How a Body is Placed in a Casket - Wilsons Funeral Advice (2024)

When a body is brought to a funeral home, it is first cleaned, arranged,and embalmed (if requested). Once the preparation is complete, the body is thenmoved to the casket.

The body can be placed inthe casket by being lifted by several individuals or with the assistance of abody lift. Larger funeral homes have a body lift as it is hard work to lift abody.

Once the body is carefullyplaced in the casket, it is then situated in a respectful position for theviewing.

Moving the Body to the Casket

Once a body is cleaned and dressed, it is then ready to be moved to thecasket. A body can be moved to a casket by hand or with a body lift:

1. Placing a Body in a Casket by Hand: If the body is small or the funeral home doesn’t have a body lift, the mortician will transfer the body to the casket by hand.

If there are multiplepeople available to move the body, the mortician will place the foot of thecasket by the head of the body so that the body can be shifted from the tableto the casket with minimal effort. The body will be placed on a sheet on atable. The people moving the body will roll the edges of the sheet, and thenlift the sheet together and carefully slide the body into the casket.

If the mortician is movingthe body without assistance, they will position the caskethorizontally-adjacent to the table. They will lift the deceased’s upper bodyand place it in the casket, and then lift the bottom half of the body and placeit in the casket.

How a Body is Placed in a Casket - Wilsons Funeral Advice (1)

2. Placing a Body in a Casket with a Body Lift: Moving bodies by hand can be backbreaking work. Therefore, more and more funeral homes are making the switch to body lifts.

When it is time to move abody to the casket, straps are placed under the head, shoulders, hips, andfeet. The straps are connected to the body lift, which can be hand cranked toslowly raise the body off the table.

The lift can then bemaneuvered to the casket, where the body is slowly lowered down. Once the bodyis placed in the casket, the straps are removed.

Most body lifts hold about1,000 pounds. Some are built into ceiling tracks, while others move on wheels.The nice thing about body lifts is that they are safer and easier for themortician, and ensure bodies are moved as smoothly as possible.

Arranging the Body in the Casket

Once the body has been placed in the casket, the final step is arrangingthe body. Each portion of the body is carefully arranged to make the deceasedlook relaxed and peaceful for the viewing:

1. Head Placement: Coffins and caskets come with a built-in pillow for the deceased’s head. The head is placed on a slight angle so they are not looking up or down.

If they are looking too farup, it can appear as if they are looking at the ceiling and can affect theirfacial expression. However, if the head is tilted too far down, it can createan unflattering angle and make them appear uncomfortable.

The head is also typicallytilted slightly to the right, so that the deceased is facing mourners when theyapproach the casket during the viewing.

2. Facial Expression: The facial expression is predominantly set before the embalming occurs. However, facial features are once again checked once the head has been placed to ensure that nothing has moved or shifted.

Morticians aim to make thedeceased appear to be in a peaceful sleep. Therefore, it is important to ensurethat the eyelids, mouth, and muscles in the face are all properly placed. Ifthe facial expression is not set correctly, the deceased may appear scared,sad, or in pain.

3. Hand Placement: The hands are typically crossed over the stomach. However, if the deceased’s hands aren’t able to meet in the middle of the body, they will be placed at their sides. Kids’ hands are almost always placed at their sides, as it is seen as a more natural position for a child.

When the hands are crossedover the stomach, the left hand is placed over the right hand to displaywedding rings, as appropriate. If the hands don’t rest naturally, the thumbswill sometimes be bound together to keep them from hovering above one another.

4. Leg Placement: At most viewings, only the top half of the casket will be open, so the legs will not be visible. However, most morticians will still set the legs in case they are revealed at any time.

The legs are laid outstraight, with the feet pointing up. The legs are typically gently touching, sothat they appear relaxed.

Preparing the Body

When a body is brought to a funeral home, it undergoes a number of stepsbefore it is placed in a casket:

1. Clean the Body:

First, the body is completely cleaned. This is done both out of respect for the deceased and for the health of the employees in the funeral home.

2. Arrange the Body:

Once the body has been cleaned, the mortician will then flex and massage the arms, legs, and fingers of the body to relieve muscle stiffness from rigor mortis.

Once the stiffness has beenremoved from the limbs, the body is then positioned how it will be in thecasket. If the body is to be embalmed, this will ensure that the embalming setsthe body in the correct position.

To ensure the fingers staytogether, they will typically be wrapped in cotton until after the embalming.

3. Set the Features:

Many funeral directors will confirm that setting the features is the most important step for preparing a body for a viewing. After all, how the features are set will denote the facial expression that the deceased gives off at the viewing.

If a body is going to beviewed or embalmed, the mortician will typically pack and seal any openorifices to keep the body from leaking and to help the face maintain a naturalposition.

The nose and throat willtypically be packed to stop fluid from leaking, and a pack of cotton will beinserted into the mouth to help set it correctly.

Depending on the state ofthe body, caps will be inserted under the eyelids to help the eyes maintaintheir shape. The eyes and mouth might also be glued or stitched together tohelp them stay closed.

4. Embalm and Drain the Body:

According to a 2019 New York Times Magazine article, about 50% of the people who die in the United States are embalmed. Though embalming is not necessary, it slows the decomposition process, allowing the body to be preserved for a viewing or funeral service.

Embalming is required by mostfuneral homes if there will be a public viewing, if a person died ofcommunicable diseases, or if the cremation or burial will be delayed more thana few days.

Embalming involves draining the body fluids andinjecting the arteries, tissues, and organs with chemical solutions. To learnmore about the embalming process, see How Long after Death You Can Have an Open CasketFuneral.

5. Cosmetics and Dress:

How a Body is Placed in a Casket - Wilsons Funeral Advice (2)

The final stage of the body preparation is to do the cosmetics and dress the deceased. Some families will have a beautician come in to style the deceased’s hair and makeup. However, the funeral home can also provide cosmetics if preferred.

The extent of the cosmetic procedures performed isentirely up to the family of the deceased. Morticians will wash and style thehair, and apply makeup to give the face a more lifelike appearance.

Some morticians will even dye hair, paint nails, or doother cosmetic treatments if the family requests them.

The mortician will also dress the deceased in theoutfit they will wear in the casket. The clothing chosen for the deceased istypically dependent on whether they are being cremated or buried, as well aswhether the family wants to use new clothing or clothing that was special tothe deceased.

You can find out more about dressing the deceased at The Best Colors for the Deceased to Wear at theFuneral.

Once the body is dressed, most morticians will thencut and clip the clothing to ensure that it lies smoothly on the body. Personalmementos, such as jewelry or glasses, can be placed on the body for the viewingand then removed before the body is buried or cremated.

Final Thoughts

Morticians work hard to ensure that the bodies they prepare are treatedwith both dignity and respect. Whenever a body is placed in a casket, it isdone carefully to ensure the body is not harmed.

If you have any other questions about how the body of your loved one will be placed in their casket, it is always best to ask your funeral home about their specific policies.

Writer: Taylor Steed

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