Analysis: Handling the Stigma of Handling the Dead
I. Research Question
How do funeral directors and morticians handle the stigma that comes along with working with the dead? In the Introduction on page 73 the question ‘Who are these “death specialists” who handle dead bodies, and how do they handle the stigma that comes from handling the dead?’ is presented. This is the main question that Thompson wanted to answer in his research.
II. Theoretical Perspectives
Thompson uses idealism which is a qualitative approach to research. Before Thompson wrote his article, he prepared himself by gathering as much information as he could. He interviewed nineteen morticians and funeral directors. Thompson’s article shows two years of hard work and research.
Symbolic interactionism is found through out the article. Thompson discusses how funeral directors and morticians use certain words when dealing with family members to help with the grieving process (page 76). A funeral director told Thompson that “my hands tend to be cold and clammy”, cold is known as a symbol for death. There are many ‘fake ads’ that are spoken only between the workers (pg. 79). Sometimes people that work in a funeral home use symbols and fake ads, ‘The Buck Really Does Die Here’, to take the tension off and add humor.
Phenomenology is found in the article when Thompson goes into detail about the public’s assumptions of funeral directors. Thompson states that the public finds funeral directors to be ‘cold’, ‘unusual, if not downright weird’, ‘detached’, and ‘death-tainted’ (pg. 770). Due to the public view on people that work in a funeral home, one guy refuses to call himself an undertaker because he thinks it sounds to morbid. When dealing with public, funeral director must use politically correct language such as ‘passing on’ in place of ‘death’ and ‘deceased’ instead of ‘corpse’ (pg.76). Funeral directors try to stay away from words like ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ and replace them with ‘self-service’....