Embalming is the replacement of bodily fluids with a preservative solution, disinfecting the body, and preparing it for visitation by setting the features of the deceased to be more visually appealing. Historically, embalming is done with formalin (formaldehyde) solutions. Today, we have equally-effective alternatives that are not formaldehyde based.
We embalm for many reasons. The part of the law that many people will refer to when they say that embalming is necessary is a regulation. WAC 246-500-030 says “Funeral directors, embalmers, and others assisting in the preparation of human remains for final disposition must refrigerate or embalm the remains upon receipt.” The reason for this is simple: refrigeration and embalming serve to slow the decomposition process. It is unsanitary to leave the deceased around at room temperature for long periods of time.
Many traditional funeral homes will tell you company policy requires embalming for visitation. We don’t require it for visitation because we want to provide our clients with more options.
In addition to disinfecting and slowing decomposition, embalming contains pigments that enhance the appearance of the deceased by returning color to their face and hands. Even with embalming, however, the deceased may not look like they did in life. Washed out color and sunken features can be upsetting to some people, which is why embalming is always an option. For others, however, the body in its natural state after death can be validation of a closing chapter. The choice whether to embalm is a personal one, but we are glad to discuss the differences with you and help you decide what is right for your family.
If your loved one has experienced an autopsy or a traumatic accident, we highly recommended that some form repair, and possibly embalming, take place. While we would never forbid you from seeing them or require that repair work be done on your loved one, we can tell you that viewing a body after these scenarios can be exceedingly difficult. If you want to see your loved one after such an occurrence, we are here to discuss their condition and help you decide what the best course of action is for the peace of mind of everyone involved.
If you are planning on placing your loved one in a crypt, embalming may be a requirement of the mausoleum. Again, that’s not a law. That’s a company policy established by the cemetery, and it is within their rights as the property owners. It is also within your rights to find a cemetery that meets your needs – if one cemetery isn’t the right fit, we can help you find one that works with your choices.