Saturday, November 7, 2015

Books about the Death Care Industry

Photo by Tim Green.
Over the last year, I have been reading books about the death care industry: the goods and services that people use after a person dies.

Goods include coffins, headstones, cremation jars, and so forth.  I haven't read much about death care industry goods.

Mainly, I have read about services.

These range from body removers, organ donation surgeons, coroners, medical examiner, funeral home directors, cremation employees, and researchers.

I realize that this is a grim topic.

In an attempt to face my fears about dying and death, I choose to read.   I hope that by learning more about the fate of bodies postmortem, I can have greater courage when the time comes.

Fortunately, no one close to me has died who required me to make final arrangements.  However, the older I get, the more likely I will be working with employees in the death care industry.

Here are the books that I have read on this topic so far, arranged by reverse chronology.




Melinek
Meyer, Elizabeth and Caitlin Moscatello. (2015). Good Mourning. Review

Doughty, Caitlin. (2014). Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory.  Review

Melinek, Judy and T.J. Mitchell. (2014). Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner.  Review

Blum
Meredith, Andrew. (2014).  The Removers: A Memoir.  Review

Blum, Deborah (2010).  The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York.  Review

Roach, Mary. (2003). Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.  Review.

All my best to people grieving loved ones while working on the pragmatics of arranging their funerals, burials and the management of their estates. It is a very challenging time.

Related:

Widowed Support Groups
Movies about People Active in the Dying Process


14 comments:

  1. This type of reading can't be easy, but must be enlightening. I was not well prepared when my parents passed. However, they had made many arrangements in advance, which simplified the process. Anything you can do to learn more about this difficult time of life should serve you well in the future. May you find whatever you need.

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    1. Thanks for your well wishes! I have to concede that many of these books are more insider "tell alls" than consumer guidebooks. But I still think they will help me understand some of the basics before I am the one making arrangements.

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  2. These might be a bridge too far for me. In my belief, the body is just a temporary vessel so what happens to it isn't a worry. For me, books about what happens next--"over there" are how I deal with my fear of the unknown that lies ahead. Far less factual, though LOL

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    1. It's all good. I understand that some readers would have a lot of trouble with these. At another point of my life, I may recoil from such readings. Right now, I'm reading a lot about the body--healthy, healing/healed, diseased, and dying. So extending to the body after death is a natural extension of my current reading habits. I enjoy your posts about spiritual matters. Keep rockin' your fabulous self!

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  3. Yes a grim topic, but a necessary one. My father in law is struggling right now, we are headed downhill. :-(

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    1. Oh, I am sorry to hear your FIL is having trouble. It's one thing for me to take a cerebral approach to reading memoirs, it's another when my mom, her husband, my dad, his wife, or my in laws start having serious health problems that keep me glued to the phone. Heartbreaking. (They are 71 yo to 82 yo.) They don't want to talk about their arrangements. I hope that the extended family can have calm, peace and harmony when the time comes to celebrate their memories. And I hope it's years off. Hugs to you and your extended family as you support aging parents.

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  4. This sounds morbid, but I *loved* STIFF.

    Unfortunately, I've been reading up on the "death industry" the last few days as I help my future son-in-law work his way through the tasks of managing his brother's unexpected death on Tuesday. There's so much possibility of being taken advantage of at such times. Stinks.

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    1. I like Roach's book Gulp! too. It's about how we eat and digest food. I am sorry to read that your SIL lost his brother. And an out-of-the-blue loss of a young person is very hard. All my best to him as he works with family to memorialize their loved one. Peace and comfort to them. (And no shady business deals!)

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  5. This is a great resource, although I don't think I have the stomach for them. My daughter did love "Stiff."

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    1. Maybe try "Gulp!" by the same author, Mary Roach. It's about how we smell food, eat it, digest it and eliminate it. The chapter on Elvis' colon is fascinating. That poor man.

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    2. I have to get Gulp! I am also interested in the "death industry". I'm fascinated to know who becomes a funeral director –I've never actually met one: and do they really burn all those coffins? Such a waste. I did find out you can rent one if you live in the US.

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  6. Wow what a comprehensive is macabre list. I know it is part of life bit like others I don't have the stomach got it particularly with what is going on in the world!
    Estelle

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