Let us hear you ladies, "WHO RUNS THE WORLD"?
In this video, Little Miss Funeral and I discuss what it's like being a woman in the funeral service industry in 2019. We also share our experiences, perspectives, and insights while doing our best to encourage and uplift other women in our industry.
We are curious to know what your experience has been as a woman in funeral service or as a man working with women in funeral service?
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Have you ever thought about what personal possessions would be removed from your person or clothing should you pass away at this very moment? I have. Not only have I given this topic much thought I have also made a mental journal of the 10 Strangest Items Removed from the Deceased that I have been responsible for.
10. Electronic Devices (Medical) / Artificial Limbs
It is no secret that many human beings, for various reasons have had to have medical devices implanted into their bodies for a variety of medical or health-related reasons. These devices range from pacemakers that keep hearts beating to tubes and mask that are inserted to try and save lives. When someone comes into the funeral in many cases these devices are still present and must be respectfully removed in order to allow for cleansing, embalming and other necessary steps to be taken. Though this is a common practice, removing these items can be and is still strange to me.
9. Contact Lenses
Contact lenses allow for people with limited sight to see and experience the world. When someone passes away contact lenses can become very dry or moist depending on various extrinsic factors. When contact lenses become moister due to humidity or being in a wet environment such as underwater they are very easily removed from the eyes. On the opposite end of the spectrum if the environment or conditions surrounding a death cause contact lenses to dry out; they can become brittle, cracked and more difficult to remove.
8. Glass, Bark, Knife Tips, Bullets, and other Debris
It is a sad fact that people in some cases die in violent and tragic ways sometimes. At times, particularly in cases where the deceased has perished in an automotive accident glass and bark often require removal from the face, hands, arms and other body parts. When someone is shot or stabbed it is not uncommon to come across pieces of metal or bullet fragments. Other debris such as leaves, gravel, dirt, and any other imaginable scrapes of organic or non-organic material may require removal based on the circumstances and environmental surroundings of a particular death.
7. Electronic Devices (Non- Medical)
Though I have personally not had experience with this myself, I have spoken to police, ambulance and other first responders who have reported removing cellular phones and other electronic communication devices from the hands of those who were killed in vehicle accidents. I cannot imagine being the one to have to read the draft or received text that caused someone to lose their life.
6. Food / Feces
People die with food in their mouths. People also expel their bladder and bowels once they pass away in most cases. It is a necessity to remove any food from the mouth and throat area as well as any other bodily purge or excrement in each and every cases regardless of how someone passes away.
People die carrying money in their wallets and in their pockets. Whether the deceased are wearing their clothes when they come in or if their clothing is delivered with the body from the medical examiner’s office or hospital it is common practice to inventory and safely secure all of the deceased possessions until they can be returned the family. I am always curious as to what the deceased had in mind, where they were going and what they were planning to purchase when I come across large amounts of money (cash, checks and other currency) in their possession when they come into the funeral home.
4. Animals, Maggots and Other Living Creatures
Death and decomposition attract animals. Maggots, flies, roaches, moths and other living creatures are no strangers to the funeral home. Speaking of other living creatures, I am also curious and disturbed when deceased come into the funeral home who passed away at home leaving their pets to feed upon their faces and fleshy extremities in order to survive.
3. Fake Identification
Fake identifications always confuse me but at the same time make me chuckle. In the few occurrences of discovering fake or false identification, I have learned that the identification of the deceased is fake when the family comes in to make arrangements or when the deceased has multiple forms of identification in their possession with their photograph on each one. Though it is not my job to investigate or learn the reasons behind the deceased living under an assumed identity, I am always curious and intrigued no the less.
I have discovered everything from weed to meth in the possession of numerous deceased. It is not uncommon at all. In many cases, the drugs and other paraphernalia are simply discarded. Believe it or not, there have been some cases in which drugs were actually put into the casket or hands of the deceased during visitation and funeralization. This always has confused me because it would not be possible for the deceased to ingest or indulge in their use.
1. Winning Lottery Tickets
By far the strangest item I have removed from a deceased person’s possession has been a winning lottery ticket. This was strange and off not only because of the amount of money the ticket was for but because of the circumstances surrounding the death (suicide) in combination with the fact that the deceased also had in their possession 3 pre-played winning scratch-off tickets bringing their total winning to over $100,000.00. Yes, I and my coworkers researched the ticket to learn of its winning status.
I have always wondered if the deceased knew that they held a winning lottery ticket. Being that they committed suicide it proved that to me that money indeed cannot buy happiness or peace of mind. In this case, the tickets were handles in the same manner in which any other personal possession would be handled by inventorying and safely securing them until they could be delivered to the next of kin.
In this installment of De@th at the Movies; we explore the grief and loss in the movie Spider Man Into the Spider-verse.
In 2016 after much contemplation and many life changing events I decided that I needed to seek professional help and sought out the guidance of a therapist. It was truly one of the best decisions I have ever made in life!
What Exactly Made Me Seek Help and Start Going to Therapy?
Was I Afraid?
I was terrified and nervous and just so afraid of being judged when I pulled into the parking lot for my first therapy session. I can remember calling a friend and coming up with every excuse in the world not to go in and thank God my friend talked some sense into me and encouraged me to follow through on my commitment to be the best version of myself that I could.
What was it like?
So my first session was surprisingly very emotional. The therapist/ psychiatrist asked me a set of routine questions and explained the rules to me. The rules were very straight forward and if I chose not abide by them she explained that our relationship would be terminated.
Rule One- no consecutive cancellations, meaning I could not cancel or miss appointments one after the other.
Rule Two- I had to be completely honest with her about everything. She explained that if she were to be of any benefit I COULD NOT LIE. This made me nervous not because I planned on lying but because of course like everyone else on the planet there were things I had never shared with ANYONE that I would be sharing with her. She comforted me by ensuring that there was no judgement from her end but that she would be honest with me in return based on her professional evaluation.
Rule Three- It gets worse before it gets better and if I wanted to see the results I wanted in my life I would have to stick it out through the process. After she went over the rules she then asked me to tell her about myself, my family, how I grew up, how I saw myself and my life and what I wanted to accomplish through my sessions with her. This was a very emotional process. Things I did not know would come up came up and I cried, cried and cried. Once I finished telling her my story she asked me a few more questions and before I knew it our 45 minutes was up. After that first session I felt lighter and could not wait to make my next appointment. I continued therapy with her for about 3 months (a total of 4 sessions including my first session). During our last session she told me that she really did not see a need for me to continue to return on a consistent basis unless I wanted to.
The time I spent with her was very helpful and allowed me to put A LOT of things into perspective in a very short amount of time. Fast-forward to 2017 and I began experiencing a lot of stress on my full-time job with a difficult manager and sought the guidance of a counselor via my employers Faculty Staff Assistance Program. I met with her consistently once a month for 4 months and she helped me to strategist and implement stress management practices into my daily home and especially my work life. The tools I gathered there help me to this day.
How Much Did it Cost?
Thankfully for me therapy was very affordable. After my insurance paid their portion for the private therapy sessions I was responsible for $55.00 each session. The best money I have ever spent. The FSAP counseling was free.
What Did I Learn?
Through both forms of counseling I learned to take responsibility for my thoughts, actions and patterns. I learned that I cannot control anyone else’s perspective or behavior but can control my response and how I allow myself to feel internally when things happen. I learned that my well-being is my business and that I cannot give from an empty cup. I know these all sound like cliche sayings BUT the truth of the matter is that these are some very hard facts to implement into your life if they are not common practice or if you have not be taught to know and believe them.
I also learned the importance of implementing a self-care routine and ritual into my daily life. Without doing so I honestly don’t know where I would be today. I had developed the belief that putting myself first was selfish and that I needed to take care of everyone else before I thought about myself or what my needs and desires were. This is a recipe for disaster for anyone. Especially someone like myself whose life at that time was dedicated to helping people get through the worst times on their lives day after day after day.
I learned that I was very non-confrontational and that confrontation is not a bad thing when approached correctly. I struggled with speaking up for myself and to be honest at times would allow myself to say yes when I meant no or be put in situations that I was not 100% comfortable with. This is not a positive thing or feeling for anyone. I learned the importance of setting up emotional boundaries for the sake of my own well-being, mental and emotional sanity. I learned that I have to set a stopping point for myself which was hard for me and took a very long time to implement. I also learned that it’s okay for me to not always be okay. Through my experience working with those who were grieving I had convinced myself that because no one had died I should not feel sad or complain about anything in my life. If I was not happy with something it was minute in comparison to going through what my clients and their families were experiencing so I needed to put on a smile and push through it. Lastly, I learned that I need to pace myself. I tend to want everything to happen all at once and by not giving myself the space and time to develop mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and entrepreneurial I was causing myself to chase my tail for a lack of better example.
How Am I today? How has therapy made me a better funeral director?
Today, I can honestly say that seeking the help of a trained professional and going to therapy was the BEST decision I have ever made in my life. To this day I utilize the tool I gained in therapy to manage stress, remain consistent with my self-care routine and live a much more balanced and joyful life. I am still learning not to allow myself to become weighed down by things that are out of my control and to confront issues in my life head on even when they are uncomfortable or difficult. I am more honest with myself about how my experiences impact me and because of this I have deeper and more meaningful connections with those around me because I don’t always feel as if I have to say yes or go along with things I don’t agree with. I am more confident and just over all a better person. Therapy helped me become a better funeral director because now I relate to those that I interact with from a position of my glass being all the way or nearly full. I can give and receive on deeper levels which enables me to emphatically connect while being true to my pre-established boundaries.
If you or someone you know is having a hard time managing stress, going through difficult life challenges or looking to resolved deeply rooted issues that are weighing you down I would strongly suggest reaching out to the appropriate mental health professionals and take advantage of their gifts and services. There are several free resources available online and a quick Google search may lead to the mental and emotional freedom that you are seeking.
No one ever wants to talk about death but honestly, death affects every area of our lives. One of the lesser discussed and majorly affected aspects of death is the impact that it can have on our finances from a taxation standpoint.
Back in October, I had the honor of speaking with tax accountant Erica Booth of Erica Booth Tax & Accounting Services, LLC about how death can and will impact the lives and taxes of those we leave behind. In this video, you'll have the privilege of overhearing our conversation and learning from the tax pro herself.
To learn more about Erica and how she can help you handle your taxes please visit her website http://www.ericaboothtaxes.com/
Movies are so powerful and have the potential to connect us all in a way that few other group events share. Much like life. we all leave the theaters with different perspectives of the experience we collectively share. To me, this mirrors our experience with grief and loss. Love and loss are universal but the way we experience loss is unique to our own interpretations.
I met Ryan after the movie and he was so kind to share his experience with grief and death. He also was vulnerable enough to share how his favorite movie taught him about the beauty and obligation we all will have to face when its time to let go of a loved one we cherish and want to hold onto forever.
What movie has touched your heart and affected the way you view life, death, and grief? I'd love to know.
Racism is defined as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior. In order to have an open and honest conversation about racism in funeral service; Little Miss Funeral and I have joined forces to share our experiences and thoughts. It is very important to both of us that we begin a dialogue that will help to end the ignorance of racism and encourage funeral professionals of all races, nationalities, religions, and cultures to educate themselves enabling us to work together to better serve families and our communities.
We hope that this video will begin an ongoing positive conversation. We would love to hear about your experience with racism in funeral service and encourage you to contact us with any questions that you may have pertaining to breaking barriers. NOTHING WILL CHANGE IF WE STAY SILENT.
Below are 3 of my personal experience with racism in funeral service.
Racism in the Funeral Home & Funeral Service Industry
I have had the honor of working both in the private and cooperate sectors of the funeral service industry. Time spent in both these environments have allowed me to experience funeral service from multiple vantage points. One of the lessor discussed and explored aspects of funeral service is the impact that race plays in the minds and behaviors of both the families and professionals. Sadly, even in death at times we as humans are guilty of allowing our ignorance and perceived differences to outweigh our levels of compassion and respect.
I would be lying to myself and others if I were to say that I have never experienced racism when working with a family or funeral service professionals of different ethnic backgrounds. Though these instances are greatly outnumbered by positive experiences; it would be unfair to allow you to believe that death somehow erases racism. It would also be an injustice to allow you to assume that this racism stems only from people who do not share my African American background and culture.
I am choosing to share these experiences not to bash or belittle anyone person, group or race. Instead I would like to empower families and professionals alike to be more aware, alert and apprehensive when making the choice to make remarks, gestures or take actions that are intended to isolate, segregate or make judgement about another simply because they have a different skin color than your own. It is my hope and prayer that we will all take the opportunity to reflect, learn and grow beyond our ignorance and extremely limiting mindsets and learn to truly celebrate one another’s cultures.
1.“That is For White Folks”
My specialty is alternative burial and funeral. It makes my heart race to learn of new and exciting options that offer non-traditional and more personalized options for memorializing the essence of individuals. Having the option to send cremains or DNA to space, or turn them into art or jewelry, make them apart of the coral reef makes my soul sing. More than exploring these options; I love sharing them with any and every one that is willing to listen. Many times when discussing alternative funeral and burial with African American funeral directors and families I receive the shocking answer of “that is for white folks”. This response never ceases to me by surprise. The fact that there are people of color living in America who are willingly choosing to adopt the mindset that commemorating ones life’s passion and personality is exclusive to one specific demographic comes across as ignorant and self-segregating. This also communicates to me that those making these comments see themselves as undeserving of these options and for whatever reason are limiting themselves to what people of color should and can do.
Perhaps developing an Alternative Mindset Affirmation of “there several choices available to my clients and/or family that will meet our needs and help us express our love in a way that captures the essence of the life being celebrated” will better serve everyone involved.
2.“No I Am Not a White Man”
People have always made assumptions regarding my race and gender because of my name. When spelled incorrectly (without an accent) my name takes on an androgynous nature leading many to pronounce it more masculine as Joel as opposed to its correct spelling and pronunciation of Joél. Many have also assumed that I am a Caucasian male when seeing my name in writing prior to meeting me. One instance in particular that stands out is a removal call from a county medical examiner’s office outside of Atlanta that I responded to when working for a predominately white firm. Upon my arrival the white autopsy technician on duty was reluctant to release the body of the deceased into my custody because he assumed that a white man would be retrieving it. The funeral home had only given him my name which he had written down as Joel. I tried explaining to him that he had my name spelled and was pronouncing my name incorrectly. My attempts to get him to understand that I was indeed an employee of the funeral home fell on death ears. He was not satisfied until I called the funeral home and allowed him to speak with another funeral director confirming my affiliation and authority to take possession of the body. While helping me to load the deceased into the removal van he openly and apologetically stated “I surely was not expecting a black girl”. His actions and remark could have cost him his job and the medical examiner’s office a discrimination lawsuit.
If I had a suggested affirmation and new mindset to share with this ignorant gentleman it would be “I am open to experiences that do not fit into my expectations. I work in harmony with others regardless of our differences”.
3. “They Usually Don’t Have the Money for This, but Since It’s Not a Shooting They Might”
Much of the time in the very beginning of my career was spent in training shadowing more seasoned funeral directors and sales agents many of whom were older white men. Many of the families that we were served were Caucasian but occasionally a Hispanic or African American family would come into the office. In one particular instance we were making the burial arrangements for a 26 year old black man who had been killed in a boating accident. His parents and fiance were understandably devastated and overwhelmed with grief.
We took the family into one of our selection rooms to allow them to pick out a casket for their loved one but they did not see anything that they thought would be appropriate or fitting. We escorted them back into the arrangement conference room and the man training me asked me to come with him into his office where he retrieved a book containing caskets that could be custom designed and ordered. As he removed the book from his desk he “jokingly” stated “they usually don’t have the money for this, but since it’s not a shooting they might”. I immediately confronted him about his remarks. He claimed he was joking. I reported the incident to our supervising manager and explained that I felt as if the remark was extremely racist. Little to nothing happened and to my knowledge there was no consequence.
If I were this particular gentleman I would immediately implement this suggested affirmation- I do not judge others. The value of an individual cannot be measured by my perception or limited to their race, ethnicity, culture or gender.
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The embalming process is one of the major pillars of funeralization in our American society. Embalming has several benefits for families seeking traditional funeral options and for society as w whole. In this video, I offer a brief overview of the embalming and discuss my least favorite part of this process.
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Bumblebee was an amazing movie. I truly appreciated witnessing the expressions of grief and loss portrayed by the two main characters Bumblebee and Charlie Watson. In this weeks installment, we discuss how the unique bonds we make during our time of loss can help us to heal, grow and mature to the point where we are ready to move forward in life and so much more.
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1/2/2019 0 Comments
Happy New Year Everyone and welcome to 2019.
My life can get very hectic and stressful at times. Building my brand, working in the funeral service industry and on my part-time job, managing family, personal and business relationships and just living everyday life can become overwhelming. In this video, I am sharing some of my self-care routine. There's a lot more that goes into caring for and being the best me that I can be but this is a pretty inclusive introduction. I would love to hear about the ways that you all take care for yourselves and make life more enjoyable through putting you first.
I am not a medical or mental health professional. I am simply sharing what has worked for me in the hopes that it will encourage you to develop your own self-care routine.
Thank you so much for watching and please feel free to visit www.thegravewoman.com for more information. Please also feel free to contact me with any questions or topics of interest that you have and I will do my best to address them in my upcoming videos.
Joél Simone Anthony, also known as ‘The Grave Woman,’ is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. She is dedicated to eliminating misconceptions about post-life preparation while stimulating an open, honest and straight forward discussion about death. You can submit your comments, questions and requests to firstname.lastname@example.org or by using our contact page.