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Caitlin Doughty Breaks The Stereotypes of Death Industry Professions

Caitlin Doughty realized when she graduated from college with a degree in medieval history that not many employers were coming to knock on her door. When she did finally find a job, it wasn’t related to history in the way you’d expect, either. In fact, Doughty has made her career of researching and sharing one of the most taboo topics of Western culture, but the most consistent of historical events: death.

As founder of The Order of The Good Death, Doughty considers it her mission in life to educate and open the dialogue surrounding death in Western culture--something that most people aren’t comfortable talking about. Though the process of death itself is a natural part of life, the fear and closed-doors attitude that most cultures have developed around death is not, claims Doughty.

This morning, Doughty shared an excerpt from her book "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory" with Jezebel, in which she talks about her experiences as an employee at a crematory. 

Titled "That Time My Job Involved Tossing Dead Babies Into a Crematory", the excerpt is a very real, down-to-Earth glance at how crematories function and the unavoidable task that they face every day: cremating dead bodies, which often include babies who died in utero or shortly after birth.

Not many of us consider one of the most basically required career paths; does this stem from a fairly death-phobic culture? It’s entirely possible. In fact, on The Order of the Good Death’s website, the FAQ topic on becoming a mortician is titled "I Can’t Encourage You to Become a Mortician."

Doughty explains that to become a mortician, one must first face several realities:

  • The ways in which dead bodies are handled is changing, and traditional mortuary school may be an expensive waste of time thanks to the rising number of cremations and crematories.
  • If you have young children, this type of job could (and probably will) be extremely difficult for you. Children die, too. You will have to deal with the bodies of dead children, possibly on a daily basis.
  • The work involves long hours and emersing yourself in a (currently) negative industry. No one gets excited about a field trip to the local funeral home or crematory--so if you’re a very emotional person, this may not be the right field for you.
  • Research the industry in your area to find out where the culture around death is heading so you can stay ahead of the curve and avoid finding yourself in a dying (no pun intended) field.

There’s a very interesting movement rising in our death-phobic culture, and it could change the way that we as a society view death and the ways in which we handle dead bodies. From environmentally safe burial homes, natural burial cemetaries, and carbon neutral crematories, the death industry is a rapidly evolving one that can be extremely difficult to break in to. As Doughty says, "You can’t Craiglist job search positions like these."

What do you think? Is our culture death-phobic? Are we afraid to face our own mortality? Can you imagine yourself as a mortician?

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