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  • Writer's pictureMikayla Ricks

god complexes in death care | a death doula's rant.

A match on fire
Photo by Sebastian Sørensen

For those of you that don't know, I was working on an inclusivity and cultural sensitivity course for death workers because even upon entering into this field of work I noticed the diversity issue. Scratch that. I noticed a huge discrimination issue that very few of my privileged peers were willing to address with their entire chest and the loudest of their voices. I worked on this project for several months and was supposed to have it available at the beginning of this year.

Unfortunately, I had to pause the creation of that course indefinitely due to life circumstances. I also had to stop my Cultural Bias Consulting because people were not taking advantage of the education.

That does not mean my activism ended there.

Please read the following images. Alt text is available.

For the sake of politeness, I'll censor this person's name. Nothing else about this post will be polite because respectability politics does nothing when addressing something like this. Because apparently manners, human decency, and basic respect do not matter.

𝗔 𝗿𝗲𝗰𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝘀𝗵𝗼𝘄𝗲𝗱 𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝗺𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗲𝘅𝘁:  "𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻'𝘀 𝗦𝗮𝗰𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗙𝗶𝗿𝗲," 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘂𝘀𝗲𝗱 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗱𝘀 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 "𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗲" 𝗮𝗻𝗱 "𝗿𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲." 𝗜 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗯𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗲𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝘀 𝗶𝗴𝗻𝗼𝗿𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝗮𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁. The only way to return to sacredness of death and the dead human body, and restoring respect, reverence, and grace, acknowledging the post-mortem dignity of the dead body, is to return to tradition. Cremation, whether by flame or by chemical dissolution is NOT tradition; it is industrial. That sounds awfully pagan! Cremation is doing violence to a dead human body for the wrong reasons (convenience, economic, etc.) and is thus morally wrong. There is nothing sacred about a cremation as it is done in the industrial west, unless, of course it is done in the context of a religious tradition such as Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., for example. As far as the fake environmental reasons and other disinformation promoted by the cremation and other trade associations like NFDA, CANA, ACCFSE, ABFSE, and state and local trade association, it doesn't take an astrophysisist to see through the arguments and detect the self-interests involved. In fact, debunking the ridiculous "cremation's sacred fire" bit, cremation is definitely a "farewell" since nothing is left of the human remains that could possibly be associated with the once living human being, since even DNA is destroyed, and once the remains are crushed, there is nothing identifiable remaining, only mineral granulate. 𝗙𝗼𝗿𝗴𝗲𝘁 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 "𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗿𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲!" 𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗶𝘀 𝘃𝗶𝗼𝗹𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘂𝗻𝗻𝗮𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗮𝗹. 𝗜 𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 "𝗜 𝗱𝗼𝗻'𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗱𝗲𝗰𝗮𝘆" 𝗼𝗿 "𝗜 𝗱𝗼𝗻'𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝗹𝗼𝗰𝗸𝗲𝗱 𝘂𝗽 𝗶𝗻 𝗮 𝗯𝗼𝘅" 𝗼𝗿 "𝗜 𝗱𝗼𝗻'𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗻 𝗯𝘆 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗺𝘀," 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝘀𝗲𝗹𝗳-𝗱𝗲𝗹𝘂𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴. 𝗪𝗵𝗼 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝘂𝘀𝗲 𝗮𝗻 𝗲𝘅𝗰𝘂𝘀𝗲 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗳𝘆 𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘀𝗵𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗱 𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗼 𝗮 𝗻𝗮𝗿𝗿𝗼𝘄 𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗻𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗯𝘆 𝗴𝗮𝘀 𝗳𝗹𝗮𝗺𝗲, 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝗿𝗮𝗸𝗲𝗱 𝗼𝘂𝘁, 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗲𝗱 𝗶𝗻 𝗮 𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗻𝘂𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗺𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗲, 𝗿𝗲𝗱𝘂𝗰𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗼𝗮𝗿𝘀𝗲 𝘀𝗮𝗻𝗱, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝗽𝗮𝗰𝗸𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗱 𝗶𝗻 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗯𝗮𝗴 𝗶𝗻 𝗮𝗻 𝘂𝗿𝗻.
Caption: Some asshole with a keyboard, too much time on their hands, and a Facebook account. Because of course it is.

Facebook comment that reads: I find it most odd that so many persons claiming to be in deathcare expect a chaplain or spiritual care provider to be some sort of stuffed shirt or "turn the cheek" type with no mind or opinion. It's an incredible statement of ignorance and logical error, not to mention misplaced judgement, to presume that a highly trained, well-educated, experienced professional should not have very well-founded and clear thoughts on an issue. There is also no reason in hell to believe that anyone, chaplain, rabbi, imam, priest, pope or king should idly sit by while some misguided, angry, disordered so-called "doula" spouts vulgarity and outright insult stemming from an apparent very dark space inside. I am not a victim and I do not find it necessary to offend. I simply state facts and hope that any comments will respond to the facts and not become an ad hominem attack. For those subscribers and group members who cannot control themselves or their infantile emotional lability while claiming to be providers of deathcare, I do recommend more reading and less comment. Thank you!

Facebook response to a comment that says: You, m'lady, are obviously exuberantly hyper-judgemental, and quite immature! You should have only half my education, experience, and training to even consider picking a fight! But let your comment speak for itself. Thank you for taking the opportunity to expose yourself to us . I won't address your vulgarity or profanity, since that speaks for itself and for you. I am at a loss how you can claim ownership of this public forum and complain that I "come on here" and "preach and call people out." It seems you are playing the fascist at this point; haven't you ever heard of First Amendment freedom of expression? Or is woke your name. If everyone were to react (note I did not use the term "respond") as you do with such vituperative vehemence, no one would communicate...or is that your point: only your interests should appear here? While I do not know you and do not have sufficient information to make a reliable diagnosis, I have some concerns about you're claiming to be a nurse and a "doula." You respond by handing control over your intense emotions and apparent anger and lose control over any points you might be hopeful of making. You draw some pretty inaccurate conclusions not from what I wrote but apparently from within yourself. If you received any training in deathcare or as a so-called death doula, you would have learned to bracket your own emotions, leave YOUR ego at the door, put yourself in the other's space, shut up and LISTEN, reflect, and then respond, if even necessary. You have failed in all those respects, I regret to admit. Finally, before you open your mouth, you really should read some of my extensive writings on various deathcare subjects. Once you do so, you will have a better basis to comment intelligently and topically --- not as you have done above --- and I can respond to any questions you may have. But under the present conditions and in view of your comment, that would be impossible in your present state.
Caption: A grown ass man responding to a woman in a way that you probably expect my fellow death workers, let me make one thing abundantly fucking very clear.

As a death worker, it's none of your fucking business how someone wishes to die. It's none of your business. Period. Point. Blank.

Your job -- your ONLY job -- is to serve your clients and patients in a way that's comfortable to THEM. Not you. You are not their boss. You are not there to judge them. You are there to make sure their wishes are respected and to advocate for them. You are not there to degrade, talk down on, damn, or abuse them because you have a personal problem with what they want to do for themselves, or their beliefs do not line up with yours. Someone does not have to be an expert to know how to be a decent person.

Their deaths are not about you, and it never will be.

This death worker, a Chaplin no less, thought it was appropriate to post this on a public, all-inclusive death care page where people from all walks of life have their own preferences and desires to carry out their end-of-life care.

This death worker posted their personal opinion on cremation and was consistently condescending, judgmental, and unaccepting of other methods of body disposition that what they personally deemed appropriate. Any pushback was met with venom and condescending vitriol. That is unacceptable.

In some cultures, fire is seen as a purifying and holy element. Cremations have been happening far longer than any of us have been alive. To say cremation is a signifyer of moral failing and then immediately mention other cultures that hold fire in reverence is a symptom of xenophobia, whether this person sees it or not. Even their tone when mentioning pagans was entirely inappropriate as the only people that use pagan in a derogatory way are extremist Catholics and Christians that are unable to grasp that there were cultures and customs outside of those specific religions existed LONG before Christ was even born.

By all means, have whatever opinion you want to have. Be passionate about it. But also, be aware that your views are not the end-all-be-all and that your personal morals are yours and no one else's. If you are not comfortable with certain elements of what your client wants, tough luck. You just aren't a match, and that's okay. There's nothing wrong with turning down a client politely on the basis of your personal views not matching up. You'll find someone you connect with.

However, death is a universal event. Death is all-inclusive. Death has many faces. Death care has many aspects. Death shows up in different ways in all walks of life. Death is multifaceted and broad. If you can't accept that, you're in the wrong line of work. If you're so arrogant to post something this hateful and not want any pushback or criticism, post it on your own fucking platform where no one that doesn't want to see it has to see it.

To death workers that see this behavior and do nothing to address it, feel like it's not your problem, or have a case of bystander syndrome: you're part of the problem as well. Because it's not enough to disagree. It's not productive to our space to be performative and virtue signal, either. You need to be proactive in snuffing this behavior out and making sure it doesn't spread because the more this is allowed to go on, the less work you'll have because people have no reason to trust us if they feel like they're going to be berated and talked down on like this. You wouldn't want someone to treat you or your loved one like this, would you?

To any non-death workers, do not let a death worker treat you like this. When your death worker -- whether that be a funeral director, a death doula, a mortician, a nurse or doctor, or a holistic healer -- starts pushing their beliefs onto you, stand up for yourself. If they keep persisting, drop them. Go somewhere else. Death is already a touchy subject and you're already in a vulnerable position. Do not let someone speak to you like this. Do not let a person with this much audacity and inconsideration be in charge of how you or your loved ones leave this earth. Run.

Wanting to be cremated is okay.

Wanting to donate your body to science is okay.

Wanting a traditional cultural burial is okay.

Wanting a natural, sustainable burial is okay.

Wanting a religious burial is okay.

Literally as long as you're not causing harm, you can be buried however you want.

I will never stop advocating for people to have their death care the way they want it to be. I will never stop calling this insidious behavior out for what it is.

And a big 'fuck you' to anyone that disrespects death care, and people, like this.

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