Earthquakes are the most unpredictable of all of the natural disasters that we are exploring. They offer little warning or time to prepare for their impact and can range from being small in magnitude to extremely violent and completely destructive.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Dominic Hasara of Cremation Society of Alaska about the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked Anchorage on the morning of November 30th, 2018. Dominic explained that it started off like any other day, he and his team were busy working in the funeral home embalming and cremating bodies when all of sudden their world was literally rocked by what he described as what sounded like a freight train combined with the ground shaking uncontrollably and then complete darkness. Once the lights came on Dominic and his crematory operator ensured that their facility and team were safe before Dominic attempted to make his way to the hospital to respond to a removal call.
The usually five-minute drive took him nearly him half an hour. Dominic described the scene that followed in Alaska as chaos. He also shared that this was the largest earthquake that he (a Native of Anchorage) has experienced in his life. He stressed that earthquakes are a normal occurrence in his town and that the locals' response is ingrained, however, this particular earthquake really shook things up.
I questioned Dominic about the funeral homes protocol for responding to earthquakes. He explained that due to the fact that Alaska is located along the ring of fire; the natives of Anchorage and other cities of Alaska are accustomed to earthquakes. *The Ring of Fire is a major area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. In a large 40,000 km horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and plate movements. It has 452 volcanoes. Because of its geographic proximity to these extremely active underwater volcanoes, Alaska experiences the most earthquakes in the United States.
Dominic explained that due to a large amount of earthquake activity in Anchorage, the building codes require that all funeral and other business establishments are constructed in a way that limits the possibility of injury to inhabitants and patrons. He also explained that his cremation retort is secured to the ground and bolted 6’ deep into concrete to ensure that it does not shift. Other building specifications include special lighting, refrigeration, and other code specific designs.
Of all of the natural disasters that we are exploring wildfires and volcanic eruptions are the most dangerous and devastating for funeral homes. Once human remains are exposed to fire the damage can and in most cases is irreversible. Gloriann Luccero of Empire Mortuary, Ukiah California explained that due to the potential dangers posed by wildfires raging in their Northern Californian town her funeral home management implemented that are strictly adhered to by all who work at and with the funeral home.
While it is their hope that their facility refrigeration unit would be able to withstand a fire BUT in order to ensure that the deceased are protected they do their best to get as many deceased out of their location and moved to their sister location an hour and a half away as safely as possible for those making the transport. This transport more than likely would be executed by placing the deceased in cremation boxes which are suitable for temporary storage while allowing for more deceased to be moved in a single trip as opposed to being transported in caskets.
To ensure that no one is misplaced or “mixed up” a further step of placing a metal identification medallion with copies of corresponding paperwork is placed in each cremation box or casket with the deceased. Families are notified of all transports and services may be rescheduled to ensure the safety of funeral goers, the deceased and funeral home employees until conditions improve. If the event that the deceased are not able to be safely transferred and stored; the deceased are stored in the refrigeration units with metal identification medallions until funeral directors are able to safely able to retrieve them.
Hawaii is the only place in the United States currently affected by the active volcanic activity. I had the pleasure of speaking with Mitchell Dodo owner of Dodo Mortuary in Kilo, HI. Dodo Mortuary has been serving the Hilo and surrounding community for over 100 years. Mr. Dodo explained that due to the uncertain and violent nature of volcanoes no one on the Hawaiian islands will invest in establishing a funeral near the volcanoes. Mr. Dodo expressed that there are currently no protocols in place for responding to a volcanic eruption because his funeral home is 45 miles away from the nearest volcano. He did express that my telephone call has prompted him to establish an emergency response and train his team accordingly.
Join us next week when we discuss earthquakes.
***The tips and advice shared in this video should not be considered or replace professional mental health counseling***
I recently collaborated with Lauren LeRoy aka Little Miss Funeral to discuss Compassion Fatigue and Burn Out in the funeral service industry. In this video, we both our experiences with compassion fatigue and burnout in hopes that funeral service professionals worldwide will recognize the signs and seek balance. Much of our discussion was based on the highlights from a blog that I composed for funeralOne entitled How to Conquer the Elusive Funeral Professional Work/Life Balance (please see link below). Should you be experiencing compassion fatigue or burnout please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It is natural and when properly addressed and managed you can achieve balance.
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As we approach the close of 2018 and prepare to welcome 2019 it is hard to move forward without our minds turning to those who have transitioned over the past year. Mac Miller, Aretha Franklin, Joe Jackson, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Steven Hawking, and most recently Stan Lee and Kim Porter are a few names that may resonate with us because of their celebrity status. A celebrity is defined as a famous or well-known person. If I were to ask who you’re favorite celebrity is your answer may range from an actor or actress, singer, dancer, rapper, television star, scientist or politician. Known and famous for whatever reasons celebrities serve as a link that connects everyday people of all backgrounds.
The general public’s reaction to celebrity deaths has always intrigued me. When you really think about it we don’t know them personally, we are not related to them, we have probably have never met them in our lives and other than the persona presented to us on television and in magazines we know very little about who they truly are. None the less an out pour of emotion and grief is seen many times worldwide. The earliest memories I have of observing an out pour of grief and emotion upon a celebrity’s death was in August of 2001 when singer and actress Aaliyah passed away. Everyone everywhere was speaking about her passing as if they were personally connected to her in some way. Though many celebrity deaths had previously occurred, this was the first time that my understanding of death aligned with a celebrity’s transition that seemingly affected everyone around me. I can remember sitting in my mom’s car and listening to callers on E93 Jams crying and talking about how much they loved Aaliyah. I also recall watching MTV News and listening to Sway announce her death with images of fans crying, embracing one another and fainting as huge memorials consisting of art, candles, and flowers panned across the television screen.
Similar expressions have been displayed upon the deaths of other celebrities such as Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez, Anna Nicole Smith, Michael Jackson, Biggie, Tupac, Heath Ledger, Paul Walker, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Steve Erwin, Selena, and Elvis. I have been in countless public settings and observed conversations started by someone asking “did you hear about…?” This seemingly simple question opened the door and led complete strangers passionately discussing and debating causes of death, hidden connections, occult ties, family and celebrity responses, and what might eventually happen with to all of the money of any given deceased celebrity. Celebrity deaths bring us all together in a very unique way. But Why?
Here in the United States, we are obsessed with celebrities. So much so that we have entire television and radio shows dedicated to discussing and dissecting what famous person ate what last night and where. Paparazzi become rich overnight for being in the right place at the right time capturing the right shot of the right person. In some cases, celebrities achieve more fame upon their deaths because of the enormous show of emotion and condolences expressed by fans and other celebrities alike. I am always very fascinated by the amount of emotion and condolences expressed on social and in mass media when a celebrity passes away. The younger the celebrity and the more tragic the circumstances surrounding their death; the more creative and captivating the headlines become. The more captivating the headlines; the more acquisitive we become for details, insight and to be a part of the conversation.
Of course, it is understood that through their contributions to the arts, film, music and other mediums celebrities have managed to touch our souls and move our spirits. However, I question if we are we truly moved by celebrity death OR if their passing serves as an opportunity to safely express our own personal losses without fear of judgment and criticism? Perhaps we are all deeply yearning to be connected in some meaningful way and the celebrities passing gives us a common ground to freely express ourselves?
I’d love to hear from you! What are your thoughts and opinions about the grief that is expressed in response to a celebrity’s death? Has there been a celebrity's passing that has touched you deeply? How did you express that grief? Has there been a celebrity's passing that has made you think about or moved you to express grief related to your own personal loss? Or do you feel as if people express condolences and grief in response to celebrity death to simply be a part of the conversation? What celebrity death totally shocked you?
11/22/2018 0 Comments
Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la, la, la, la, la, la…rips needle across the record player and screams out loud YEAH RIGHT! Who can possibly be in a good mood? What joy can there possibly be in this holiday season? Doesn’t anyone see how much pain, hurt and misery I am in? How can I possibly celebrate or participate another stupid holiday season when someone that I loved so dearly, someone who I so looked forward to spending time with, someone who brought the laughter, joy, and fun to every family, friend or workplace holiday gathering is gone, forever, because they died? I wish that I could go to sleep and wake up in January after all of this madness of cheer and celebration is over!!! Does this sound anything like the conversation you are having with yourself in your mind right now? If so please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I have been there and honestly believe that at some point in life we ALL WILL BE HERE.
The holiday season, as joyful and cheerful as it is can be, can also have a very dark side for those of us who have experienced the loss of a loved one. As we see others gather, sing, eat, celebrate and laugh all of the names of merriment and joy we are often torn between wanting to be apart of the festivities and not wanting to be the one to bring down the mood with our grief. I honestly don’t think that there is anything that I can say to solve or give a solution to either of these dilemmas or possibly type anything that will offer true comfort or make what you are experiencing at this moment go away. Navigating your way through your loss and grief is going to take time and like most other things in life experience is going to be your best teacher the initiation price for healing.
However, what I can offer are 3 affirmations or personal mantras that may help you make it through this holiday season one second at a time. An affirmation or mantra is simply something that you say to yourself internally or out loud that’s purpose is to help you keep a positive and grounded perspective and focus. I would suggest that you take the time and face the initial weirdness of speaking these affirmations or mantras out loud while looking into a mirror in moments of great emotion, anxiety or when overwhelmed.
1. It’s okay that I am not okay right now.
Many times, we put so much pressure on ourselves to be “okay”. Recognizing and honoring the fact that you are experiencing emotional trauma is going to help you put things into a clearer perspective. Removing the mask of “being okay” will free you to truly express what you are feeling and work through it. IT IS OKAY THAT YOU ARE NOT OKAY. YOU DON’T OWE IT TO ANYONE TO BE OKAY.
2. It’s okay that others are enjoying themselves.
One of the hardest things about the holiday season is sometimes seeing how happy everyone else is and feeling like you are the only one who isn’t. This can create a sense of jealousy and resentment inside of us that makes it difficult to interact with others. It may be helpful to internally grant others the freedom to have their own experience. This removes the pressure from you to compare your feelings and emotions to what you think others are experiencing and thinking,
3. I will eventually enjoy myself again.
They say time heals all wounds but in the case of loss and grief sadly this is not always true. There will always be a void when we think about the loved ones we have lost. There will always be something missing when we are in environments and situations that stir up memories of their presence. In time, we will heal and be forced to move forward creating new memories but it won’t happen immediately. Reminding ourselves and setting your intentions and attention towards creating new memories with those who are still with us is one of the greatest and most precious gifts that we can give ourselves. Being patient and understanding that we will eventually approach the holidays with joy, excitement and participation just may be the key to surviving this holiday season.
Photo Credit: Unsplash
Artist: Thought Catalog @thoughtcatalog
Even if we are not personally affected, if we live in the United States we have all at least seen headlines or news coverage about the recent natural disasters that have torn through our country. According to Wikipedia natural disaster is defined as “any adverse event from natural processes of the earth. Examples include floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other geologic processes”. Though we are familiar with the devastating effects that natural disasters can have on the living as we prepare for, seek shelter from and manage the aftermath of their fury not many are aware of nor have given much thought to the effects natural disasters have on the deceased or the establishments and practitioners that are responsible for them.
In this blog and video series, we are going to explore Death and Natural Disaster: 7 Major Impacts that Natural Disasters Have on Funeral Service and the Deceased. Before we get started it is vital that you understand the funeral service establishment and licensed funeral directors role. When a funeral home, crematory or cemetery takes custody of the remains of a deceased human being they are responsible for not only the care of the deceased as it relates to preparing them for funeralization and burial. They also take on the responsibility of ensuring the protection of the deceased and protecting society from any potential dangers that could be posed from coming in contact with the deceased should they exist while in their custody (this mortuary law lesson will be vital in just a moment I promise). Because of this, funeral service establishments are required to have protocols in place that allow them to proactively respond to situations of all sorts including natural disasters.
Preparation, Evacuation, and Electricity
Before we get started it is vital that you understand the funeral service establishment and licensed funeral directors role. When a funeral home, crematory, and its licensed staff takes custody of the remains of a deceased human being they are responsible for the care of the deceased until funeralization and disposition are complete. They also take on the responsibility of ensuring the protection of society from any potential dangers presented by coming in contact with the deceased while in their custody (this mortuary law lesson will be vital in just a moment I promise). Because of this, funeral service establishments are required to have protocols in place that allow them to proactively respond to situations of all sorts including natural disasters.
There are several factors involved when given the opportunity to prepare for a natural disaster. The time of year (weather), geographical location, establishment size, and equipment available, number of employees, and proximity to others are a few of these factors. Depending on the severity of an expected impact; many funeral service establishments choose to make arrangements with establishments in neighboring less or unaffected areas. These establishments are required to be equipped with the proper storage and tools needed to protect not only the deceased from the elements but also protect the public from any bio or other hazards posed by coming in contact with un-embalmed deceased bodies. These establishments can include but may not be limited to hospitals, military bases, and other funeral homes.
In events where preparation and evacuation are not permissible the most important line of defense is an establishment’s action plan and outlined the protocol for responding to a natural disaster. In any event, the funeral homes communication with the deceased next of kin or person responsible for making their arrangements is vital. It is imperative that the funeral director communicates openly and honestly. As you can imagine a natural disaster of any kind that affects the funeral home, crematory or cemetery can cause scheduled funeral services and burials to be delayed or canceled entirely until it is safe for the public and funeral service personnel to safely attend. In these events, the funeral home is not responsible for cost incurred by family, friends and loved ones due to having to change or cancel travel arrangements.
Another major component of a funeral service establishment’s ability to properly and safely care for the deceased is their ability to keep their lights on. Surprisingly, it’s not because the funeral home staff does not wish to roam around in the dark but because having coolers operational is vital to properly storing the deceased and retarding advanced stages of decomposition (even in embalmed bodies). Electricity is also vital because without it electronic filing of death certificates, telephone systems, and necessary electronic files are not accessible. Most funeral homes are equipped with very powerful generators that will allow electronically operated and refrigeration units and embalming machines to remain functional should an outage occur.
To Be Continued...
Join us next week as we discuss the impact and effects of Wildfires and Volcanic Eruptions have on funeral homes and the deceased.
Photo Credit: Unsplash
Tornado: Nikolas Noonan
Wildfire: Michael Held
Blizzard: Ivo Paul Van Vliet
Volcano Erupting: Pierre-Yves Burgi
11/14/2018 0 Comments
With the best of intentions and well laid plans, sometimes things take a turn for the worse. Things happen in every aspect of life, business and yes, even in the funeral industry. We take every precaution, think ahead and still, challenging situations present themselves and all we can do is go with it.
Burial at sea, often referred to as ash scattering and the planning of such is not without its trials. Considering that while the practice is considerably old and steeped in tradition, the average client is very new to the concept and requires much hand holding. Throw Mother Nature into the mix along with “colorful personalities” and you have the makings of, let’s just say, interesting outcomes. These stories are being shared to help you prepare for and take into consideration the misadventures and even the challenges that can be posed when conducting a burial at sea.
Mr. Micro Manager
This gentleman attempted to account for every detail of his father’s ash scattering service and while customer service is paramount, his requests took trying my patience to a whole new level.
The service was to take place off the coast of New Jersey, Sandy Hook to be exact in the vicinity of Raritan Bay, where he wanted to deposit the ashes. Early on in our correspondence he made it very clear the service was to be performed on an outgoing tide. In addition, there were to be no ferries running in the event they crossed into the current that took his father’s cremated remains. Now to those you who run any kind of business, you know that scheduling is based on a number of factors and if I called and said, “I want an appointment, when the moon is in the seventh house”, you’d be a bit concerned as to how many more requests might be forthcoming. I (he) was very fortunate that the boat’s availability happen to fall in accordance with a favorable tide, but I couldn’t account for the ferry schedule. Just when I thought all was settled, he asked that the captain wear his formal uniform. We primarily use fishing and sightseeing boats because they’re Coast Guard inspected for safety and a clean shirt is as good as it gets. In addition, the captain typically doesn’t leave the wheelhouse, thus what he wears is of little consequence. I can’t account for what the client envisioned, but I could only think he had an officer from a cruise ship in mind. What else could he possibly ask for I thought? Here it comes; I needed to assure him there would be nothing floating in the water in and around where he would scatter the ashes. By this he meant garbage and debri to which I assured him the NY and NJ waterways have been significantly improved, but I couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be a floating log. Finally with all the details covered and the date approaching he explained he’d be driving from Boston to NY the day of the service with no others in attendance, nor would he be staying overnight. It’s a long trip one way, let along back again on the same day, but that was his call. All was set, the day was clear, conditions calm and my captain and crew at the ready. Just before the scheduled departure time, we received a call from Mr. Micro Manager; he was a just about at the NY border when he realized he forgot his father’s ashes home.
“He Ain’t Circlin The Drain Yet”
Her words exactly, “He ain’t circlin the drain yet”, when this next client called to learn more about a Full Body Burial at Sea. Sadly her husband was terminal and his wish was to buried at sea. She wanted to use a shroud which she would sew herself in accordance with our direction and proper material. When the time came and with the assistance of her local funeral director (Tennessee) they prepared the body along with the necessary balis weight of 100 pounds secured inside the shroud. The weight assures that the body will remain at the bottom of the sea, a required depth of 600 feet. With a Transport Permit in hand, the plan was to place her now shrouded deceased husband in her van for the road trip to Fort Lauderdale. Upon her arrival the boat was ready to sail out the four miles to reach the required depth. All went well, the boat came back to port and the client returned home to Tennessee. But something went awry.
A few days later a passing fishermen found the floating partial remains of a man. Yes, you guessed it! It appears a large game fish, likely a shark bit into the shroud. When the widow was notified of these developments her sentiment was, “Well, he wanted to be eaten by the fishes”.
They Shoot Coffins, Don’t They?This story goes back some years, long before the growing interest and practice of full body burials at sea. Unlike the the story above, this funeral director used a metal casket, which today is standard practice; except he neglected to have holes drilled into it before preparing it for the funeral. Several holes of one inch diameter are required at the head and foot of the casket to allow for a quick and full submersion. The captain loaded the heavy casket onto the swim deck of the boat and set out to sea they went. Off the coast of Georgia, it’s a considerable distance to reach the six hundred foot depth as the Continental Shelf takes its turn eastward, from Florida up through the northeast.
The captain reached the burial site and off loaded the casket expecting that with it’s heavy weight, it would readily sink. She waited and waited and waited, until she recognized the casket wasn’t going anywhere except with the current. To the aghast of the funeral director on board, she took out her shotgun and proceeded to shoot holes into the sides.
Dust In The Wind
It was a dank, cold and blustery March afternoon when I accompanied a single passenger on an ash scattering charter. In my experience, I find that when folks board the boat, they’re bit distracted from the task at hand and often engage me in conversation. This particular woman seemed to want to be alone and had few words. All I knew was that she was scattering the cremated remains of her niece.
As part of my service I offer a scattering tube to allow for a more controlled flow of the ashes when scattering. It’s easy to hold and point away from you and with the wind at your back, there’s virtually no chance of “Blow Back”. That’s when the cremated remains blow back onto you and the boat.
The captain positioned the boat with the bow into the wind as I handed her the tube for her to scatter. I removed the end cap, handed it over and she began to take fist fulls of ashes and began throwing them like a baseball. Ashes were getting all over her and me and as luck would have it, we both wore black coats. I took her hand, holding the urn to show her how to use it, but again she release another fist full. I shrugged my shoulders and stepped away as she emptied the container in this manner. I’ll never know what was going through her mind, but I have a sense that her quietness masked some very raw emotions.
Thankfully these stories are far and few between and 99% of charters go off without a hitch. The more common episodes include passengers becoming seasick or the ever presence of Mother Nature deciding to blow gale winds, snow, rain or the occasional hurricane.
About the Author
Whether you are a family or a funeral service professional seeking guidance and direction for making arrangements , Donna Capra is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities and most trusted resources for Burial at Sea.
To learn more check out https://www.nationwideburialatsea.com/about to read her story and visit https://www.nationwideburialatsea.com/blog-1 to gain helpful blogs and industry insights and information for arranging burial at sea.
Technology has had a significant impact on the way that we do literally everything. One of its impacts has been reflected in the manner in which we seek to support and comfort when we are experiencing loss. Enter the Good Grief App. Referred to as the “Social Network for Loss” Good Grief App offers users the opportunity to intimately connect and share with others who are experiencing loss. I recently had the opportunity to speak with the compassionate and innovative creators of Good Grief App Kim Libertini and Robynne Boyd..
During our time together I learned how Good Grief App works and had the pleasure of learning what motivated Kim and Robynne to create it. Both reeling from very personal losses, the two were connected by a mutual friend who thought they would be able to support and lean upon one another to draw the strength needed to endure their grief. From that introduction, a deep bound and desire to help and support others was born. Interestingly enough the duo has never met in person. Kim, a mother and teacher living in Long Island, New York, and Robynne an environmental journalist housed in Atlanta, Georgia are convinced that despite their distance having someone who completely understands and is simultaneously experiencing grief has made all the difference in their journeys.
“There is a common thread that connects individuals who have experienced loss” explained Kim. Good Grief App is designed to match users holding that thread. Once connected, users correspond with one another via the messaging system to offer support during the many waves of emotions that are experienced while grieving. In many cases, users remain anonymous. This anonymity allows users to truly express themselves openly and honestly without being judged or criticized while being fully supported by community members.
Good Grief App chat and messaging are available for download in the App and Android stores. Upon download and registration, users are automatically given a three month trial period. Good Grief can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @Goodgriefapp. Weekly blogs are posted on www.blog.goodgriefapp.com. Updates and other resources can be found on their website www.goodgriefapp.com.
You asked for it so here it goes... my top three spooky moments working in the funeral business.
Nationwide Burial at Sea is the funeral service industry leader for professional and compassionate sea burial and ash scattering. When CEO Donna Capara invited me to share my experience with Space Burial needless to say I was beyond excited. Please click the link above or the picture below to read this weeks blog.
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.