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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Understanding the Embalming Process


It’s natural to be curious about certain elements of death and the funeral process that many other people would usually tend to shy away from. In fact, it’s so normal to feel this way, that it even has its own term – dubbed “morbid curiosity”.

Whether you’re curious or even interested in a career in the funeral industry, this article aims to give you a better understanding of what is known as the embalming process and why it is done.

What is Embalming?

Embalming is the act of preserving a deceased body using chemicals. It is an age-old procedure dating back to Ancient Egypt, with its modern methods beginning in Europe around the 17th and 18th centuries.

Why is Embalming Done?

The procedure aims to delay the natural effects that death has on the body. This is mainly done to improve the appearance of the body, ensure the deceased looks peaceful and natural so that family can view their loved one before or even during the funeral (if it’s an open casket funeral) and remember them as they were in life, free from the visible signs of death.

The body will be kept and maintained in special storage at a funeral directors and can be visited in the chapel of rest by family (and sometimes close friends if permitted).

If the funeral takes a little longer than usual, such as delays, allowing for family that live far away to arrange travel or even the death taking place abroad and the body needing to be transported back home (can be known as repatriation), embalming may be recommended to maintain the body for longer. 

This enables visitors in the chapel of rest or at an open casket funeral to still view the body in a pleasant and peaceful state, and therefore be more comforting to those who are grieving. 

Alongside embalming, a funeral director or the embalmer will usually groom the deceased, trimming and styling hair, dressing them in chosen clothing, applying makeup/cosmetics and using other techniques to further improve the appearance and reduce distress to loved ones.

How Is Embalming Done?

Embalming typically begins with the cleansing of the body which is done by a skilled professional. This professional, the embalmer, carefully washes and disinfects the deceased to remove any traces of bodily fluids.

Once cleaned, arterial embalming begins, where a special fluid, known as embalming fluid, is injected into the arteries. This fluid, composed of chemicals like formaldehyde, acts as a preservative, slowing down decomposition and restoring a natural appearance to the body.

Next, the embalmer may perform cavity embalming, which involves removing internal fluids and replacing them with a preservative solution. This step helps prevent internal decay and further preserves the body. Afterward, the embalmer may address any visible wounds or injuries, restoring a natural and dignified appearance.

Throughout the process, the embalmer ensures meticulous attention to detail, working with utmost care and respect for the deceased and their family.

Embalming and Cultural Practices 

It’s important to note that embalming practices may vary depending on cultural or religious customs.

Certain religions prohibit embalming due to beliefs about death. It’s important for families to discuss their preferences and consult with funeral professionals who understand and respect these cultural practices.

Is Embalming Necessary?

No, embalming is not necessary. It is completely up to the family, or possibly the wishes of the deceased.

It does however give you a longer time frame in which to view the body. If you choose not to embalm, the body will still be cared for and groomed, washed, and dressed in an outfit of your choosing.

It’s also worth noting that embalming can cost around £120 to £200, but this varies between different funeral homes.

The Role of the Funeral Director 

A funeral director plays a vital role in coordinating the embalming process. They guide the family through the decision-making process, ensuring their wishes are respected and understood. 

Funeral directors work closely with embalmers to ensure that every aspect of the process aligns with the family’s desires and cultural practices.

Final Thoughts

The embalming process is a time-honoured practice that allows families to say their final goodbyes and remember their loved ones with dignity. 

Skilled embalmers and compassionate funeral directors work together to ensure that this process is carried out with care, respect, and attention to detail, providing solace and comfort during a difficult time.

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