How Do Funeral Homes Prepare A Body For A Funeral? (2024)

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Funeral homes play an essential role in preparing the deceased for their final journey. They take care of many things, from picking up the body to arranging the funeral service, but it's not often that you'll find someone who knows about the behind-the-scenes of this profession.

If you've ever wondered what exactly happens to a body once a funeral home takes over, you've come to the right place. Below you'll find a step-by-step outline and answers to common questions.

Step 1: Transporting the body

The first step in preparing a body is to transport it to the funeral home. Typically, this is done by a team of professionals who specialize in handling and transporting deceased individuals. The team will carefully move the body from its place of death and transport it to the funeral home.

When transporting a deceased individual, funeral directors use vehicles that are specifically designed to handle bodies in an appropriate and respectful manner. In most cases, the body is placed in a special body bag or on a stretcher for transferring before being placed in the vehicle. When arriving at the funeral home, the body is moved using a gurney or special lift.

Step 2: Cleaning and dressing

Once the body arrives at the funeral home, it's time to begin preparing it for the final disposition of the body. The first step in this process is cleaning and dressing the body. Cleaning and dressing a body is an important part of the funeral home's responsibilities in preparing the deceased for a traditional burial or cremation. For direct burials or direct cremations, this step is typically skipped by the funeral home or cremation company. Here is an overview of the typical process involved:

  1. Initial preparation: Before beginning the cleaning and dressing process, funeral home staff will ensure the body has been properly identified and all necessary legal and medical paperwork has been completed.
  2. Cleaning the body: Funeral home staff will typically clean the body using warm water and a mild soap or disinfectant solution. They will pay special attention to areas such as the face, hands, and hair, ensuring that all traces of dirt, oil, or other substances are removed. In some cases, the body may be embalmed prior to cleaning to preserve the tissue and prevent further decomposition.

Throughout the process of cleaning and dressing the body, funeral home staff will maintain a high level of professionalism and respect for the deceased and their family. They will work carefully and diligently to ensure the body is prepared appropriately and with the utmost care and attention to detail.

If you're concerned about how to dress a dead body for a funeral, it's a great idea to check in with your funeral director to see what kinds of outfits are generally appropriate. Most people will opt for the final dress to be something formal or a favorite outfit of the deceased.

Step 3: Embalming (optional)

Embalming is a process of chemical treatment that is used to temporarily delay the natural process of decomposition of a deceased body. This is typically chosen by families who want to have an open casket at the funeral so that the deceased can be viewed.

The first step of the embalming process is to make a small incision near the base of the neck, through which an artery is accessed. The embalmer then pumps a mixture of chemicals, typically a combination of formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, and other preservatives, into the artery using a specialized machine known as an embalming pump. This solution is slowly circulated through the body, effectively replacing the blood with the embalming fluid.

In addition to arterial embalming, the embalmer may also make small incisions in various parts of the body, such as the hands, feet, or abdomen, to ensure that the embalming fluid reaches all parts of the body. This process is known as cavity embalming.

It is important to note that embalming is not always necessary, and it is typically only preferred if the family chooses to have an open-casket funeral and/or a viewing.

Step 4: Hair and makeup

The process of styling a deceased person's hair and applying makeup is an important part of preparing them for an open-casket funeral or viewing (but some people still choose to do this before a cremation or burial where the body will not be seen). The process typically includes cleaning the face, styling the hair, and applying makeup. Before applying makeup, funeral home staff will typically clean the deceased's face with a gentle cleanser or water to remove any dirt, oil, or other substances.

Once the face is cleansed, the staff may use cosmetics to enhance the deceased's appearance and create a more lifelike look. They may apply foundation, powder, blush, and lipstick to create a natural-looking complexion. They may also use mascara, eyeliner, and eyeshadow to define the eyes and create a more lifelike appearance. The makeup will typically be applied with great care and sensitivity, taking into account the deceased's wishes and cultural or religious customs.

The deceased person's hair will be washed and styled according to the family's wishes or cultural traditions. The funeral home staff will typically use gentle hair products and styling tools to ensure that the hair looks neat and well-groomed. If the hair is particularly long, it may be braided or styled in an updo to prevent tangling.

You can work with your funeral director if you have objections or concerns about how the deceased will be dressed and made up for their viewing. The main objective of this step is to make the deceased appear as natural, peaceful, and well-groomed as possible.

Step 5: Placing in casket or cremation container

Once the body has been prepared and the casket has been lined and prepared, the funeral home staff will gently place the body into the casket. They will typically ensure that the body is properly positioned and that the clothing and bedding are neat and tidy. This is a time when you can work with your funeral director to determine the pose you'd like the deceased to be in or to inquire about leaving items of significance alongside the deceased in their casket.

Now that you have a step-by-step overview of the process, you can feel more comfortable and knowledgeable about what goes into the preparation of a loved one for their final viewing.

Frequently asked questions

Below are some common questions people have when it comes to preparing and dressing a body for a funeral.

How do funeral homes dress bodies?

Funeral homes typically dress the body in clothing chosen by the family, often referred to as "burial clothes." The clothing should be appropriate for the occasion and reflect the deceased's personal style and cultural or religious customs. Some cultures have specific clothing requirements for burial, such as a white robe for Hindu funerals or a simple, dark suit for Jewish funerals.

In some cases, funeral homes may provide specialized clothing for the deceased, such as a burial shroud for those who choose a natural burial. The funeral home staff will carefully dress the body, ensuring the clothing is neat and the body is arranged in a comfortable, dignified position.

What do funeral homes do with the blood from dead bodies?

During embalming, blood is often drained from the body and replaced with embalming fluid. Funeral homes will dispose of the blood and other bodily fluids in a safe, sanitary manner, typically following local regulations. In some cases, the blood may be treated as medical waste and disposed of through a licensed medical waste disposal company.

How is a body placed in a casket?

Funeral home staff will typically place the body in a casket after it has been dressed and prepared for viewing. They may use a variety of techniques to ensure the body is arranged in a natural, comfortable position, such as using pillows or padding to support the head and limbs. The casket is then closed and prepared for transportation to the burial or cremation site.

What do undertakers do to a dead body?

Undertakers, also known as funeral directors or morticians, are responsible for preparing the deceased for burial or cremation. This typically involves embalming the body to preserve it and prevent decomposition, dressing and grooming the body, and arranging it in a casket or other suitable container.

In addition to these tasks, undertakers may also assist with funeral planning and coordinating with other service providers, such as florists or musicians. They may also provide emotional support to the family and help them navigate the difficult process of arranging a funeral or memorial service.

What do funeral homes do with organs?

Funeral homes are not in charge of removing organs, even during embalming. When embalming, the organs stay intact and inside the body. In cases where organs are removed for donation, funeral homes will work closely with the medical professionals performing the removal involved to ensure the body is prepared appropriately.

Are organs removed during embalming?

Organ removal is not a standard part of the embalming process. Embalming is a technique used to preserve the body and prevent decomposition, and it typically involves draining the blood and replacing it with embalming fluid. Organs are only removed if the family has given permission for donation or if the organs are being removed for medical research purposes.

Funeral homes play an important role in preparing deceased bodies for burial or cremation. The staff will carefully dress and arrange the body, place it in a casket, and ensure it is transported safely to the final resting place. If you're looking for a funeral home to work with, feel free to browse Ever Loved's database to easily get in touch with funeral homes near you. You can compare pricing, read reviews, and quickly contact funeral homes all in one place.

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The Funeral Industry

Last updated September 21, 2023

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How Do Funeral Homes Prepare A Body For A Funeral? (2024)
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