How is a Body Placed in a Casket for Viewing? – Explore Forensics (2024)

Losing a loved one and talking about death is never easy. But it’s also understandable to have questions regarding your loved one.

What happens to them once their body arrives at the funeral home? How is the body of my loved one put into a casket? Why are my loved one’s legs covered?

These questions are valid and should be answered to give you a good understanding of what goes on to ensure that your loved one has a successful viewing.

Read ahead to find out the answers to some of your questions.

How is a Body Placed in a Casket?

It’s important to understand that several steps must occur before the deceased’s body can be placed in a casket and ready for viewing. Some specific things need to happen depending on the conditions that the body is received in. The following steps are the most common.

Bathed and Massaged

The body of your loved one will be undressed and placed on their backs on a table. Their private areas will be covered to protect their modesty.

The body will then be washed and disinfected while the arms and legs are gently massaged to relieve rigor mortis. Carefully bending and relaxing the muscles will give the arms and legs a more natural appearance.

Caring for the Face

Usually, with the help of a photo, the funeral director will do everything to ensure that the deceased look the way they did when they were alive. The funeral director will pack the nose and throat with a wool-like cotton to prevent any fluid from escaping. Cotton will also be placed into the mouth.

The eyes will be posed with an eyecap to keep them looking natural, and the mouth will be closed with sutures to keep it looking relaxed.


When a body is embalmed, it is being preserved for the upcoming viewing and funeral service. The body goes through many chemical changes in death, but thankfully, a funeral home can slow down these changes so that loved ones can see the deceased in the state they most remember them.

Special fluid for embalming is injected into the body to give the flesh a more natural color. At the same time the embalming fluid is being put in, the body’s vessels are drained of blood. Any incision made to inject the embalming fluid is done in specific areas of the body that will not show to those at the viewing.

Draining the Bodily Fluids

Any bodily fluids will now be removed from the chest cavity and organs. Any contents left in the stomach or bowels will be removed as well. This process will prevent any unwanted odors that may come from the body.

Preparing the Hair, Nails, and Makeup

Once your loved one’s body has been prepared, their hair will be washed and styled in a way that most closely resembles how they usually wore it when they were alive.

The fingernails will be neatly trimmed and filed, and the funeral director will apply unique makeup to ensure that the deceased looks peaceful and rested. A deceased woman will usually have more makeup applied to give color to her cheeks and lips as she would have done during her life.

The deceased will then be dressed for the viewing. Typically a suit or a lovely dress would be used to dress your loved one in.

Placement of the Body in the Casket

Once the body of your loved one has been prepared and dressed, they will be placed into the casket chosen by the family.

Each funeral home does things a little differently when it comes to placing the body. Some funeral homes have machines that gently lift the body and put them into the casket. Some have staff members who will collectively lift the body and carefully place them into the casket.

Arranging the body in the casket is usually done in a series of steps to ensure that the body rests in a peaceful and dignified position.

Placing the Head

If the viewing for the deceased is an open casket, their head will usually be positioned at a slight angle. A small block is generally placed behind the head to cradle it so that they look natural.

Most funeral homes will tilt the head to the right, allowing loved ones to get a clear view of the body as they approach the casket.

Positioning the Hands

The most common placement of the hands is placing them together, so they rest on the deceased’s stomach. If the person was married, the hand with the wedding ring is placed on top of the other.

Funeral directors will usually place the fingers so they are gently touching, giving the hands a natural and relaxed look. Often a piece of soft cotton may be used to keep the hands together during the viewing.

Positioning the Legs

The legs of the deceased should rest comfortably against one another, with the feet pointing upwards. Whether or not the family has chosen a full couch or a half-couch casket will allow viewers to see the legs of the deceased.

Full Couch Casket

The full couch casket is generally less prevalent throughout the United States, though it seems to be more commonplace in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

The top of a full couch casket is a single piece that is usually hinged. The top part of the casket is lifted in one piece, so the entire body of your loved one is visible.

Half Couch Casket (Also the reason why the deceased legs are usually covered)

Throughout the United States, the half-couch casket is most popular. The upper lid of the casket actually consists of two hinged pieces. This allows for the top part of the lid to stay open during visitation, allowing visibility from only the waist up of the deceased.


Though it is not easy to talk about preparing your loved ones for a viewing, rest assured that they will be taken care of.

How is a Body Placed in a Casket for Viewing? – Explore Forensics (2024)
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