When people meet Charlotte Koven and ask about her work, most of them assume her job is depressing. However, Charlotte is always quick to clarify that is not the case. “There’s a lot of humour, story telling and shared confidences at this time in a person’s life,” she says. “People appreciate when you treat them like a human being, and not just as a sick person.”
Choosing a career in hospice care was a decision Charlotte made after a long and thoughtful process when she retired from her first career as a school principal. “I felt drawn to expand the horizons of my life,” she says. While working on her graduate degree in counselling psychology, Charlotte found herself volunteering with Bereaved Families of Ontario and Princess Margaret Hospital. The connection between her course work in bereavement education and grief and loss counselling, together with these rich volunteer opportunities, guided her career path.
“This work suits me to a tee,” says Charlotte, who spends her days counselling clients and their families. “I feel honoured that people allow me into their lives during this very personal time. There is always so much to learn about life and relationships from other people.”
Being able to help others is what makes this role especially satisfying for Charlotte. “I enjoy feeling useful,” she says. “My skills and training have given me the tools to make a difference at this significant point in a family’s life.”
Yet despite loving her job, Charlotte admits that some days can leave her feeling emotionally drained. Charlotte’s two adult daughters help her keep a balance between her work and personal life. “I have lots of fun with them,” she says. Having time to herself is also important. “I love reading mysteries and watching British dramas.” She also draws inspiration from her 91-year-old mother, who was inspired to return to university as a mature student and go on to create a magnificent museum in Saint John N.B.. Charlotte says her mother’s determination and drive have motivated her throughout her life.
Through her work, Charlotte says she has learned the true meaning of gratitude seeing miracles in the every day. In fact, no two days are alike, she admits, when counselling families of loved ones who are dying. “Grief takes time and support,” she says. “People experience a wide range of emotions – sometimes guilt, sometimes anger, and even sometimes a sense of relief. These are all normal.”
Her advice for anyone dealing with their own loss? “When a loved one is dying, make sure you let them know how much they have meant to you. And above all, know that you’re not alone. There is help if you ask for it.”