Where Do Funeral Homes Store Bodies?

A body at a funeral home can be stored briefly, embalmed, restored, decorated, dressed, or cremated. If you are going to have an event before your funeral, like viewings or a wake, or a casket-open funeral, the funeral home you are working with may request the body to be embalmed.

Funeral homes store bodies in a cool room called a mortuary. If the body is intended for burial, then the body is buried after the funeral wake. If nobody claims the body, then it meets one of two fates. It is either buried in a state-sanctioned cemetery or it is cremated and stored in a columbarium.

Most funeral homes will require the dead person’s body to be embalmed if the family has chosen to have a service or ceremony that includes viewings or an open casket.

In some countries, a corpse of the deceased is embalmed before disposition, making refrigeration unnecessary. Time–With refrigeration, one typically does not need to wait longer than 24 hours, if at all, for a body to be cremated. If you are using a funeral home, a body is typically kept in a refrigerator between 8 to 24 hours, which is determined by your local regulations. As long as you schedule your viewing or cremation soon after the passing of your loved one, you may ask for the body to be un-embalmed to reduce costs.

Bodies for Burying Are Embalmed

While nothing prevents a body from gradually decaying over time, embalming a body delays that process. However, by embalming a body, the process slows so that the eyes no longer protrude. While embalming does not prevent the natural process of decomposition, it may help the body look more like life, particularly if it is going to be displayed in the viewing chamber. Embalming disinfects the body, keeps it preserved for viewing and services for the time being, and reverts it to its natural, serene look.

Dry Ice- If you do not have access to a refrigeration unit, or are doing a home funeral, the body can be preserved for a short time by keeping it on dry ice. If the body is left at room temperature without treatment, it deteriorates rapidly, so in the funeral home, it will be placed in a refrigeration unit until the death is registered.

Once death has been certified, we will travel to the family home or hospital to take the body out and return it to the funeral parlor. When you die, your family will decide which funeral home they would like to use, then we get the call to come to pick up the body. We are always respectful to the family and allow time for them to say goodbye, but at the same time, we have a schedule to follow, and we have to return the body to the funeral home as quickly as possible.

We had bodies in here three to four months before we flew home to Africa to perform funerals. We all wanted the body treated with the utmost care, so it is a part of the last farewell to a lot of families.

The Funeral Director’s Approach to Burials

Funeral directors treat body preparations with the utmost care and respect, and they help fulfill a family’s ultimate wishes to say goodbye to a loved one. While a funeral director or mortician is responsible for the actual dressing of the body, clothing is chosen by the family. These activities may also be performed by a funeral director or a member of the family if death is occurring at home. Funeral directors can apply makeup to disguise the pallid look and may embalm a body, as necessary.

Funeral directors arrange transportation for the body, fill out any required documents, and carry out family choices regarding the funeral and final disposition of the body.

Once the body is free, some states permit families to deal with the body themselves but must hire a funeral director. Most places that have a death, like hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, or other legal facilities, will not release a body to anyone but licensed funeral directors or people representing a licensed institution. Some in the funeral home industry believe people may even be able to handle bodies themselves in the home.

You may still get the traditional viewing during services, but the funeral home would not charge as much for it since they could re-use the casket. No Viewing — If the casket is closed for viewing, and nobody is going to view the body, you may be saving money and resources by not embalming it.

Bodies Intended for Open-Casket Funerals

For those planning an open casket funeral or one with an enclosed casket, proper attire will make sure that the body is presented. Once the body is dressed, hair and makeup are done, the body is placed into a coffin and placed in the private viewing room. The body is dressed before being placed into a coffin, sometimes two or three people will be dressed for the body.

The body is placed on a stretcher, covered, and transported from the scene of death — sometimes by hearse, but most often nowadays by minivan, which takes it to a funeral home. The body may be prepared and embalmed for a traditional service (see embalming, below), dressed and placed in cooling facilities for cremation, prepared for body donation or green burial, or arrangements may be made to be transported elsewhere by land or air. You fill out a Cause of Death document, and the body may be released for cremation or burial.

As a funeral director who directs the university’s mortuary sciences program, I can tell you that, although every individual’s experience in life is different, what happens to the body once it dies follows a widely predictable series of events. An individual’s death may be just as unique as his or her life, and having the correct information helps to keep you informed when making these important decisions.

Perhaps reading up on what happened to the body and what people at a funeral home did with it is going to help you take a step back for some clarity. There are a lot of questions to answer once your loved one has passed away, and some of these questions revolve around the preparation and the appropriate disposal of the body.

Gene Botkin

Gene is the director of the Theosis Christian Project. He studied physics and military science before founding the Project. Gene is currently pursuing his doctorate in systems engineering at an engineering college in the Ozarks. The Theosis Christian Project is his attempt to expand Holy Orthodoxy in America.

Recent Posts