Book Review: Confessions of a Funeral Director - How the Business of Death Saved My Life by Caleb Wilde

Sixth generation funeral director Caleb Wilde engages the negative narrative that we all seem to engage when we encounter death. Nursing home and hospitals hide the dead. Families pay professionals to whisk the dead from our sight. We use trite phrases like, "time can heal", "they're in a better place", "You need to move on", "its all gonna be OK", "You will move on", and "It will get better". But Wilde suggests that these worn out platitudes do little to comfort the grieving and by trying to rush them through the grieving period, we do them a disservice.

When the funeral industry tends to quickly swoop into a families home and load up the deceased and shuttle them out of sight to a funeral home for embalming and preparations for the funeral, Wilde discovers that the family is better served by being allowed to have time with the deceased. Time to kiss them on the cheek, time to tell them they love them, time to embrace the loss. Allowed the family  unrushed time before the body is removed from their home provides the family the opportunity to have time and space for to address what they are feeling as opposed to being told to bottle it up and quiet their tears. 

For years nursing homes quickly shuttle the deceased to a secluded room near the back of the facility and have the funeral home enter through a back door and wheel the body out of site believing that a "back door policy" prevents residents from being reminded that death happens in their facility. In contrast, Wilde tells the story of a nursing home that shocked him when they informed him that they had a "front door policy". Once he had the body of the deceased on the stretcher, they provided him with an "honor quilt" the staff had made to signify wrapping the body in love and care. When he began to roll the stretcher from the nursing home room to the front door, the staff lined the hallway in honor and respect. By their actions of engaging death in a positive manner with respect and honor, the nursing home staff had reversed the negative narrative acknowledging death to be a natural progression of life and honoring the life of the deceased.

I found the book to be enlightening, encouraging, and changed the way that I view death.

I highly recommend this book for everyone as we all cope with the death of friends and loved ones, and learning a better way to engage death and finding hope through the process is helpful to us all,

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