Ask a Mortician


#21

I think it’s always done in 2 processes, one for the organs and the other arterial.

It’s the gas (caused by micro organisms) that causes the smell, so if you remove them you remove the smell.


#22

I’m not sure what you mean. The organs are simply put inside the abdominal cavity. All the preserved organs I’ve seen were stored in jars filled with formaldehyde. So how do you embalm the organs which were removed from the body then put back in. Are the organs removed, embalmed then put back in even in the case of a body which wasn’t autopsied?

As for the smell, you are right yet from personal experience when I witnessed the autopsy of a two day old body of a man who hanged himself, when they opened him up the smell was simply overwhelming and it persisted to some extent despite the body and organs being constantly washed. I assume in a couple of days until the body is put into the ground the smell can only get worse.


#23

Yeah, the specifics I don’t know either :stuck_out_tongue:
I just know they remove the contents (gas and fluids) and fill the organs with embalming fluid.


#24

Is this line of work somewhat depressing? (you’re confronted with death on a daily basis)


#25

The nastiest thing I’ve ever faced in my line of work is easily a tie between aggressively putrefied bodies and stabbing victims due to the grizzly combination of sight and smell; they are both truly offensive to the senses. If you’re referring to gore, then I would say suicide jumping victims and car accident victims.

The first time I ever dealt with a deceased human body in a clinical/mortuary sense, I felt overwhelmed with excitement at first to be quite honest. Not because the person was deceased, but because I was about to learn how to embalm (and I had 4 other classmates with me so we were bonding in our own way). About halfway through the embalming, I started feeling this deep, empty feeling as if what I was doing to the deceased had somehow made me less of a ‘living’ person and more of a functioning biological entity with an expiry date that was part of a very complicated network of other entity’s existences. It made me feel alive, yet a little less alive. When we were done, I walked home and it was like the world had exploded with life. Grass seemed greener, the air felt crisper; I could hear the birds singing and everything was moving. It made me feel small and immeasurably lucky.


#26

Haha, my current job does have me moving bodies, and I can say I’m much more professional about it than 47 :stuck_out_tongue:

I do have occasional nightmares, but they are usually about being late to a significant emergency or getting yelled at by people I love or getting chased by something/someone I can’t see. Deceased people that I have embalmed have never actually showed up in my dreams, and I have never seen someone dead then dreamed about them; surprisingly, I’ve learned that dreaming about the people you embalm is quite common yet I remain excluded from that statistic.

My work life definitely effects my wife, but not in regards to the deceased themselves. My job(s) is very demanding, and it often takes me away from her in the middle of the night and day, and it also means that she can’t rely on me to be 100% available unless I reserve time off. This has caused many interrupted sleeps/events for us, and in the past, made her feel like I might develop a habit of putting work and other things ahead of her. I understand where she comes from, but I am very good to her and I often take the time to let her know how much she means to me, so we have been able to adapt very well to my career. As for the deceased themselves and the scenarios I’ve witnessed, I never bring it home with me; that wouldn’t be fair to her.

I’ve always been fascinated by the human body and it’s components. Since I was old enough to walk. When I was in high school, I had a crush on my biology teacher and she inspired me to excel in the class. I would always ask her why she taught about living organisms, but never took the time to explain the death/recycling of these components. She told me that if I wanted to learn about that I would have to take a special program in college. The following week, I went to the funeral of my mother’s coworker’s mother and asked the mortician how he became a mortician. He told me about the same college and I went back to my high school and applied for the coop program with the requested location being a funeral home. I would go to the funeral home and help out for half of the day, then come back to the school for biology and chemistry. And I fell in love with the knowledge of anatomy, so I pursued the passion and went right from high school to university centering my education around the funeral industry and I wound up where I am.


#27

Thank you, I’m really glad you like it! :slight_smile:

I somewhat explained how/why I got into the job above, but to summarize it I’ve always been fascinated by the human body and health science. Combined with a lot of heavy life experiences, the job followed naturally given my particular psychology and environment. Apparently, I’ve happened to acquire a firm understanding of death and it’s place in this world; I cope with it in a way that allows me to be surrounded by it without becoming too overwhelmed by the reality that I too, will succumb to it’s inevitable relinquishment.

I took Funeral Service Education and Mortuary Science / Anatomy, did Philosophy as well, Pathology Assistant, and this is the first time I’m saying this on HMF but I’m actually 2/3 complete a Dental Hygienist Program that I am currently enrolled in so that I can have a side job with a decent cash flow.

When I was a child, I wanted to be a violinist ( I played from 4-13 ), but it eventually became a hobby to me and I desired to be a psychologist/therapist because I seemed to be able to establish connections with most of the people I engaged with. Enter high school.


#28

Haha, I definitely think that is a valid and funny question. The answer: Not really, because once you see the aftermath of a murder or suicide in person, every video game is a joke to violence and I mean that in a respectful way to video games. For example, I deal with stabbing victims; I could play Hitman and stab my victims because nothing an artist/program can render will ever make me devalue or ignore the actual real life atrocities that occur. I hope that makes sense. Dragging a body around in a game is not what dragging a body around in real is like.

We don’t actually drag bodies at all lol, we wrap them in a sheet by gently rolling them from left to right (recovery position) and placing the sheet underneath them. It’s actually very smooth and graceful and we then slide them from the bed to the body bag stretcher. 47 is just a savage :stuck_out_tongue:


#29

#Okay guys, last one for now and then I will be back as soon as I can to keep going (in order) :slight_smile:

Hey, that’s cool! What a coincidence, my wife loves to clean animal skulls for hunters. She has a righteous collection of her own, and she always goes on Etsy and drools over the amazing work that people like your girlfriend do :stuck_out_tongue: She sounds like a swell lady, good work my man :wink:

Oh, absolutely. I’ve said many things to comfort those who have lost someone; they need to be reminded that how they feel is normal and common; that they are not abnormal or weak, and that they are experiencing the pain of profound love. All things, all people must die to make life important to the living.

Actually, more times than I care to admit but yes. I save my emotions for those who need, earn, or deserve them. Sometimes, being so connected to my humanity catches up with me and does indeed impede my ability to do my job, although it isn’t for very long. I’ll give you an honest example, because it’s still fresh in my mind. Last week I was called to a suicide; a man had hung himself in his barn. It was a sad looking barn, and I had to climb into the loft above to get a harness around him so we could take him down. As I reached the loft, I noticed he had carved into the wooden railing I miss my wife. I fucking lost it. I sat in the loft and cried for about 30 seconds while fumbling with the harness so that no one would question why I was taking so long. That’s an example of sadness, but twice I have been impeded by pure awe at the inhumanity of the murder. Both were women who were stabbed, one by her boyfriend/lover and one by her son. You know the movies where someone is stabbed in the kitchen and there’s blood all over the floor? Triple that, and coat the walls. People struggle when they’re fighting for their life…like, a lot. The amount of blood and the looks on their faces terrified me to the point where I did not sleep that night because I was so bothered by the torment and anguish they must have experienced, especially the mother of that man. She served me fish and chips at a restaurant 7 houses away from mine, so seeing her like that struck me so hard that I had to stare at the sidewalk and process what I had seen.

As I typed that, I did think of another time. When I first started my job, this guy I knew from high school wanted everyone to go paint-balling with him and his dad and then go on a canoeing trip, free of charge. He was a douche in high school so no one wanted to go, but it seemed like an expensive trip so we selfishly went anyway. It was very fun and my mother knew his father, so she mentioned it was nice of him to take us with him being so sick and all. I thought sick meant something small. I was wrong. 8 months later I went to the morgue to get a body for a funeral home and I noticed a familiar name on the tag of the body I was there for. I opened the bag to do the ID check and it was him. I immediately realized why the guy had taken us out with his dad, and I felt like the biggest piece of shit in the world for going solely for my own enjoyment. I sat on the tray beside him and wept quietly in the refrigerator for a minute and then collected myself and went about the job. But it changed me for the better.

My job is more stressful than most, but not nearly as stressful as others. Doctors, surgeons, police officers, nurses…they all see people die, sometimes it’s their own fault. I could never think that what I do is somehow more stressful than watching your patient die after trying to save them, or helping an elderly person enjoy their final breaths.

I am used to regular dead bodies (people who die of normal medical complications) but suicides and murders are very difficult to handle. Everyone else just looks at the bodies, we physically handle them. That part is stressful. Because of it, the sensation of touching living things becomes much more profound.

Thank you Jose :slight_smile: I try not to be. I like to educate people so that they know that I don’t fit the stereotypical mortician profile. I’m human and I’m prone to error, judgement, and immaturity but I try to be good to people and myself.


#30

Your answer was much more beautiful than I could’ve imagined. I appreciate you taking the time to give me a thoughtful and sincere response. You clearly have a well developed sense of empathy but I believe it makes you better at your job. You’re kickass dude. Keep at it. Your field of work could use more people like you (I mean fuck the world in general could use more people like you). Again, thank you.


#31

I’m finding this very interesting and your responses are great, I can’t wait to read more and I hope this thread keeps going. Thank you for giving us an insight into your life and job.


#32

@Mr.46 I have throughly enjoyed reading your responses in this thread. It’s given me great insight into the world of being a Mortician. I’ve always pondered what it would be like to work with the deceased and how it affects the mind and how one would cope.

I don’t think I could ever undertake such a career, although absolutely fascinating I’m quite sensitive to dead children. I end up in tears if I even see a very poorly child. Do you have to deal with alot of deceased kids?


#33

@Mr.46 Where are you? I need you to stop having a life now ok? I need to read the answers to the rest of the questions! :joy::stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:.


#34

@TheOneWhoKnocks I’m back and ready to answer more questions! I’ve put my life on the shelf for now :stuck_out_tongue:


#35

@Alek @sgg847

Not inappropriate at all! It’s actually quite a commonly joked about question, and one of the main areas of satire or mockery that are directed towards my profession.

No, I am not affected by necrophilia. On a physical/intimate level, I react to corpses with the same marked aversion that a normal human being would; in other words, I feel nothing sexually.

  1. Due to the varying changes in the pH of muscle tissue post mortem, dead people do not feel nearly as soft or tender as the living. Fat is a liquid at room temperature, thus when a person starts to cool down (algor mortis) their body fats start to thicken and they become much more firm and lumpy for lack of a better phrase. So they feel firm and tense.

  2. The absence of heat will cause you to physically disconnect from the body. Dead people are not ice cold, but they feel “ice cold” by human standards. You know how when someone comes inside from a cold walk you say “whoa, you’re hands are ice!” - you wouldn’t want that person sticking their hands down your crotch alive, let alone dead.

  3. Smells. Dead people are made of dead/dying cells that no longer regulate themselves properly. This causes improper or inadequate gas exchange and this makes people smell salty, basic and soiled. Again, you wouldn’t want to have sex with a living person who smelled gross, let alone a dead person.

So a dead person is only intensifying all of the things you’d never want from a living sexual being. It’s normal to possess 0% sexual feelings for the dead, even when you work with them all the time.

To answer Alek’s question, yes to an extent, but only once I have set the features (closed the eyes and mouth while shaping them to a realistic and lifelike position). To clarify (something that should be done in this context lol), I will provide an example. If I have a woman in her late 20’s or early 30’s, I will still be 100% clinically oriented (0% sexuality involved/exchanged) but once I properly close her eyes and mouth and adjust her facial features to rest in what I imagine is her natural position, I am certainly able to envision her alive and say “wow, she must have been a beautiful woman”. Notice the past tense. Once she is embalmed and I do her makeup and people look at her and say “wow she’s beautiful”, the meaning has changed to one of remembrance and relief of appearance rather than sexual judgement, because again, it’s normal to not even think about sexual activity when someone dies.

Necrophilia is a paraphilia, which, according to human sexuality experts, is categorized with pedophilia because of it’s innate consequence of harming someone or their family in the process; in other words, it is an extreme form of sexual deviance that falls under a criminal status. Someone who assumes that a mortician is a necrophiliac is like assuming that a grade school teacher is a pedophile. I’ve only ever met one person who suggestively commented on the breasts of a deceased woman while I was embalming her and I shrugged it off as a joke; I’ve never dealt with anyone who has dabbled in that…realm.


#36

Very well answered and very mature of you to not take offence. Keep them coming, I would love to spend a day with you doing your job. I think it would be an extremely interesting life experience.


#37

Thanks buddy, I’m glad you’ve found it insightful! :smiley:

Oh man, good question…I’ve had to remove bodies that have been in all stages of putrefaction and decomposition; the longest length of time between Time of Death and Removal being a man that had died right before winter next to his radiator in a Lay-Z-Boy recliner. The heat from the radiator accelerated his decomposition and he putrefied quickly; however, he had stopped paying his hydro bill and they shut his heat down, so his rotten corpse then froze. The cold temperatures kept the smell at bay enough that no one reported anything. In the spring time, he thawed and someone finally reported a smell from the place and he was a slimy mummy covered in half-frozen maggots, which when thawed would somehow resume wiggling. It was…memorable.

Hahahahahahaha, oh the smells. The god damn smells. The Walking Dead never does this justice. When people die, if they don’t void their bowels/urinate themselves, then they probably won’t smell for 1-3 days before you really notice abnormal smells. That being said, decay isn’t bad, but putrefaction and decomposition are the worst smells you can possibly imagine and I am not exaggerating when I say that. It’s a sweet, strong, rancid odor that resembles a combination of rotten moldy blueberries, feces, salt, and a hint of bleach. That’s just the beginning. When people have died and been dead for 3-4 days, their stomach acids do a great deal of damage to their GI system. When we move them, they often aspirate or purge and it smells like week old vomit mixed with fermented fish and regurgitated cheese and that is the only smell of all the smells that will make me gag and I will vomit if I’m exposed to it while hungover. Everything else is tolerable by comparison. If you’ve ever smelled dog shit and rotten garbage on a hot summer’s day you’ve already experienced some of the worst smells out there. I think what makes the smells of my job slightly worse is the psychological effects of knowing that they are the smells of my own species’ rotting flesh. Instinctively, our minds go “whoa, a rotting dead human means death and grossness live here - we must get away from this” so that exacerbates really bad smells on the job. They aren’t just bad smells. They’re universal bad smells. I’ll never be fully used to it. Movies usually do a poor job of conveying a true sense of smell around rotten corpses.

Niiiiice question!

The strangest circumstance I have ever encountered with a dead body was a mystery suicide featuring decapitation. Yes, buckle up. It was my second year on the job. The funeral home staff brought a body from the hospital morgue for me to embalm and they said it was a suicide case. Unsure of the method used, I removed the tightly wrapped shroud from the body and his head fell clean off his shoulders. He had been decapitated. Absolutely amazed by what I was looking at, I started to prepare the body for embalming. I started by thoroughly washing the body. This is where I made my first observations of the body. The head was cleanly severed from the body, and both wrists were cut right to the bone. Turns out he used telephone cable to make a noose. He then put the noose around his neck and sat on the edge of a tall walkway bridge. Then he cut his wrists so that when he passed out from blood loss, he fell forward off of the bridge which would hang himself for good measure. He was a heavy guy though, so when he fell, the weight of his own torso caused him to externally decapitate himself. If you’re trying to imagine this, here’s a picture from Sleepy Hollow (1999) of a corpse that Ichabod was investigating. Looked exactly the same, even around the edges of the skin. Only difference is the muscle tissue looked more like red pulled pork.

After embalming the head and the body separately, I was sewing the head back onto the body when I realized something…it’s physically impossible to cut both wrists that deeply. You could get one wrist, but after you’ve severed the carpal tendons in that wrist you no longer have control of it, and he was sawing into bone. So how he got the other wrist severed to the bone is a mystery even to this very day. I couldn’t figure it out in my pathology report, the coroner couldn’t figure it out in the post mortem, and the toxicology report came back clean which means the guy felt what he was doing. I have no idea how any of that is actually possible, but this guy managed to pull it off and it still baffles me when I think about it.


#38

Sounds lovely :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:, yes I definitely think it’s the combination of smell and knowing what it is that makes it worse. I once went to remove a customers old fridge freezer and he had let it defrost with meat inside the freezer. I’m not sure how long it had been left for but the meat had obviously gone rotten and me and my colleague were on the brink of hurling every two seconds. We both had to go outside and ended up refusing to take it, I am guessing bodies are ten times worse so I think I would definitely be throwing up.


#39

@TheOneWhoKnocks

I missed a question, so I went back and answered it for you.


#40

I noticed when you posted but I didn’t want to be a dick and complain :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:, thanks I will read it now!