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I'm a sixth generation funeral director. I have a grad degree in Missional Theology and a Certification in Thanatology.
And I like to read and write.
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Posts by Caleb Wilde
I take 40 mg of antidepressants each day. I’ve done so since my last dangerous bout with burnout some five years ago. Life loses its value. I lose empathy. And the boundaries that stand between me and self-harm become very thin.
It should come as no surprise that caregivers, such as funeral directors, have a tendency to find themselves emotionally drained. Funeral directors specifically can become so numbed by death that day to day pains seem less than difficult. We just aren’t as empathetic towards anything less than death.
“You’re girlfriend dumped you? Well, at least your dad didn’t die. Buck up.”
“So what if your cat died. Be thankful your husband is still alive.”
“I remember a couple who lost two children in the span of a few months and here you are complaining about your kids having the flu?”
Funeral directors are already numbed to pain. Death gives us a high emotional pain tolerance. Sure, as professionals in the public eye we are usually compassionate and caring, but in private we can be some of the most course and insensitive people you’ll ever meet. When that death induced high pain tolerance is compounded by the depersonalization and lack of empathy that comes with emotional burnout, funeral directors can become monstrosities, scaring away friends, family and spouses with our utter lack of humanity.
For many who are working in a caregiving or stressful capacity, burnout can be resisted when one receives as much if not more from a job or profession as one puts into it. For many, the positives of pay, work environment, work enjoyment and accomplishment can outweigh the negatives, and make one’s job at least tolerable.
The process of burnout looks like this. You have a full cup. The contents of the cup slowly evaporates and isn’t refilled. Eventually, there’s nothing left. You haven’t got back what you’ve put out. There’s nothing left to give. You’re empty.
For me it’s …
The night calls.
The lack of sleep.
Getting chewed out by a pastor for something that isn’t my fault.
The 14 hour days.
The constant need for availability to the family.
Never being able to leave the phone.
Always having to be within a couple mile radius of the funeral home in case a call comes in.
Hearing nothing but negative stories.
And having to wrap yourself up in those stories so you can best serve the family.
Many funeral directors receive ample affirmation from families, and that affirmation can counteract all the negatives of this business. “We couldn’t have done this without you.” “You made this so much easier.” “We love you … you’re like family.”
But when you work in a family business and your father and grandfather are the front men and you are the guy who does the stuff behind the scenes, there’s little affirmation. And the cup gets drained, and drained and drained and drained.
You think about leaving your wife because you see just how awful you’ve become and you don’t want that person to be near the ones you love. You draw near to God and He walks away from you. There is no light at the end of this tunnel. It’s just dark. And then at some point, after you have a moment to breath and your body has somewhat recouped from the stress of a month of 12 hour days, you realize, “Hey, I’m burnt out. I need help.” And you hope that this realization comes before you’ve left your spouse, before you’ve rejected God, before you’ve committed acts of self-harm.
But for many, it’s too late. Family shattered. Body sick.
As a man, I was taught that we’re not supposed to be vulnerable. “Stay strong”, we’re told, “hold yourself together.” The assumption for many of us (women included) is that we will never run out. That our cup has no bottom. And that assumption is dangerously wrong. In attempting to be godlike in our strength we become inhuman.
I need help. This Friday I see my doctor.
I imagine that I’m not the only one who needs help. Join with me, before it’s too late.
“I was pretty certain it wasn’t my wife – unless she did some awful changing,” said Evans Davidson, the bereaved widower whose wife’s body was in a funeral body mix-up at the Simpson Mortuary in Inglewood, CA. Unfortunately, mistakes and negligence like body mix-ups happen in the funeral business. And when they do, there are lawyers like Farid Yaghoubtil who can help in reparations.
Here’s some legal advice from Farid, which is valuable for both the funeral consumer as well as the funeral director:
Funeral home abuse is common in today in the U.S., however victims are often not aware of their rights. In fact much of the information published regarding funeral home negligence does not discuss the important issues. Family member of the deceased have a claim for the significant emotional and psychological distress caused by dealing with such an event. Court and juries also recognize the impact such actions can have on the families in an already difficult and stressful time. If you are the victim of a any type of funeral home abuse read the following article outlining your rights.
Funeral Home Negligence Liability
Negligence is defined as a sub-standard level of care. When the funeral home fails to render appropriate service you will have standing to bring a cause of action for negligence. In most cases proving negligence is not a challenging issue. However, proving whether you have standing to sue is. standing is required in any cause of action. It essentially means that you are in a position to bring forth a lawsuit for your injuries. The paragraph below outlines some of the basic elements of who can sue or who has standing to sue in funeral negligence cases.
A funeral home will be found negligent when they failed to conduct services for which they were contracted for. This can include improper burial in accordance with the family’s wishes, negligent embalmment and more. In certain cases funeral homes will mishandle a body entirely. This will include swapping or misplacing the deceased body entirely.
In cases where the wrong body was given for burial the family will be able to pursue a claim for their injuries. Injuries can include serious emotional distress, which can manifest into physical ailments.
If it can be proven that the actions of the funeral home were intentional, punitive damages are also possible. Intent can also be proven through gross negligence in certain circumstances. With intent punitive damages are possible. Punitive damages allow for enhanced damages and serve to punish the defendant for their actions. In certain cases punitive damages have been allowed.
Who Can Sue for Damages?
Courts permit recovery for funeral home negligence to a certain class of family members. Potential plaintiffs include those who the funeral home owe a duty to. This includes family members who had knowledge of the services being performed.
Section 7100 of the business and professions code specifically points out who is permitted to bring a cause of action for damages. According to this section the following parties are permitted to bring forth a cause of action, they include:
- Surviving spouse;
- Any surviving child or any children of the now deceased party;
- Surviving parent or parents of the now deceased party;
- Those permitted or names in the order of succession who are entitled to the estate of the deceased; or
- Public administrators when the deceased has enough assets.
In certain cases courts have restricted the recovery to only those persons who can establish a direct link between the conduct and emotional distress. Courts have reasoned that in order to avoid the wholesale filing of lawsuits against funeral homes there must be a identified group of parties who can bring a cause of action.
It is also important to mention that there must be some type of emotional or physical manifestation with regards to your injuries. You must have some type of emotional, psychological or physical harm suffered as a result of the funeral home negligence. This injury can manifest itself in a number of different way. When considering to file a lawsuit you should speak with your attorney about any therapy or counseling you may required or are seeking.
Witnessing a deceased loved ones remains being mishandled is a traumatic experience for anyone. It can have long lasting impacts on the mental wellbeing of the witnessing party. Feelings of distress, anxiety, PTSD are all possible and can be amplified depending on your relationship with the deceased party.
While not all parties can move forward on a claim it is important to get your case evaluated. There are often many statutory filing timelines which need to be addressed.
Types of Funeral Abuse Cases
There are countless acts which can be considered funeral home abuse or neglect. This is not an entire list, if you feel that there was abuse, we strongly suggest you have your case evaluated.
- Removal of bodily remain- this is considered a felony in certain jurisdictions
- Sexual assault of the deceased
- Negligent entrustment
- Negligent embalmment
- Mismatching or incorrectly burying the wrong body at a funeral
- Loss of remains
- Loss of the body at time of the funeral
- Misconduct done in private by funeral home
- Mishandling of remains
Each of these cases requires careful evaluation of the facts. If you are interested in bringing forth a lawsuit for injuries, it is important you communicate this intent with your family. Often times it will make sense to include all parties who were there are the service in any suit you decide to bring. These issues will be discussed with your attorney.
Steps to Take in Funeral Negligence Cases
If after reading this article you feel you may have a case, follow these important steps to prepare for your case.
First, prepare the names of all family members who may be interested in pursuing a case. Remember not all parties are permitted to file a lawsuit, but it is advisable that you collect the names of all persons present at the time of the service.
Second, make absolutely no statement to any insurance company. Often times these statements can be harmful to your claim. Even if the funeral home is offering a settlement, speak with an attorney. If you decide to settle make sure it is a viable offer. Insurance companies will often short change or low ball you with their offers.
Third, speak with a personal injury attorney regarding your case. Downtown L.A. Law Group offers free consultations on all cases without charge to you. If we decide to accept your case, it will be done on a contingency fee basis. Our no win no fee guarantee assure that unless we are successful you will owe absolutely nothing in fees.
Farid Yaghoubtil is a senior partner at Downtown L.A. Law Group, handling many types of litigation matters. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com
Most people only think about heaven / the afterlife during times of death. So, if you’ve had someone close to you die, you probably have strong opinions about the existence or nonexistence of the afterlife.
And, you’re opinions are probably wrong.
If heaven exists at all, it – by definition — is much different than what you or I imagine it to be. And while my religion’s scripture (Christianity) has little to say about what heaven is like, it seems that my religion’s preachers – especially the ones at funerals – know much more about it than their Bible.
So, here are eight common ideas about heaven that I think are false.
Heaven is not …
One. An opiate. Like religion, heaven has too often been used as an opiate to blind people to the dismal reality that someone is in fact dead.
Two. It’s probably not about you. It’s selfishness that has made this place so shitty. So, if heaven is better than what exists today, it will probably only happen when we are somehow drawn out of self-absorption by something greater (i.e. God).
Three. A product of subjective validation. If you find heaven meaningful, good for you. But, that doesn’t mean it exists. Just because you like the idea of an eternal life where everything is unicorns and butterflies is not proof for heaven being an actual reality.
Four. Subject to wishful thinking. “In heaven I’m going to have a Ferrari with Kathy Ireland as my wife. I’ll dress her up in My Little Pony outfits and I’ll play Black Ops all day. Oh yeah, and grandpa will be there too and we’ll fly around together on the back of my Pegasus.” Probably not.
Five. A product of communal reinforcement. If the only reason you believe in heaven is because your family believes in heaven and because everybody wants to believe in heaven, you probably haven’t thought about it too much. And any perception you have about heaven probably sucks.
Six. Escapism. Or, an excuse to trash this world because it’s going to be destroyed anyways (some evangelicals believe this.) If anything, I believe in an inaugural eschatology that is bringing heaven to earth as opposed to bringing us earthlings to heaven.
Seven. Hedonism. A place where we can do whatever the hell we want. Yeah, that place – if it exists – is called Las Vegas.
Eight. A certainty. That’s right. It’s a hope, not a certainty. It’s a valid hope during death. It has a valid place in our lives now, but you simply can’t prove its existence empirically. In some sense, we are creating heaven. We are bringing it into existence. And its creation is conditioned on us losing our egotistical outlook. Heaving is becoming, but it’s not a certainty.
Yesterday was National Funeral Director and Mortician Recognition Day. In fact, I captioned another grumpy cat for the occasion and posted it on my facebook page.
There’s “Middle Name Pride Day” on February 12th; March 18th is both “Awkward Moments Day” and “Forgive Your Mom and Dad Day”; and August 6th is “Hamburger Day”, so why can’t there be “Death Appreciation Day”?
Sure, most countries celebrate a “Festival of the Dead” in which they remember those who have passed away, but why not have a day solely devoted to Death?
I know, you have some questions, such as:
What would we celebrate?
1.) We’d celebrate all of the motivation that death gives the world.
I mean, would you really work so hard for that retirement if you knew you’d live forever? Would you change your bad habits right now if you knew you had an eternity to attempt to rectify yourself? Death makes responsible citizens out of most of us.
2.) We’d enjoy and celebrate other great things that Death has given us … like inheritance money.
3.) We’d also take time to be thankful for all the space our forefather’s have left us. How crowded would this globe be if it wasn’t for the Grimm Reaper? I love my relatives, but living shoulder to shoulder with them for an eternity might get slightly annoying.
4.) And then there’s the great art that Death has given us. We’d never have Edgar Allen Poe, nor could we imagine the joys of heaven with Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. And who wouldn’t miss the incredible casket haulers we call “hearses”? Hearses are moving creativity that never would have been created had Death never moved us.
5.) And chicken … steak … sushi. Seriously, why would you want to live if not for sushi? But, guess what, no death, no sushi.
6.) We’d celebrate the world economy. No death, no economy.
If you wouldn’t die, would you buy safety features on the car you probably wouldn’t own and that you definitely wouldn’t have insured?
Heck, would cars or planes even exist if we lived forever? You’d just walk to anywhere you wanted to go cause you’d have all the time in the world.
Doctors, maybe preachers, and certainly funeral directors would all be without jobs. Almost everybody would be affected (although I’m sure lawyers would find a way to get work).
7.) And for all the good people Death has taken, we shouldn’t forget it’s also taken some real jerks. Hitler. Stalin. Who would want to live forever with those guys? Death has stamped a massive “FAIL” on the forehead of most the world’s dictators. And, it’s killed all the billions and billions of stink bugs that have lost their lives.
Can you imagine a world where death never touched a stink bug? If you can’t imagine it, I can and it’s one that’s very, very stinky.
So, thank God for death. We should probably decide to celebrate it.
Once we pick a date, we can all wear black and celebrate the greatness of death by having picnics in cemeteries, listen to Emo music, watch Zombie movies and top off the day by taking a couple minutes off our lives in homage by smoking cigarettes.
If I’ve missed any of Death’s praises, please lend your voice in the chorus of appreciation.
Hey, John … I’m at a funeral right now, do you mind if I call you back?
No matter how many times we ask people to silence their cell phones at a funeral service, there will always be ONE person who didn’t get the memo! The worst is when somebody not only let’s their phone ring, but THEN DECIDES TO ANSWER IT!!! No lie, I’d say one in every five cell phones that ring during a funeral service are answered! So rude!
In fact, a fellow funeral director said this at my Confessions of a Funeral Director Facebook page:
Possibly my favorite blog is FAILBLOG.ORG.
This past week they posted a funeral fail. Apparently, during the funeral service, a cell phone went off and the ringtone was the song “Staying Alive.” Awkward.
So, I was thinking there’s probably some other funny ringtones that could occurring during a funeral:
Here’s some of my more general thoughts:
1. Having the Gospel song, “I’ll Fly Away” would be weird to have as ringtone, but it’d be even weirder if you had it and it went off during a funeral.
2. Right Said Fred’s “I’m too Sexy.” That would just be awkward and … sort of funny. Sort of on par with “Baby Got Back” These songs are awkward in real life, but at funerals ….
3. The ring tone that I used to have for the funeral home was the Country Song, “Shh, It Happens.” It never went off during a funeral, because obviously the funeral home wouldn’t call me if I was at a funeral, but if somebody else had that ring tone and it went off during a funeral … not cool. In fact, any ringtone with a curse word … not cool at a funeral.
4. The Star Trek theme song. Twilight Zone theme.
5. My wife recorded herself yelling, “Mom! Mom! Let me out!” in her mother’s cell phone and then set that as her mom’s cell phone ringtone. Awkward in real life. Extra awkward at a funeral.
Although, as a side note, I have heard of people getting buried with their cell phone. So having a modified version of the “Let me out!” ring tone go off at a funeral from inside the dead guy’s casket … sort of morbid, but sort of funny and ingenious at the same time.
SO, THAT’S ABOUT IT FROM ME! Let’s here from you! I only touched a couple genres … I pretty much missed the 60s, 70s and 90s, and didn’t touch hip-hop, rock or even Contemporary Christian. Post your awkward ringtones at a funeral below!