From the moment Caitlin began working in the funeral industry, it was clear that there was a public need for more nuanced conversations around death and dying. Since founding the nonprofit The Order of the Good Death in 2011, Caitlin, alongside longtime colleague Sarah Chavez, has worked to promote the death positive movement and create a community of people who believe open, honest advocacy around death can make a difference in culture. Talking about death is not morbid, but essential and an act of resistance.
While everyone deserves a good death, the good death does not just happen. A good death takes planning, knowledge of the laws, and often overcoming systemic barriers and inequality in how we die. One of the least sexy, but most important projects Caitlin and her colleagues undertake– pun intended– is protecting laws that honor your rights to care for your own dead. They also help introduce and pass new laws that legalize more environmental options for future corpses, like aquamation (water cremation) and natural organic reduction (human composting).
The public may know everything about zombies and serial killers, but when it comes to the more prosaic, boring realities of death (advanced directives, funeral cost rights, ready to embalm laws) few seek out knowledge until it’s too late. Caitlin attempts to make these harder topics accessible and entertaining through humor, whether in her three books, speaking engagements around the world, or her YouTube series Ask a Mortician. If folks can get more in touch with their inevitable death and decay while they’re at it, all the better.
Funeral Industry Reform
The modern funeral industry, despite the excellent people working on the ground level, is known for putting profit over families. This emphasis on capitalism and the hiding of death work behind closed doors is a profound shift from 150 years ago, where all deathcare was community-led. Caitlin not only seeks to help people rediscover family-led deathcare and environmental death options, she is put this into practice by founding a Los Angeles funeral home.