identity exploration, and other examples of community-led death care.
Our programs have expanded in the past two years to include the South Seattle No One Dies Alone (NODA) program, Listening Line, A Place to Die, and our growing selection of introductory and continuing education courses. The Une Bonne Mort conference further elevated our work in Seattle and has opened many doors for the future of the nonprofit, including fundraising, NODA volunteer training, and advocacy.
ASP has trained over 800 people in death care, doula skills, and support skills. This is in part a result of the small and large individual donations and volunteer labor contributions of the board of directors, and a variety of incredible educators, providers, community organizers, and helpers.
Yes! Together we are building curricula, training local funeral homes and medical organizations, and growing our base to expand ASP's educational and service offerings in South Seattle and online.
As we continue to deepen our commitments to community-centered death education, ASP will continue to pursue funding in order to keep our courses accessible, including working toward sustainable low-cost options and scholarships for low-income Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), and centering queer and trans people of color (QTPOC).
A Sacred Passing (ASP) serves the Pacific Northwest and those throughout the country that participate in educational offerings through online opportunities, social media, and video teleconferences. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we held-in person death-care education classes in Washington (Seattle and Bellingham), and provided services in homes, recovery centers, senior centers, schools, tent cities, shelters, parks, and coffee shops.
We collaborate with artists, doulas, and multi-talented volunteers internationally, and ASP’s core volunteer team currently lives in what has come to be known as Seattle, WA, with much of the work happening in South Seattle. This land is the stolen ancestral home of the Duwamish and Coast Salish Peoples. We must all do our part to care for all of earth in the community through honoring life and death together.
You might already be! A Sacred Passing understands that death companions work in a variety of settings and with a variety of clients. Currently, there is no federal regulation of the doula profession and no universally accepted competencies.
Whether you seek to learn about death care for the first time or to grow your skills, A Sacred Passing’s curriculum might interest you. Descriptions of courses are listed on our website education page. If you are interested in continuing education and community conversation spaces, see our event calendar and eventbrite page.
Other organizations teach death doulas from their own curricular models. A Sacred Passing is a nonprofit organization based in traditional Duwamish land (Seattle, Washington). Learn more about us here. Other organizations’ curricula differ from one another in a wide variety of ways, so compare ours with others to find the best fit for your interests, and please reach out to us if you have more questions. r to this item.
As an organization, we advocate and develop community-based death education as an alternative to for-profit or corporate models. Community care is a part of liberation work. We teach and practice death care in the relationship with others and advocate against isolating care work to a capitalist model. Our curriculum includes history and grieving of present patterns of violence in death care to, because accountability and truth-telling are a part of our educational values. Our work is done in local networks and interconnected webs because this is a way of creating accountability together, and so much violence must end for death care to truly be safe, autonomous, and good. Death care education is always needed and relevant. All ASP events, grief spaces, and curriculum create time for each person to bring and weave in the experiences they have already had on their path-- all experiences, stories, and paths are welcome.
There are a variety of ways to engage in accountability and ethical models of care. While some institutions may choose internally to require standards in training, pursuing certification is a choice. Currently, there is no federal regulation of the doula profession and no universally accepted competencies. All death-care workers should know that at this time, all certifying organizations and programs are offering a program-based standard, which is not the same as a professional credential. Though many programs offer certifications to demonstrate completion, no one is legally required to be certified to practice as a death doula (doula, end-of-life doula, death companion) in the United States.
ASP understands that death companions work in a variety of settings and with a variety of clients. Certification is not for everyone and, for some, creates barriers to learning or practicing death care. Research across disciplines has shown many certifying powers institutionalize practices of violent language, practices, or patterns. Some state legislation proposes regulations regarding doula certification that aims to increase access to families who could not otherwise afford services, but implementation often means reproducing a system of gatekeeping. It is our belief that certification doesn’t necessarily reduce harm, but accountability and authenticity in the community can do that. Our board of directors values the importance of naming certification for what it is, a tool to legitimize ancestral work in the eyes of the state.
Always provide attribution for the source of information and reach out to ASP directly for information and permission to share materials that are created by ASP. Both are important and one will not substitute for the other.
If you peek around the website, you'll notice that many of our curricula and programs now have a copywrite © associated with them. The simplest definition of copyright is an ownership right given to authors that allows them to control, protect, and use their artistic works. Please always credit artists and teachers, and reach out if you have questions!
Learn more: https://www.copyright.gov/title17/
Our crew of volunteer directors are responsible for upholding the mission of A Sacred Passing. As a group, we review all curriculum taught from the ASP platform for the content, bias and accessibility. The Board is comprised of folx with a variety of lived experiences, passions, and knowledge that create the lens in which we engage in learning, teaching, and existing in this world.
Lashanna is, at her core, a helper; a doula and massage therapist who merges formal education, ancestral knowledge, life experience, and all 6 senses to guide her care. She is a member of many organizations, all rooted in a type of care work and community. She brings to the board a grounded energy blended with a flavor of naivety in her
Lashanna is, at her core, a helper; a doula and massage therapist who merges formal education, ancestral knowledge, life experience, and all 6 senses to guide her care. She is a member of many organizations, all rooted in a type of care work and community. She brings to the board a grounded energy blended with a flavor of naivety in her we can do it mindset. As a Director gathers, guides and supports the efforts of the nonprofit to help it remain purposeful, creative, sustainable and free from the patriarchal western structures currently dictated.
Davinah Simmons is a life academic, full-spectrum doula, facilitator and educator with a counseling background. Her sacred activism is rooted in bringing people back to remembering the truth about the ways being, which lives deep down in our bones. She currently lives in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle. In her spare time, she enjo
Davinah Simmons is a life academic, full-spectrum doula, facilitator and educator with a counseling background. Her sacred activism is rooted in bringing people back to remembering the truth about the ways being, which lives deep down in our bones. She currently lives in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle. In her spare time, she enjoys ridiculously long dinners with the people she loves, making kitchen magic, reading, day trips for no reason, and leveling up her charcuterie board making skills. Her super skill that she brings to the board is being a Virgo and getting underneath every.tiny.little.detail.
Asha is a parent, care taker, and community member who contributes wisdom and magic to ASP. She is also growing the program "Death Positive Parenting". Asha has been a part of ASP's board crew since the transition to Seattle, and brings grounded relationship skills, passionate dream building, and parenting-realness.
Jason Kirk supports with budget creation, artistic consultation, and compassionate questions to our board crew. Jason is an award-winning poet and editor, and the composer of "The Mirror of Simple Souls," an opera collaboration with librettist and poet Anne Carson. He lives in Seattle, Washington. Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads / Facebook: @brasswax
Summer Gail Diegel is a full-spectrum doula, children's minister, and community care worker in service of all who experience transitions and change. Summer's care work draws upon peer-based crises intervention, and principles of economic and disability justice. Summer offer's vulnerability, word-magic, and commitment to desire-centered care. They also support ASP as our Administrative Coordinator!
Julie Forkasdi resonates deeply with the concept of "sacred responsibility," and embodies her practice in geriatric care management. She understands the enormous trust that is bestowed to her with each new person, and does not take this lightly. Julie lives with her family, dogs, and cats in Seattle. When she is not advocating for increa
Julie Forkasdi resonates deeply with the concept of "sacred responsibility," and embodies her practice in geriatric care management. She understands the enormous trust that is bestowed to her with each new person, and does not take this lightly. Julie lives with her family, dogs, and cats in Seattle. When she is not advocating for increased access to end of life care, she enjoys reading, entertaining, practicing yoga, walking the dogs, hanging at the beach, cooking and volunteering.
Marquita Smith-Straus is a perinatal social worker, full-spectrum Doula, trained Midwife, and Death Doula. Marquita is passionate about empowering people to show up authentically, while fiercely advocating for those navigating spaces that are not traditionally occupied by people of color. Marquita grew up in Atlanta, GA, but feels that Se
Marquita Smith-Straus is a perinatal social worker, full-spectrum Doula, trained Midwife, and Death Doula. Marquita is passionate about empowering people to show up authentically, while fiercely advocating for those navigating spaces that are not traditionally occupied by people of color. Marquita grew up in Atlanta, GA, but feels that Seattle raised her. When she is not helping families navigate life and loss, she enjoys spending time with her tiny humans, traveling, listen to records on vinyl, and having spontaneous dance parties.
Our team is a small crew of folks, so please allow for a slow pace in email responses. We are looking forward to meeting you and learning how we can share resources and time with one another!