What Happens in Body Embalming?

What is an Embalming?

There is not much information on the web today regarding the embalming process of a body. Frankly, its not the most pleasant subject to talk about however, when people face a loss and death of a loved one, this information can be very valuable.

So why is embalming necessary for the deceased? When people choose to bury a loved one as opposed to cremation, the body is normally embalmed prior to burial. This is especially important when there will be a viewing or wake prior to the service. A wake is when the family members and perhaps a few close friends gather to view the body in the casket. Generally, there is a short prayer ceremony that also occurs during the viewing day. Catholic funeral services often include a wake a few days or the day before a funeral service. Although embalming is not required by law it is performed on a large percentage of bodies that will be buried.

Embalming is quite an old technique. This is a method of perservation that dates back to the Egyptians. It is a means to slow down the decomposition of the body. In the event bereaved family members want time to view the body before burial, embalming keeps the body from further decomposition.

The embalming process is considered to be rather simple if the death was from natural causes and not from an accident which may have caused disfiguration.

Embalming involves removing and replacing the body's blood with a solution that preserves the body and slows down the decomposition. Preservative chemicals are injecting into the body's arterial system and the blood and fluids drained from the venous system.

Instruments are used to pierce the internal organs and preservative chemicals are injected into the body's cavity to delay decomposition. The body's protein is converted from a liquid into a gel state which prevents bacteria from growing and further slowing down the process of decomposition.

If an autopsy needs to be performed, vital organs are removed and immersed in the embalming fluid and then replaced in the body by a preservative substance or powder.

Once this procedure is completed, the embalmer will dress the body and apply makeup or cosmetics that are appropriate for the age and gender. At times, cosmetics are used to restore or rebuild certain physical features, if slight disfiguration has occured.

The embalming process is performed by a licensed professional which can be either a funeral director or a licensed embalmer. It is necessary to embalm a body, if it needs to be transported to another state or the deceased has died from a contagious disease. The process of refrigeration can also be used to hold the body in a process state for a few days. This method is usually more cost effective than embalming.

If you the body will be moved to another state for a funeral or burial, its best to check with a memorial funeral home or funeral society to see if there are any state regulations regarding embalming.

Because there is not much information on the internet today, for someone to understand the process of embalming, it is good to get an idea of what the procedure consists of. Embalming could eventually be done to most of us or someone we love.

Normally during an embalming process, the family is not present so you do not actually view an embalming of a loved one. Most people do not have a desire to view this process, so it is done privately by a licensed professional.

Comments 32 comments

A.M. Gwynn 7 years ago

I like this hub. It's real, candid, and informative. Exactly what is needed. Of course it is never an easy subject to speak on, but people do want to know these things. Great hub!


carolegalassi profile image

carolegalassi 7 years ago from California Author

Yes, your right A.M. Gwynn-- most do not want to know about this process until we are actually faced with it or having to decide upon it. Thanks for visiting.


zara mawer 6 years ago

hi im realey wanting to do this but the corse is £4000 have u any ideas as to what i should do as i carnt afford that amount of money! thanku zara yorkshire x


carolegalassi profile image

carolegalassi 6 years ago from California Author

zara, there might be some organizations that can assist you with the finances in your local area. I would start there and see if they offer this.


caylee 6 years ago

hehe ur helping me with my science project....thank yeww :)


rina 5 years ago

very helpful. that helps me with my upcoming course.


zoe 5 years ago

hi how are you today


Ryoko 5 years ago

Very interesting. Thxs for posting!


la 5 years ago

nice info


Rach 5 years ago

Your information has been really helpful, my dad died just before Christmas and was burried, but I've had lots of unknown answers to questions and your information has helped me to understand the process of what's happened to his body since. Thank you


shelby 5 years ago

I am very interested in funerals I wanted to be an embalmer but was turned down cause being a woman. My question how long it ttakes to bloat n why eyes turn white.


peter rogulski 4 years ago

is there any way you can view a embalming


carolegalassi profile image

carolegalassi 4 years ago from California Author

Peter, If your referring to the family being able to view the procedure, I think in most states, the family is not permitted to view the embalming process. If you are just interested in becoming an embalmer, you may be able to shadow a licensed embalmer and watch the process.

Most families do not want to view the embalming simply because it may not be the most pleasant thing to watch their loved one undergo even if they have passed. But it is always a good idea to ask the funeral home or mortuary that is performing this procedure permission to do so, if you feel strongly about viewing it.


shontelle 4 years ago

thankyou i have learnt alot from reading this as i want to become an embalmer one question tho how do i go about shadowing a licensed embalmer ?? implaning on looking into what courses i can do to become an embalmer next year as im moving to rotorua


sandra 4 years ago

How long will a body last without embalming and how long does a body last if embalmed before decaying?


Doreen 4 years ago

Ihave just lost my beloved father and after reading your site i am more at peace knowing about the next step and their after what happens before he is completely at rest many thanks for your help


james d 4 years ago

Is it possible to view what goes on doing embalming


kirsty hurn 4 years ago

im doing my embalming course soif any questions u want answered plz feel free to email me on kirstyhurn_@hotmail.com xx


Dan 4 years ago

What I want to knowi s what happens when funeral directors have taken charge fo the body and there is some precious metal inside the body cavity i.e. mouth and i.e. platinum or gold teeth. Who "owns" the body after the person has passed? What rights do they have to the precious metals?


carolegalassi profile image

carolegalassi 4 years ago from California Author

Dan, the family is generally the one who is given the option of what to do with any metal inside the deceased body. If cremated, the crematory must remove all metals, pace makers, etc. in the body. The family will need to notify the crematory of any such items in the body. Because of the high heat intensity of cremation, metals and other items are not combustible or if burned would emit harsh chemicals. The family is ask prior to cremation what they would like to do with the metals after removal.

If the body is traditionally buried, the family should let the funeral director know before the embalming process what metals they would like to remove. I believe those metals are given to the family or disposed of if the family desires.


Tania 4 years ago

Very helpful to folks wanting to know basic procedure. Embalming a body shows the respect it deserves!


punky 4 years ago

It it nice to know what really happens, to the body

after embalming, and I found my answer..... Thank you


annaglomesh profile image

annaglomesh 4 years ago from Australia

Good article... I am a qualified Embalmer and you covered it well...obviously there is a lot to do when you are actually performing all these procedures ... hard to explain it all but you certainly gave a great overview.


carolegalassi profile image

carolegalassi 4 years ago from California Author

Thank you annaglomesh, coming from an Embalmer, that is quite a compliment on this hub!


Tracy 4 years ago

Im not happy,the way the undertakers put across,this service! I lost my 20 year old son eight years ago....i was asked "would you like us to wash your sons body" I said "NO" I since found out this is Embalming ....... shocking!!!


annaglomesh profile image

annaglomesh 4 years ago from Australia

Every funeral director is different..however in Australia where I worked we had to explain things clearly to family members and get their written permission before embalming occurred ( and only if needed)...we took specific instructions whether family wanted washing, no washing, embalming, no embalming...a lot depends on time frames and whether it is an open casket or not etc....


jim brinson 4 years ago

do i need a certain degree to work with professional & the famlies. is the passing away process, does it hurt us . in this business- will it remind us of loosing our own family & friends. i want to help these families ... i really do care about people & want to help them. thank you, jim


carolegalassi profile image

carolegalassi 4 years ago from California Author

Hello Jim,

You do not need a license to care for families that are bereaved but you do need a license to remove deceased bodies. I believe this is a funeral director's license. It is helpful however to be educated on how to deal with the bereaved as it often requires certain characteristics and sensitivity depending on the circumstance. Thanks for dropping by!


Maria 3 years ago

This was very informative it has answered most of my questions. I have just lost my mother a week ago.


carolegalassi profile image

carolegalassi 3 years ago from California Author

Maria, I am so very sorry to hear of your loss. I am glad this post was helpful to you as my goal was to write and help educate those who have suffered a loss. Take care.


Karina 3 years ago

I just lost my grandma a week ago and this process was done to her, yes it was very expensive.


sul 3 years ago

My daughter's is a funeral director & embalming specialist. I knew when she was very young that she had the passion for it, just by the way she behaved. She loved horror movies, blood and guts, and just a little odd, perfect job for her. :)

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working