I knew when I started this series that I could find enough unsettling things for at least two parts, but it would seem that I think I can keep this running for a few more weeks with everyone’s suggestions! Here’s my second little list of things that may or may not be unsettling about my line of work.
To start with, people always assume that working on your own in a mortuary is unsettling. In all honesty, when I first started that was something that I did think was going to be unpleasant. Over time it’s an aspect that you get used to gradually and now it doesn’t phase me at all to be on my own. Sometimes my mind might play tricks on me, and I could see or hear something strange but even now that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It’s not unusual to be on your own in the post mortem room with up to three or four deceased for short periods. It’s an odd feeling to be hugely outnumbered by deceased people, but it’s not something I think of as scary any longer. In fact I often state that in a lot of cases I prefer their company for a number of reasons.
That being said, we do come into contact with the living relatives of the deceased and that can be difficult at times. Unsettling is not the most appropriate word I can think of to describe how it feels, but it is certainly something I worry about even now. It feels hugely significant to be helping someone at such a difficult time, and particularly lately with the peaks of the pandemic, we have often denied requests from the bereaved based on safety which is very hard to do. It is easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself to say the right thing to someone going through intense grief, and feels like you can say the wrong thing a lot more than anything that helps. One thing I have learnt is to listen to people because often they just want to speak and be heard.
Working in my local area, and one that I have grown up in and pretty much loved my whole life, it is inevitable that I will see deceased people I knew in life. It has happened already, and it will happen again. A lot of mortuary workers and APTs choose to work elsewhere to where they live and I can understand why. I think I like the proximity of my work to my home too much, and being able to help people I know feels like a privilege. It is an odd experience, but if I ever did feel uncomfortable or not want to be at work I do have that option should someone I know be there.
Finally for this part of the series, there is something very unsettling about seeing your own date of birth on someone’s identity wristband. It’s happened to me once, and even just seeing my year of birth can be a strange feeling. I also recently had someone in my care who had the same date of birth of someone close to me which felt unsettling too. It’s a reminder of your own death or the death of those close to you that happens occasionally. Something else that’s popped into my head at this point, sometimes we have people who have died on their birthday and always make sure to say ‘happy birthday’ to them. Not unsettling, but a nice thing we can do for them.
A very people based unsettling things this time around. Some of them unsettling for obvious reasons, and others just not at all. Next part will focus on some of the hazards of my role and why they might seem unsettling in many ways.