Guest post from an atheist mortician.

Guest post goodness below from my roommate and good friend Cambridge, the upbeat mortician.  She has recently started a blog about death, which you should read since she’s an expert and all.

/bad sales job


I’m JT’s roommate!

My name is Cambridge!

I touch dead people and get paid for it!

I’m currently serving my apprenticeship at a local funeral home and, in less than 6 months, I’ll be taking my licensing exams to become a fully licensed funeral director/embalmer in the state of Ohio.

JT’s been offering me this opportunity to do a guest-blog for a while now and I’ve finally conjured up the inspiration (thanks, coffee.) to write something worthwhile.

One of my favourite assumptions from the families that I serve is that I’m a Christian. I mean, I have to be. Obviously. No one could possibly do the work that I do, with the compassion and empathy that I have, and be an atheist.

The thing is that I can do what I do because I truly, genuinely, and whole-heartedly want every single person who walks through the doors of my funeral home to feel better. Death is not easy to handle; it causes us to feel all sorts of things that our culture doesn’t prepare us for and often, people just don’t know what to do. Try to recall the last time you felt helpless and there wasn’t anyone there to lead you through it. Sure, you figured it out but wouldn’t it have been a lot easier if there was someone there helping you?

Grieving is extremely hard work and often goes unrecognized by everyone around you. This is where I come in. I let people know that it’s okay to cry. It’s safe here, in front of me. I won’t judge you for being sad or angry or hurt or depressed or resentful. Just let me take care of everything because I want you to go home and take care of yourself.


No, really.

Having compassion is not hard but showing compassion can be incredibly difficult. Most of us don’t know how to deal with seeing someone in a visible state of sadness; some of us choose to find comfort in an imagined protector so that we can avoid the messy work of having to actually deal with a grieving person. It’s a lot easier to offer up a tenuous amelioration (“it’s God’s will” for the religious or “he lived a good life” for the secular) and mentally absolve yourself from ever having to actually DO anything. Because sad people make us awkward. Because our culture tells us that being sad is wrong.

So, really, our helping others comes from helping ourselves first. If I may oh-so-ironically borrow a passage from Ye Olde Good Booke “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5) You can start helping those who are sad by first genuinely accepting that feeling sad is not wrong. Next time you’re feeling a ‘negative’ emotion, just try to feel it and see what it’s like; get it know it so you can recognize it in others. It’s kind of like really tasting something instead of chewing it up as fast as you can and then gulping it down: when you spend time appreciating the individual components, it can give you insight on how they interplay on a grander scale. With that knowledge, you can stop being afraid of sadness and help others through it which is something, I guarantee, they will remember.

I’m sure you were expecting a blog post that was a little less touchy-feely and something with more details about gross guts and stuff.

lol tricked you into learning.I’m happy to answer any questions about death, just leave them in the comments here or on my blog!

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Art_Vandelay

    How come nobody ever looks at their dead body as a food source for something other than bacteria and insects? I mean, for all the dead animals we eat in our lives, wouldn’t it be a nice gesture to donate your body to the local zoo for lion food or something?

    • baal

      Most humans are not fit for consumption. We are at the end of the food chain and many have a long history of eating questionable substances or smoking or have drug build up (legal).

      I wanted to be converted to Ba’al wafers upon my death and be served to the guess (eww gross right?) but it turns out not to be feasible. My back up plan is organ donation (if i die clean enough) followed by cremation and then having my ashes folded into a glass object. Wiccan’s will be able to use the relic for rituals or something (and hey if we should have taken pascals wager, who’s to say that the after life doesn’t need go between, plan ahead people!).

      • Cambridge

        Crystal Remembrance glass egg? Sweet.

    • Pulse

      Tibetan culture frequently practices sky burials in which the dead are left on platforms or mountaintops to be eaten by carrion birds.

    • DavidMHart

      It’s almost certainly not going to be legal, but I’d like to have a section of my skin taken off after I die and used to make a banjo skin, so I can make music from beyond the grave :-)

  • Glodson

    Next time you’re feeling a ‘negative’ emotion, just try to feel it and
    see what it’s like; get it know it so you can recognize it in others.

    I like this. Being sad isn’t a negative. Being hurt isn’t a negative. Being angry isn’t a negative. These aren’t bad things. These are just emotions, emotions that need to be dealt with. They can lead to bad decisions if not addressed, if they are what you base your actions on.

    But feeling them? Acknowledging them? That’s good. People feel how they feel. Dealing with the emotion can help them see the situation for what it is. Burying the emotion isn’t a good idea, and it can be all too easy to bury an emotion that people see as bad.

    Great post. Sounds like you will make a wonderful mortician, one able to help people deal with death.

  • Pulse

    This was a wonderful post and exactly what I needed to hear right now. But now I’m curious, what is step two? After acknowledging that grief is natural and shouldn’t be suppressed, what do I do next to help a mourner through a difficult situation? Just encourage them to cry it out?

    • Cambridge

      Mostly just be there. People often say “Call me if you need anything!” but that never happens since people who are in a state of grief aren’t rational. So, my suggestion would be to just show up and hang out with them. Sometimes, you can’t let people turn you down and other times they really do just need time to themselves. Guess you’ll find out which one it is when you show up!

      • Pulse

        Good advice. Thank you.

      • Lord Custard Smingleigh

        I have yet to find someone who doesn’t appreciate “Hey, I know you probably don’t feel like cooking right now, I’m going to drop off some (*cooked meal you can feasibly reheat*) so you can have a meal when you need it”.

        • Cambridge


  • Delphine

    In my first week of mortuary school, I had a professor tell me atheists could never do well in this business. I obviously begged to differ; not having a horse in the religion race frees me up to empathize with all families equally, rather than favoring those who are in “my tribe”, in my opinion. Glad I am not the only one out there although it really feels like it sometimes!

    • Cambridge

      I was told that as well. Not so outright as you, it sounds like. Where did you go to mort school? Are you still working in the field?

      • Delphine

        Washington state, and yes. The program here is newly-accredited and the professor who made the statement is rather old-school. A very blunt, tell it like it is sort. I think as we got to know each other he came to realize that my personality wasn’t the confrontational, in-your-face sort that would make this a work related issue, and I give him the benefit of the doubt that his concern was less about how I would handle the work and more about whether a largely religious community would accept an atheist funeral director.

        • Cambridge

          Glad to know there’s something out there besides the Minnesota State program now. Also glad to know that he took the time to get to you, even after saying something dumb like that.

          How long have you been working?

          • Delphine

            Not long; I just wrapped up graduating and passing the board exam last year. I squealed with excitement when I saw this post!

          • Cambridge

            WELL DONE!! Good luck in your apprenticeship endeavours!

  • Roger

    My great-uncle was a mortician, and I visited him at his funeral home several times. One time I asked him what exactly he did, and he explained the whole embalming process to me. (He didn’t show me since A: I was only about 8, and B: he didn’t have a client at the time.) I salute you for both your compassion and your skills.

  • Ratih Gema

    minta maaf kepada semua pendukung Arsenal

    Berita olah
    raga tekini dari agen bola online – setelah The Gunners kalah 1-3 dari Aston
    Villa dalam laga perdana Liga Inggris (Premier League) yang digelar di
    Stadion Emirates, Sabtu (17/8). Manajer Arsenal, Arsene Wenger minta maaf
    kepada para pendukung setia klub itu

    Arsenal ditekuk The Villans di kandang sendiri.
    Pasukan Wenger sempat unggul berkat gol Olivier Giroud. Kegembiraan tidak
    bertahan, karena Villa membalikkan skor lewat dua gol yang dicetak oleh
    Christian Benteke dan Antonio Luna.

    Berita yang dirangkum oleh agen bola terpercaya , Wenger tampak gundah selama pertandingan
    setelah ia mendengar nyanyian dari para pendukung setia klub itu yang
    menyuarakan imbauan agar segera membeli pemain anyar sebelum jendela transfer
    ditutup pada 2 September.

    Sumber :

  • Rima Mar

    Rodgers Atas Gol Timnya

    olah raga terbaru dari agen bola terpercaya – Pelatih Liverpool Brendan Rodgers menampik anggapan timnya
    sulit mencetak gol pada babak kedua. Menurut Rodgers, ia tidak terlalu
    mencemaskan statistik.

    “Memang terekam jelas kami belum mencetak gol pada babak kedua, dan
    terkadang data seperti itu mengejutkan. Mungkin di beberapa pertandingan kami
    bermain lebih bertahan, tapi kami tak melakukannya saat melawan Swansea. Saya
    tak terlalu cemas,” kata Rodgers.

    Agen bola terbaik
    - Rodgers juga yakin, kecenderungan
    The Reds untuk tak mencetak gol pada babak kedua pun tak dipengaruhi faktor
    fisik pemainnya. Apalagi ia mengklaim kondisi timnya jelang lawan Sunderland
    sangat baik.