My Insta feed got real weird in the 3 months I had to make the mental leap from advertising to death care.
*Scroll, cute baby.
*Scroll, Kylie Jenner’s beauty secrets.
*Scroll, HEAD DECAPITATED FROM MOTORBOAT ACCIDENT IN RUSSIA.
Aside from the legal requirements needed to become a licensed funeral apprentice in Wisconsin (note: you can apprentice before you commit to 2 years of schooling), I wanted to make serious emotional headway, fast.
Here’s my self-prescribed ritual:
Example: When an inconsolable mother in HBO’s Six Feet Under howled, “Why do people have to die?” after her three-month-old passed, Nate Fisher responded: “To make life important.” File that under excellent answers to impossible questions.
Interview friends of friends who already do the job. I connected with a female funeral director in Milwaukee to share my excitement and offload questions. I felt buoyed by her radical honesty:
“My second day on the job I assisted with dressing a man who was a tissue donation.”
“If you are going into this line of work to make lots of money, turn back now. Funeral directors don’t make as much as people think.”
“The best thing someone told me while I was in my first month of working here was, You need to be empathetic but you cannot get attached. Otherwise this job will drain you and you’ll be done in 5 years.”
Discipline my problem-solver heart to sit in silence with people in pain. I can’t fix death. Learning to listen and sit in grief is essential.
Play “corpsey” with husband to test moving a 6’5” body.
Try on 17 blazers. Poll best lesbian friend on how to wear a vest without looking like Jack Sparrow.
Acknowledge the inevitable fuck up: I will bring the wrong paperwork, call a deceased by the wrong name, ram a gurney into a wall while a weeping family watches, maybe even have a body stall on the conveyer during a witness cremation. There will be a point that I will bomb and want to Alex Mack myself into the floor.
Remember that people will ultimately hold on to how I make them feel, not what I say. So make them feel.