This documentary introduces us to Stephen Jenkinson, once the leader of a palliative care counselling team at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital. Through his daytime job, he has been at the deathbed of well over 1,000 people. What he sees over and over, he says, is "a wretched anxiety and an existential terror" even when there is no pain. Indicting the practice of palliative care itself, he has made it his life's mission to change the way we die - to turn the act of dying from denial and resistance into an essential part of life.

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Film Credits

Tim Wilson
Tim Wilson
Annette Clarke
Hannele Halm
Tim Wilson
sound recordist
Alex Salter
Ao Loo
Kate Kechnie
Tim Wilson
sound editor
Lorraine Clarke
original music
Nance Ackerman
Jamie Alexander Alcorn
Barry Stevens
Christopher Lowry
Manfred Becker
Jean Paul Vialard
executive producer
Kent Martin

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  • Thundercrow

    “Watching, “Griefwalker,” about death helped me to see, open my eyes that I have been living as though I am going to die. That is how I have become so selfish. I stopped caring about life around me. I lived as though death was a punishment and I retaliated against life. I think that always knowing that I was going to die made it ok for me to become selfish and abuse life, people, drugs, alcohol and time. That is why I was so engulfed by the past and fearful of the future. Having that much in my head left no room for the present; the now. I drank and used to forget about the damage I caused my life in the past, and I drank and used to stop my mind from thinking about my inevitable end. Even the big book says “Selfishness, Self-Centeredness! That, we think, is the root of all our troubles…” It is time, right now, to start living selfless. To look forward to living well, and also looking forward to dying well. There are a hundred thousand ways to live well but there is only one way to die well. To die how I lived. That will leave a good example for the living. But today I do not have to live as though I were going to die because it is not time to die yet. It is time to live. I will no longer be consumed by the fears I have always had about death. I will always look at death now just as I now look at life; as though it is good. Thank You Griefwalker. I will walk with your words in my heart always. ” — Thundercrow, 27 Feb 2014

  • Izzy

    “I saw this film on NETFLIX, I was thrilled to see it available on another service for viewing so I could share it on Facebook. I have seen this film over 6 times already engulfing Stephens' words as if they were cool water for my parched hole in the shape of a soul. I found myself at a ripe old age of 21 with Leukemia (AML) with my whole future ahead of me. The Death PHOBIA driving my every decision leading up to a bone marrow transplant. I was eager to get back to my life, or so I thought. Feeling as if this sudden inconvenience would be past me, as LIFE would go back to NORMAL. It never happened there was no "normal". Glimpses or fleeting moments of it, like water cupped in my hand. What I feel or described as DEATH ON MY SHOULDERS is this GRIEF Stephen so eloquently describes. I am often not understood by my family and they probably will never understand, however if Stephen were in front of me i would give him a great big man hug, because he was able to voice the words that have been so lost in my speak. ” — Izzy, 23 Jul 2013

  • Pheonix

    “Just fantastic. ” — Pheonix, 19 Apr 2013

  • ritacanada

    “This is a beautiful film. Life in the beginning, is the same in the ending. We know the nothingness of all which is and enjoy every moment forever and always. Peace be with you. ” — ritacanada, 29 Nov 2012

  • pixiecampbell

    “Beautiful. Thank you for this candid account, I was deeply moved by Stephen's grace and ease around the life cycle. I lost my dog yesterday, in the same week that a friend lost his daughter, both sudden and too soon, seemingly. Tonight I am clinking my glasses of grief and love of life together at the feast, and carrying "a faithful belief in the way things are unfolding."” — pixiecampbell, 5 Nov 2012

  • milkweed

    “This film made so much sense to me. When I was 13, my best-friends mother died of cancer. Her death although anticipated was handled very badly. It is now 20 years later and her children (including my best-friend) are scarred and live their lives accordingy. None of them have married or have children. They all live in common-law relationships and have not moved past the teen-age style of life into an adult existance. In fact my best-friend has intense fears about growing older. The way their mother died and how their father handled the grieving process has ruined the potential of all of their children. I thought throughout my life after wittnessing this event that this was how death was handled and most people went through the same thing. This was until my grandmother died 10 years ago. She too slowly died of cancer, the difference was her attitude and her families (my family) way of dealing with death. She hosted parties in her bedroom, she laughed and entertained, she imparted words of wisdom to us and gave us her favorite pieces of jewellery with a story attached. When her moment of death came she was in her own bed with the curtains open and her favorite music playing. It wasn't sad or scary. Afterwards our family drank wine, cried, told stories, chatted, and visited her body, saying good-bye for as long as we liked. It wasn't until 4 hours later the ambulance came to get her, when we were ready. I so wish my best-friend could've had this beautiful experience. That she and her siblings at their young teenage years could have said good-bye and seen their mothers body. That they had someone like Stephen to help them navigate the passing of the central, most important person in their life. At this stage of their endless grief I feel it is too late for them and they will never get past that moment in time. Thank-you Stephen for helping others. It is important work you do.” — milkweed, 4 Jun 2012

  • nmrrn

    “This film touched on such reality that I experience on a daily basis. I have worked in outpatient oncology for 22 years and have facilitated many conversations. I recall one experience, in particular, the patient had many children and he didn't know how to tell them that he was okay with dying, for fear that they would think that he was "giving up". The children didn't want to tell their father that they were okay with not pursuing chemotherapy anymore. Our brilliant and kind palliative care physician was able to facilitate lines of communication until all was said and the family was all "embracing" death. They left the office, we called hospice, hospice went to the gentleman's home that day to find that he had died. I was moved by the power of the mind.” — nmrrn, 17 Apr 2012

  • punkybauer

    “I found this film moving and needful of several viewings to comprehend its full meaning. I am volunteering in palliative care and I know there is much to understand in order to give my all to the dying and their family. Great documentary and symbology.” — punkybauer, 6 Apr 2012

  • PennyN

    “A verytmoving documentary about a remarkable caregiver--However, I disagree with the synppsis comment that Jenkinson's approach constitutes an indictment of palliative care. He is a critic, perhaps, in that he helps those who are dying to do so in an aware and awake manner. However, I believe that each person should be free to decide the manner and quality of their death and whether or not to go quietly or not.” — PennyN, 15 Mar 2012

  • endtoend

    “This film reached into that shaped hole inside. It stired at the numbness that I have put myself into. It stired something that had been dormat for a long time. I agree that we need to look at death differently than what we have been looking at it. I just have not found how to bring my core values into line with this unknown why, until today. ” — endtoend, 16 Jan 2012

  • Yogawheel

    “Thank you NFB!! For your generocity, love of life and art! You rule:)” — Yogawheel, 20 Nov 2011

  • charlesanyinam

    “I'm trying to watch this film however a notice comes up which says it is not available. Don't understand?” — charlesanyinam, 18 Nov 2010

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