Finding Michael, part two
May 19, 2022
Season 6 | Episode 3

Finding Michael, part two

What the search for a loved one reveals about how the country handles death.

Before you dive into this episode, you’ll probably want to listen to last week’s show. In “Finding Michael, part one,” we introduce you to Stephanie Stone. For years, she’s been on a quest to find her late brother Michael’s gravesite. And when we told her we wanted to help, she wasn’t holding her breath for answers.

“I mean, I truly have zero expectations,” Stone said. “I don’t expect some, you know, gigantic miracle with a huge file.” 

Michael died in Austin, Texas, in 2009. At the time, his family didn’t claim his body because they couldn’t afford to pay for his burial. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of bodies go unclaimed in the United States each year due to financial reasons — just like Michael’s did. When that happens, the responsibility falls to local governments. Researchers say because there’s no standard system for caring for the unclaimed, it’s basically a patchwork that at times can feel almost secretive.

“The unclaimed tend to be hidden, a kind of secret dead of society,” said Pamela Prickett, a sociologist who studies the issue.

On this week’s episode, we navigate this complex patchwork and travel to Austin to pick up the search for Michael’s final resting place. Plus, we meet people from all over the country as we discover how unclaimed deaths are handled across the U.S., and why researchers believe this is a looming problem with big financial implications.

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“This Is Uncomfortable” is Reema Khrais, Donna Tam, Hayley Hershman, Camila Kerwin, Phoebe Unterman, Marielle Segarra and Marque Greene.

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The team

Hayley Hershman Senior Producer
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