The Death Industry in America is like any other industry. It is corporatized and driven by profit. This is not to say the the car provided is substandard, but a corporation that deals in the handling of our loved ones after their death, still has the duty to protect the bottom line above all else. With 2.5 million deaths per year business is booming. But processing the bodies of this many people does not always lead to the most empathetic and personal experience. Bodies are moved and handled often times with speed in mind and this can be at odds with the kind of care we would expect to be given.
Amber Carvaly, has worked as a mainstream Funeral Director and would process up to 6-8 bodies per day at times. With this type of work flow it can be challenging to deliver personal touch and care. “In a big company bodies are treated as quota counts, not as family members.” While all companies have different standards it is a service that is being paid for and compassion may not be included in the invoice.
Once she departed from the funeral home she wanted to provide another option to people. There is little transparency in the industry as to the process of embalming and how the bodies are treated. This can feel impersonal and doesn’t always provide the closure that the experience might intend to. Carvaly, supports the idea of a more hands on approach funeral and ceremony that can include certain steps that are even done in the home.
Contrary to popular belief bodies do not have to be removed from their home for the funeral and can be dressed for presentation and services provided in a residence. This option allows for a different experience of the deceased that may be better suited for those that are not religious or want a less formal approach to wishing their loved ones good bye.
There is some cost savings to be had as well. A traditional funeral can cost upwards of $2,800 but a simple cremation can be as little as $600 and if the services are held in the home that cost will be nominal. Amber has experience not only as a professional funeral director but as a client as well. She lost a friend earlier this year and dressed her body along with her 3 sisters, she has also helped a friend dress their mother less than a week ago.
It is not just the technical process of preparing the body for the funeral but it can be cathartic to be a part of the process of death and less about handing your loved ones over to someone else. It can be emotionally taxing but death is a part of life. Home funerals are not new, they are practiced routinely in other parts of the world and the industrialization of death care is actually much newer than the method Amber is suggestion.
In partnership with her friend Caitlin Doughty she will be opening the doors of Undertaking LA, a natural funeral service organization. In addition to helping with the process of handling of the dead from a technical and administrative stand point, the two will also provide consultation about additional services and options like cremation and burial.
Amber is not a morbid person, she played with Barbies, and liked the Little Mermaid as a child. It is her vision that death care takers are not seen as the archetypal character depicted in films but much more like nurses or professional caregivers. The treatment we expect of our loved ones in life should be extended into death as well to provide respectful service to them and adequate closure for the living.
Undertaking LA is not an attack on traditional funeral services but simply another option that can be explored when plans are being made. Amber would like to see a future where there is a healthy dialogue on death and an open understanding of the processes that prepare them afterwards.