The mission of Companioning the Dying, Inc. is to encourage people to live more fully as they confront dying–their own and others’–and to deepen their capacity to be present to themselves, to the dying, and to all of life.
We live our mission and serve the community by:
- providing companions for the dying and nurturing new and seasoned companions through contemplative training programs which support the integration of their service into their inner lives;
- offering retreats, workshops and programs to support those who attend the dying in professional roles and collaborating with institutions that share this purpose;
- reaching out to the general public through programs to assist in the exploration of the meaning of death and offer support for family care-givers.
Program Co-Directors and Faculty
Susan Akers became a Co-Director of Companioning the Dying in 2017, after having been a guest presenter in the program. She is a hospice and palliative care nurse who has been caring for dying patients and their families in the Northern Virginia and Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC since 1998. She has also been a guest teacher with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, providing workshops and retreats on compassionate care of the dying and being present with aging, illness and dying. Susan graduated from the Metta Institute End-of-Life Practitioner Program in 2006. She maintains her own daily meditation practice, enjoys hiking, being in nature, and spending time with family including four grandchildren.
Micheline Toussaint, LCSW, OSW-C, RYT A social worker for more than 20 years, Micheline developed an interest in complementary mind-body approaches to healing while growing up overseas in Asia. In addition to being a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she is a registered yoga teacher, a certified psychodramatist, and a certified end-of-life counselor. She provides individual, couples, and family counseling for cancer patients and their loved ones. She helped develop a mind-body education series, leads yoga and meditation classes for patients and caregivers, facilitates support groups, and speaks to community groups about issues related to cancer. Micheline has a particular interest in using mind-body practices to strengthen resiliency in cancer patients and their caregivers.
Priscilla Norris is a registered nurse with a long history of hospice care, particularly of people with HIV. Most recently she worked for 13 years as clinical coordinator at Joseph’s House, a facility in Washington, DC offering comprehensive nursing and support services to homeless men and women with advanced HIV disease and terminal cancer, where Priscilla oversaw the care of the residents and served as teacher and mentor for the year-long interns. She has a nursing degree from Catholic University and is a graduate of the Metta Institute End-of-Life Counselor Program. She is a former Co-Program Director of Companioning the Dying.
Emeritus Program Director
Rose Mary Dougherty, SSND, (1939-2019) was the former Co-Director of Companioning the Dying, which she co-founded in 2008 with her friend Amy Hoey. She ministered in the area of contemplative spirituality for over thirty years, and authored two books on group spiritual direction and one book on discernment. Rose Mary accompanied the dying as friend, daughter, sibling, spiritual director, and hospice volunteer. She graduated from the Metta Institute End-of-Life Counselor Program, an outgrowth of the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco. She was also a retired Senior Fellow of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation where for many years she directed Shalem’s program in Spiritual Guidance. Rose Mary stepped back from active teaching in 2015 as she continued to live with the challenges and invitations of Parkinson’s disease. Rose Mary died peacefully in March 2019.