Becoming a mortician

Tracy's journey into the funeral industry began more than 10 years ago when she realised that her dream to become a scenes of crime officer, taking forensic photography, wasn't going to happen. She had chosen to move to Australia from the UK. Back home, being a SOCO was a civilian position. In Australia the job is done by police who specialise in forensic evidence collection. She needed a plan B.

Starting her work life as a hairdresser, Tracy had needed a change when she became suddenly allergic to colourants. She spent time working in collections for the Blood Service in the UK, so went back to this after arriving in Australia. From there, she moved into a medical rep position, which took her across Queensland selling medical supplies to clinics. Work was going well, but there was a nagging inside her that she needed to do something more.

A few years before, Tracy's life was turned upside down by the sudden death of her mother in a horrific accident, while on holiday in Malta. Viewing her mum's body and saying goodbye in person was not offered to Tracy and her sisters. And Tracy struggled with accepting the reality of losing her mum for the next 10 years as a result.

Closure and some kind of peace only came when Tracy joined the dots and realised she could help others who would struggle as she did by joining the funeral industry and doing what she could to make viewings possible, whenever she could.

She began as a funeral director's assistant, running errands, organising details like flowers and music for services and conducting transfers of the deceased. Now, almost 10 years later, she is in the final throws of her embalming course and has worked as a mortician for most of that time where she washes and prepares the deceased, and handles complex reconstructions that many would shy away from.

It happens frequently that another funeral home or the Coronor's office may advise a family that viewing their loved one is not advised. That injury, disfigurement or decomposition would make it too traumatic to see their loved one and in many cases the family proceed with a closed coffin at the service.

But as Tracy is so well aware, the emotional stress this can place on a close friend or relative can be unbearable - not actually really comprehending the death. Not believing they are actually in the coffin. Always expecting the person to walk through the door.

She understands that seeing, is believing.

And so she has made it her mission to make viewings available whenever there is a way. She has reconstructed children after motor vehicle accidents, rebuilt heads after shootings, sewn limbs back on and treated the early stages of decomposition with chemicals and airbrushing.

She has learned skills from other experts - there is no course for learning reconstruction techniques in Australia, as it had involved smashing cadavers to allow for reconstruction and was deemed too barbaric years ago. And she learns on the job - from doing. Of course there are still some cases where she advises the family's not to view. Seeing the mangled remains of their loved ones would be far more traumatising than not seeing them - but in some cases the family insists and, after a waiver is signed, they may do so.

Sometimes the face can't be rebuilt, but clever placement of a cloth shroud might leave a hand available to be held. Sometimes only part of the face can be viewed.

Clothing plays a major role in helping to disguise sutures and other tools of the trade read like a hardware shopping list.

But it's all in a days work - getting a great result to put the family at ease is Tracy's main focus. It's a job she does tirelessly, day in and out - never knowing what might come through the door - burns victims, water deaths, accidents, babies, homicide - she's seen it all.

Not everyone in the industry has been supportive of Tracy's candor about her job. But she firmly believes that death is very much a part of life and the more we understand what happens to our bodies after we die, the more choices people have in death - knowledge is power and in this case, it can bring comfort.

Tracy works as a mortician in Brisbane, Australia. Together with her good friend Trish she founded the YouTube channel Are You Dying To Know? to help shine some light on the funeral industry and answer questions from people across the globe that they may not have felt comfortable asking elsewhere. So tell us... Are you Dying to Know?

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