Caitlin Doughty’s wildly successful “Ask a Mortician” YouTube video series led to her first book deal with a major publisher. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory (September, 2014, W.W. Norton) is a combination memoir and call to action to become an educated and involved funeral consumer. She is also founder of the Order of the Good Death, Death Salons in Los Angeles, and Undertaking L.A.
Caitlin joined me on A Good Goodbye Radio on FuneralRadio.com to discuss her experiences in the funeral/cremation business and how the book has been received by the general public, the media and people in the funeral industry.
Among the topics discussed:
- Her experience in mortuary school
- The interest in a new approach to death care
- The differences between death care in the United States and the rest of the world
- The warm reception to the idea of home funerals
- How the book came to fruition
- The stories of people she has met, both living and dead
- The start of her business Undertaking L.A.
The industry response to her book varies. Younger — and female — funeral directors who want to see the changes she proposes are supportive. “Older funeral directors who were not so happy with me sent messages to me that had a sort of ‘hey, missy’ sort of tone,” said Doughty. “Fortunately, those were in the minority.”
Throughout Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, she throws in tidbits of information about death in many different cultures and funeral practices throughout history.
“I think it’s really easy for us to forget that how we ‘do death’ in the United States is not how they do death everywhere, not now, not historically,” explained Doughty. “The more that we can feel comfortable with death rituals around the world… we can feel more open to our own new practices… we can think outside the box.”
The paperback of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes will come out in September 2015.