Let's get one thing straight right up front: Shawntel Newton, the fourth place finalist on 'The Bachelor' this season, loves her job as a funeral director and embalmer, but not so much that she takes all the guys she dates back to the mortuary for a little show and tell on the embalming table.
That was purely the producers' idea, and you can hardly blame them. It isn't every day they get a contestant with such a unique and interesting profession. And that was probably what did her in. Shawntel was released at the end of the hometown visit episode, mostly because Bachelor Brad Womack didn't "deal with death very well."
Born to it
Death, however, is Shawntel's life, and she makes no apologies. "I love my job for many reasons, but mostly because it combines my three passions," she told AOL Jobs. "Science, psychology, and caring for the elderly, because so many of the family members are older."
Her interest in the profession of her father actually surprises her a little. Sure, as she and her two younger sisters were growing up in Chico, Calif., they used to play at the funeral home when there was no babysitter, and they'd often cry, "Daddy, show us who's in the box!" 'My Girl,' with Jamie Lee Curtis, was her favorite movie. But death was still a bit strange to them, and none of them had any intention of following in their father's footsteps.
It wasn't until she took the Meyers Briggs personality test, after her first year of college, that she considered taking the funeral business seriously. It showed that she could excel in that field above all others. "I thought, 'no way!'" she says. "There were other caretaking jobs that would have been good for me as well, like social worker and therapist, and I thought of pursuing those; but in the meantime, I started working with my dad at the Newton Bracewell Funeral Home, mostly because there weren't a lot of other jobs out there.
The science of it
She started out doing office duties, and not coming in contact with the dead. Then one day her father asked her if she would like to accompany him on a "removal," (the process of picking up a body after the person has died). "It was an elderly lady. I watched my dad being so gentle with her husband, and I admired the way he was talking to him. He was like a therapist," she remembers.
She became more involved in the business when her father asked her to assist an embalming. "That's where the science part kicked in," she says. "I've always loved biology and science. I would have liked to go into pathology, but knew it would take too many years of schooling."
She spent two-and-a-half years to get her degree at American River College, and found that her course of study was not unlike that of a nurse, with many anatomy and biology classes. But to be a funeral director, it was also necessary to study different religions. She is now licensed to be both an embalmer and a funeral director.
She's also had to learn to school her emotions; suicides and infant deaths are the most difficult, she says. And she's fascinated when she has the opportunity to assist with an autopsy. You'd be surprised at the number of things that could go wrong, even though the body is already dead, she relates. "If you're not careful, the body can swell or discolor. The wrong mix of chemicals can turn a person bright, Hulk green."
The problem with it
All this information, plus their stroll through the mausoleum and a demonstration of how the sharp tools are used, turned out to be a little too much for Bachelor Brad. He was not delighted to hear that her father loved his work as much as she did, and expected her to take over the family business in the not too distant future. Work with dead bodies made him squeamish. "He was a wimp," said the AOL reporterher, referring to Brad. "He was a wimp," Shawntel agreed.
But that didn't stop her from falling in love with him. He'd flown her to exotic islands, and in Las Vegas, he had taken her on a designer shopping spree that was the envy of all the other girls. "He treated me the way every woman deserves -- I'd never been treated that way before," she said. "I'm not going to lie. I was falling in love with him."
In the end, it was her profession that both spoiled her chances and got her through the disappointment of not being the ultimate one chosen. "I know how to handle grief," she said. "I do it every day. I'm familiar with all the steps, and I allowed myself to go through them." Four months later, she can honestly say, "I'm over it."
But when all is said and done, she still has a fulfilling profession, and the option of running the business one day, if she chooses. "I learned a lot from the show, and I may not always be in this exact position, but I love my job. It always comes down to the fact that it gives me the opportunity to do the the things that I'm interested in, that I'm passionate about. I get to help people. I serve. I'm a caregiver."
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