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Like the regretful fashion choices you make during puberty, death is unavoidable. But what mortician and death theorist Caitlin Doughty hopes to instill is that this natural process doesn’t have to be something we fear.
A doppelganger of Wednesday Addams, Doughty fascinates YouTube audiences with her enthusiastic personality and honest, light videos about all aspects of death. Since 2011, the mortician has used YouTube to answer questions about death most wouldn’t even think to ask: What happens to breast implants after death? Corpse poo: natural or nasty? Exploding caskets and, of course, necrophilia: Are they prevalent in the funeral industry?
Doughty has been obsessed with death since she was an 8-year-old growing up in Hawaii. As an adult, she turned her love of the afterlife into a Medieval Studies degree and years later, became a certified mortician. She is now the founder of The Order of Good Death, an international group of funeral professionals working to change the way we approach death, and recently, she opened Undertaking LA, her own alternative funeral home that teaches families how to handle a corpse and ways to be more environmentally mindful ways while burying their dead.
In an interview with NPR around the release of her book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Doughty was perfect captured as someone who strives “not to make light of death, but to make death light.”
I first discovered Doughty through her collaboration with Anna Akana and was immediately taken with both the podcast’s topic (seriously, who isn’t fascinated hearing about death?!) and her passion and self-assurance. Since then, I have spent hours scouring her videos, and at the end of the rabbit hole, I came out a bit smarter and greatly appreciative of the honest conversations she’s started around taboo topics.
By being our guide across the river Styx, Doughty gives viewers confidence to be exactly who they are and encourages us all to use our curiosity and fascinations to make the world a more educated place.
Screengrab via Ask a Mortician/YouTube
Carly Lanning is a journalist who covers social media. Her work has been published by Psychology Today, NBC, Thrillist, and Ms. Magazine.