How Is a Body Placed in a Casket or Mausoleum? | Cake Blog (2024)

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When a loved one passes, you may have many questions about the process of their funeral. While it may not have occurred to you previously, now might be the time when questions arise like "how is a body placed in a casket?"

Jump ahead to these sections:

  • How is a Body Put in a Coffin or Casket?
  • How is a Casket Placed in the Ground?
  • How is a Casket Placed in a Mausoleum?
  • Casket Alternatives
  • Placing a Body in a Casket or Mausoleum: FAQs

Before the funeral, there are plenty of arrangements to be made and things to do to ensure that your loved one's remains are taken care of properly. Keep reading for everything you need to know about how your loved one's body is prepared to get placed in the casket for a traditional funeral.

How Is a Body Put in a Coffin or Casket?

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Although there are different types of caskets, how a funeral team will place a body in a casket tends to be the same regardless. This general overview describes it. Some of these steps are different depending whether you choose between cremation or burial. For our purposes, we'll be discussing the steps for a traditional burial.

1. Preparation

Before anyone places a body in a casket, they typically need to prepare the body first.

This involves several potential steps. While the specific steps in the process can vary depending on several factors, such as how long someone has been dead, the following are relatively common:

Embalming

The first step in the embalming process is draining blood and other fluids from the chest cavity and organs. A specialist will make an incision beneath the rib cage, insert a suction pump tool, and use it to drain the chest cavity. Then they’ll do the same for all the necessary organs.

The specialist responsible for draining fluid may be the one responsible for removing any remaining contents of the bowels, bladder, and intestines as well. They’ll finally complete the process by distributing cavity fluid in certain essential areas. This guards against odors.

The embalming process comes next. This helps preserve the body for a viewing before a funeral or cremation. Additionally, certain embalming fluids, such as formaldehyde, restore some color to the skin of a body. This helps them look more “alive” and similar to how loved ones would have remembered them while they were living.

Keep in mind, though, if a funeral home has a refrigerator and loved ones plan on burying the deceased soon, there are instances when embalming isn’t necessary.

Adjusting appearance

With cotton wool, a specialist will pack a body’s nose and throat to prevent fluid from leaking out. They may also insert some cotton into the mouth to give it a plumper appearance.

Next, they’ll stitch the mouth closed from the inside, then dry the eyes, insert caps beneath the lids so they keep their shape, and sometimes add Vaseline or a similar product to keep them closed.

A technician will then wash and style the hair. If necessary, they may also shave the body and trim the nails. Finally, the body will be clothed with the items the family provided.

After all these steps are complete, someone will usually try their best to ensure the deceased’s face appears peaceful. Some specialists rely heavily on cosmetics, but not all, as they feel it can make a body look too “waxy” and artificial.

2. Placement

After preparing and dressing the body, it’s time to place it into a coffin or casket. The funeral home staff will recheck a body’s ID tag against its coffin to make sure they place it in the right one.

How they place a body in a casket depends on the equipment available to those handling the task. At some funeral homes, they use machines to lift the body and place them into caskets. At other funeral homes, trained staff members simply lift the body and carefully place it.

3. Arrangement

The process of placing a body into a casket isn’t necessarily done once the body is inside of the coffin.

The funeral home staff (or whoever else is handling this task) will typically arrange various parts of the body to ensure it has a dignified, peaceful appearance.

The head

At most open casket funerals, it’s customary to position the head at a slight angle. If the deceased looks like they’re staring down at their feet, they may look uncomfortable. However, if they’re laying with their head completely flat, they’ll appear too “corpse-like.” To make achieving the perfect angle easier, many will place a small block in the casket beneath the deceased’s head. When their head rests on this block correctly, the angle is perfect.

It’s also common to tilt the head to the right very slightly. This allows people to get a clear view of the deceased’s face when approaching the casket at a viewing. If the head wasn’t slightly tilted to the right, they would have to lean in too close to get a good look.

The hands

The traditional hand placement involves placing both hands so they rest on the abdomen, with the wedding ring hand resting on top of the other. It’s also important that the fingers comfortably touch. If the fingers aren’t touching, it can look as though the deceased is preparing to grab something. You can probably understand why that wouldn’t be a pleasant thought at a viewing.

To ensure the fingers stay together, the embalmer may wrap cotton around them during the embalming, that way they’ll stay together a day or two later when they remove the cotton.

The legs

Leg positioning is fairly simple. The goal is mainly to have the legs comfortably up against one another, with the feet pointed up. That said, depending on whether a family chooses a full-couch casket (open all the way), or a half-couch casket (open only on the top half), it's possible no one will see the legs at a viewing anyway.

It’s worth mentioning that the placements described above aren’t the only potential options in all instances. For example, if the deceased is a child, oftentimes the choice will be to let the hands simply lie at their sides, instead of being held together over the abdomen. That type of hand placement looks too “adult” or mature for a child’s body.

How is a Casket Placed in the Ground?

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Once the body is placed into the casket and the funeral is over, the next step is to place the casket into the ground. This requires several steps. While some of these take place before the family arrives for a funeral, a few take place after the service concludes.

1. Grave is "opened"

The opening of a grave is done prior to the funeral or graveside service, which is why you usually see the empty place ready for the casket when you arrive for a loved one's funeral.

To prepare the gravesite, cemetery workers need to open up the plot. This entails removing the dirt until there is a space anywhere from three to six feet deep and at least as wide as the casket. The depth of the space depends on individual state regulations.

2. Installation of the burial vault

Some cemeteries require a burial vault to combat the natural process of earth collapsing as buried caskets and bodies decay over time. It also helps prevent caskets from sinking or rising due to ground movement.

Vaults are usually made from concrete or metal and come in two pieces: the rectangular container and the lid. The container minus the lid is securely installed at this point.

3. Casket lowering device

Due to how much a casket weighs, cemeteries use devices that assist with the lowering process. The deice setup is completed prior to the graveside service. It is positioned over the prepared grave and the casket will be placed on top during the ceremony by pallbearers or cemetery staff.

4. The casket is lowered

When time, funeral staff will operate the casket lowering device and the casket will slowly be lowered into the prepared space.

5. Straps are removed

Once the casket is fully lowered, the straps that hold it in place for the descent are removed.

6. Vault lid is lowered

When the casket is lowered and the lowering straps removed, the cemetery staff will lower the vault lid onto the top of the vault. They may use the same casket-lowering device or something similar to complete this step.

7. The grave is filled

Cemetery staff will backfill the grave with soil and plant grass turf on top.

How is a Casket Placed in a Mausoleum?

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Cremating or burying the dead isn’t the only option after a funeral. Some choose to place a loved one’s coffin in an above-ground mausoleum instead. Keep reading for a detailed explanation of how a casket is placed into a mausoleum crypt.

1. Selection of the crypt

A mausoleum is a large building made up of individual burial spaces for caskets called crypts. Much like niches for urns in a columbarium, families will choose and pay for the crypt they want if placing a loved one in a public mausoleum.

2. The casket is placed into the crypt

Cemetery staff might use special equipment to insert the casket into the crypt depending on how high or low the space is. The casket should slide inside and fit the space perfectly.

3. The crypt is sealed

Once the casket is placed inside, an inner lid is placed over the crypt opening and is sealed. The sealing process ensures that the lid stays securely in place. It also prevents the elements from getting into the crypt while preventing any smell from leaking out.

Once the inner lid is secured, the outer decorative lid is then sealed into place, as well.

Casket Alternatives

If you're looking for a unique form of final disposition, you might choose to forgo wood or metal casketsaltogether. Here are some alternatives to the traditional burial in a casket.

1. Cremation

Cremation is a popular alternative to traditional burial and has even become more popular than burial. The two types you can choose are aquamation, or water-based cremation, and traditional cremation, or flame-based cremation.

With either option, remains are turned into "ashes" and given to the family. Popular options for ashes include:

  • Ashes in a single urn: Many families choose to keep their loved ones ashes, or cremains, in an urn. The urn might then be placed inside a niche at a cemetery or kept at home.
  • Ashes in multiple urns: Ashes can be split between multiple urns so more than one family member can keep their loved one close.
  • Memorial diamonds: Some companies, like Eterneva, can transform a small amount of the ashes into a real diamond, which you can then keep somewhere special or wear in a piece of jewelry.
  • Cremation jewelry: Other cremation jewelry incorporates a portion of the ashes into glass or resin or holds them in a stainless steel mini-urn like a necklace or bracelet pendant.
  • Cremation keepsakes: Some companies canturn cremated ashes into beautiful, natural-looking stones with Parting Stone, or infuse them into a piece of vibrant glass artwork.
  • Scattering ashes: Ashes can be scattered in a meaningful location. You might even consider scattering them on private property along with flower seed paper to create a lasting tribute.

2. Green burial

If returning to nature appeals to you, you can be buried without any casket at all. Green burials provide two alternatives to the traditional casket. These include:

  • Burial shroud: Aburial shroud is designed to decompose more quickly than wood, metal, or any other casket material. It is comprised of a simple fabric that is wrapped around the body before burial in the ground.
  • Green caskets: If you still like the idea of a casket, a green casket, or biodegradable casket, might be the best option for you. These caskets are made out of eco-friendly materials like wicker. They are completely biodegradable and contain zero plastics or metals.

Placing a Body in a Casket or Mausoleum: FAQs

Do you still have a few questions about the process of placing a body in a casket or mausoleum? Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions.

What are the different types of caskets?

If you're deciding to bury a loved one, then you'll need to choose a casket. There are many to choose from, so here is a quick breakdown on the types you'll see.

  • Full-couch: A full-couch casket has a lid that is one complete piece. For a viewing service, the entire lid is lifted and the whole body can be seen.
  • Half-couch: A half-couch casket has a lid that is divided in half. Only the half of the lid that covers a person's upper body is usually lifted during a viewing service.
  • Hardwood: Hardwood caskets are made from hard woods such as cedar, maple, and oak.
  • Softwood: Softwood caskets include caskets crafted from pine, fir, and spruce.
  • Metal: Metal coffins can be crafted from standard steel, stainless steel, bronze, and copper.
  • Eco-friendly: Eco-friendly, or green coffins, are made from biodegradable materials like particle board, untreated wood, and wicker.
  • Fantasy coffins: Made in Accra, Ghana, fantasy coffins are gaining popularity in the US. They are specially crafted coffins made in the shape of something to represent a hobby or job such as a plane, ship, or car.

What are the different kinds of mausoleums?

There are four types of mausoleums to consider when looking to bury a family member. Here are the types you'll encounter.

  • Private mausoleums: A private mausoleum is essentially a building with an above-ground burial space inside meant for the placement of a single casket.
  • Family mausoleums: A family mausoleum is a private building with multiple above-ground spaces for members of a family.
  • Public mausoleums: A public mausoleum is a public building with many crypts. Family members can choose and purchase the space of their choice to inter their loved ones.
  • Garden mausoleums: A garden mausoleum is an above-ground enclosed space with room for a casket. It is completely sealed from the outside and there is no way to access the casket.

Are mausoleums environmentally friendly?

In some areas of the world, the water table is so high that burying a casket directly in the ground would expose the groundwater to toxic embalming fluids and other fluids as a body decays. This is true in areas like New Orleans.

To prevent environmental disasters, mausoleums are encouraged as a solution for burying family members.

Are caskets environmentally friendly?

Some caskets, like untreated wood and "green" caskets are very environmentally friendly. These types will naturally biodegrade overtime without leaching any chemicals into the earth.

What is the difference between a crypt and a mausoleum?

The mausoleum is the building that holds multiple spaces or crypts for the placement of a casket. The crypt is the individual space that is purchased for the placement of a casket.

How much does a burial plot cost?

The cost of burial plots vary widely depending where in the world you are. In rural areas, you can find plots for as little as $500. But in areas where space is limited or the cemetery is in a desirable location, plots can be as much as $5,000, $10,000, or more.

How much does a mausoleum crypt cost?

A mausoleum crypt in a public mausoleum can range anywhere from $1,500 to as high as $20,000. As with burial plots, the price is directly related to the location and demand for the crypt.

How is a Body Placed in a Casket? A Delicate Process

Hopefully, this guide has answered your questions about how a body is placed in a casket. That said, it’s important to remember that methods can sometimes vary depending on the setting, resources, and other factors.

The processes this blog described are common, but they aren’t the only way people ever transfer bodies to caskets or mausoleums.

If you're looking for more burial resources, read our guides on cremation vs. burial and how to hold a burying ashes ceremony.

Sources:

  1. “Casket Entombment.” YouTube, Mount Pleasant Toronto, 28 June 2016, Youtube.com.
  2. Gerada, Clare. “What really happens when you die?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media Limited, 15 February 2008, Theguardian.com.
  3. “Positioning of bodies- Tips to get someone positioned in a casket just right.” YouTube, Kari the Mortician, 5 March 2018, Youtube.com
How Is a Body Placed in a Casket or Mausoleum? | Cake Blog (2024)
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