“Kids deserve an honest answer:” Caitlin Doughty’s death education for all
Caitlin Doughty, the Los Angeles-based funeral director, author, and activist behind the popular YouTube channel ‘Ask a Mortician’ has covered a wide variety of death and funeral industry-related topics over the past decade. Her content ranges from the wholesome (popular funeral foods from around the world) to the horrifying (unethical funeral directors who severely mistreated bodies in their care). And while many of Doughty’s videos are indeed most appropriate for an adult audience, she has also extended her expertise to children who ask about her work and about death, including a video where she hosted a tea party at her funeral home with two young girls.
As a child, Doughty obsessed over death after witnessing another child die in an accident, and firmly believes in the importance of talking to children about death to help reduce their fears and improve their understanding, particularly when a child loses someone. She also answers children’s questions candidly, knowing that many adults may have the same questions as well. In the tea party video, 8-year-old Fauna asks Doughty: “Why do people lie to their kids about death?” Doughty replies that she thinks death makes parents uncomfortable, not the kids—who want an honest answer about that mummy, that dead bird, or Grandma. She adds that this is a “shame,” because “kids deserve an honest answer.”
Doughty’s third book Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? fields several questions she has received from children, including whether or not a dead body can be preserved in amber and if a child can keep a deceased parent’s skull. In the book, Doughty writes that, as a mortician, she is accustomed to strange questions and at first, she expected children to ask questions about if a dead relative was simply “sleeping” or if heaven existed. Instead, she found that children were curious about things like funeral pyres, the decaying process, bones, and embalming—among other things. While children were curious about their dead pets’ souls, they were also curious about their dead pets’ bodies.