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The philosophy of FNA is simple, basic, powerful and vital to the future of funeral service and the profession of embalming.
- The dead human body is the center of all we do in the funeral service profession.
- Family members and friends of the deceased benefit tremendously from a final viewing of the body, especially when the individual died as a result of sudden traumatic death.
- Embalming is truly a professional skill.
- An Embalmer is a professional in every sense of the word.
- Reconstructive surgery performed on the traumatized deceased that allows for open casket viewing is a unique professional expertise that cannot be provided by any other professional discipline and has an immeasurable value for families.
- Continued post-graduate education coupled with improved hands-on skills is vital to the professional embalmer.
FNA is dedicated to providing quality post-graduate embalmer education and to the enhancement, development and application of new, innovative embalming techniques. It is further dedicated to the improvement of the skill level of professional embalmers worldwide.
Why is viewing of the deceased so valuable to the family & friends?
- First, we must consider how we were raised. Every person was taught from infancy that the polite and proper thing to do was to say two things "Hello" when we meet someone and "Good-Bye" or "Bye-Bye" when we departed their presence.
- Second, we acknowledge contact with another person in many ways dependent upon the culture. Our tradition in the US is to shake hands, give hugs, etc. to acknowledge another person.
- Third, when we leave the presence of another person we shake hands, give hugs but most importantly we say "Good-Bye" just as we were taught as a toddler.
- Fourth, when some dies suddenly the family and friends have a basic but very distinctive human need to say "Good-Bye".
Types of Final Disposition of the body:
- Earth burial
- Burial at Sea
BASED UPON MY EXPERIENCE AS AN EMBALMER AND FUNERAL DIRECTOR THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO CONSIDER IS NOT WHAT METHOD OF FINAL DISPOSITION IS CHOSEN, BUT RATHER: WHAT ACTIVITIES THAT WILL OCCUR BETWEEN THE TIME OF DEATH AND FINAL DISPOSITION. WHAT ACTIVITIES WILL TRUELY HONOR YOUR LOVED ONE? HAVING THE BODY EMBALMED AND PREPARED FOR VIEWING BY FAMILY AND FRIENDS CAN PROVIDE A DEGREE OF COMFORT AND CLOSENESS TO THE DECEASED.
HOW WILL THE SERVICES BE PERSONALIZED FOR YOU LOVED ONE?
THERE ARE MANY OPTIONS AVAIALBLE TO PERSONALIZE VISITATIONS AND SERVICES. A GOOD WAY TO BEGIN TO PERSONALIZE IS TO PLAN TO HAVE THE HONORED GUEST (THE DECEASED) PRESENT AT ALL THE ACTIVITIES AND SERVICES.
1. First and Foremost: Do Not Rush to final disposition. Rushing though the process may not be in the best interest of the family and friends! I strongly believe that we should take our time and not rush toward final disposition. By allowing more time between death and final disposition it will allow family members and friends time to plan schedules, travel, gather and mourn together.
2. Viewing of the body provides the family and friends with the confrontation that death has in fact occurred - seeing is believing.
By extending the hours published for the visitation period it will allow more friends the ability to fit it into their busy schedule so they can attend and pay their respects. In many cases a 2 hour visitation period does not allow enough time for friends to attend.
3. Without viewing it can be difficult for the family and friends to persuade their own mind that their loved one or close friend is dead. The mind set of denial can cause a person to continually expect their deceased loved one to someday "just walk through the door."
4. Viewing the body is a very special time that allows the family and friends to begin the transition into their new life. That new life is continuing to live onward without the presence of their loved one.
5. The Visitation or Viewing time is a very important time since it allows the family and friends to say goodbye to the deceased in their own personal way. During this time the family members and friends that gather can support each other with the grieving process. It is a time for remembering, expressing love, sharing tears, and even laughter along with condolences by all who attend.
6. Regardless of the method chosen for final disposition of the body a public visitation can be of great help to family and friends in dealing with the grieving and mourning process. Viewing of the body should always be considered before final disposition.
7. Open casket viewing is THE Most Personalized part of any funeral ritual or ceremony. Not having the body present at a funeral ceremony or ritual is like having a wedding ceremony without the bride or groom being present.
The information below has been provided to assist you and your family with understanding the benefits of selecting embalming, restorative procedures, and viewing and visitation periods for your loved one. Please understand that your funeral home respects and fully supports the choices you make regarding final disposition of your loved one. Any funeral home will be glad to discuss in-depth various options available to you and your family. The funeral home is there to serve you.
Embalming defined: As the process of chemically treating the dead human body to reduce the presence and growth of microorganisms, to temporarily inhibit organic decomposition, and to restore an acceptable physical appearance.
Embalming is not required by law however under certain circumstances it may be required or considered the most desirable method for preparation of the body. It is well known throughout funeral professionals that embalming is the most desirable method to prepare the body in order to achieve an opportunity to present the body for viewing by the family and friends. Contrary to what some individuals may believe embalming is not an archaic or gruesome procedure. One should understand that there are many variables to the embalming and restorative procedures. Things such as, but not limited to, the presence of disease and trauma may alter the procedures performed by the embalmer. To enable you to better understand the process I have briefly listed the basic procedures below.
- The body is bathed; features such as eyelids and the mouth are positioned closed.
- To accomplish the injection process the embalmer will make an incision or incisions to gain access to an artery or arteries. An incision is made in an artery and a small tube is inserted into it.
- The embalmer will then mix the appropriate amount of preservative chemical into an embalming machine. The preservative chemical is injected under pressure into the arterial system. As the preservative chemical is injected into the artery a pressure, similar to living blood pressure, is built up in the vascular system and a vein will be opened to allow the escape of the majority of blood volume from the body.
- The essence of the process termed arterial embalming is to replace the majority of the blood volume with a preservative and disinfectant chemical.
- Following the injection into the arteries it is necessary for the embalmer to further preserve the internal organs. This procedure is performed by making a small incision in the abdominal wall and inserting a pointed hollow tube called a trocar. This tube will be inserted into the various organs and the gases and fluids will be withdrawn from the body. This process is called aspiration.
- Upon completion of the aspiration process of the cavities a preservative chemical will be injected into the internal organs and the small incision closed and sealed.
- Other procedures and care will be performed to make the body ready for viewing such as, but not limited to, fixing hair, make up application and dressing the body in attire selected by the family.
Restorative or Reconstructive Surgery Procedures:
Following a natural death the restorative measures may involve basic care procedures associated with embalming. However when death from severe disfiguring trauma has occurred it may be necessary for the embalmer to perform a variety of additional procedures, similar to plastic surgeons, in order to achieve an acceptable and identifiable body. Disfiguring injuries can occur during different types of fatal incidents. When these deaths are investigated by appropriate officials the family might be told that due to the condition of the body it is not viewable. Typically physicians, coroner’s and law enforcement personnel are not qualified to make the determination whether a body can be reconstructed for viewing purposes. Often these officials are not aware that an embalmer may be able to restore the body to a viewable state. There are also embalmers that specialize in reconstructive surgery that can be called in to the funeral home. These specialists have advanced training and can reconstruct some of the most severe traumatic injuries. Families should always consult with the funeral home embalmer to make that determination and may wish to seek a second opinion.
Benefits of Embalming and Restorative Procedures:
Delays the natural process of body decomposition
Allows for delayed final disposition
Allows additional time for family members and friends to travel and gather together
Allows additional time for viewing and ceremonies with the body present
Allows additional time for reconstructive procedures, if necessary, to restore the body to a more acceptable and Identifiable condition for viewing by family and friends
Typically provides an additional comfort for the family and friends enabling them to see their loved one
Frequently asked questions:
If we cremate do we need embalming or restorative procedures? Why is it important to have a final viewing of my loved one following a natural death or severe traumatic death?
Regardless of the method you choose for final disposition we believe that one should consider the benefits of embalming, restorative procedures, viewing and ceremonies. These can be accomplished and then final disposition occur. Remember that cremation is only one method of final disposition and it should be clearly understood that once the cremation process occurs the opportunity to view the body is forever gone.
Why is it important to have a final viewing of my loved one following a natural death or severe traumatic death?
Before deciding whether to view or not to view your loved one before final disposition carefully consider:
- Your loved one only dies once and your family has only this one opportunity to make selections and decisions. Carefully think it through and make choices that will be appropriate and comforting for you, your family and your loved ones close friends.
- The psychological needs of the family members and close friends of the deceased.
- Having the body present with the casket open is the most personalized way to honor your loved one
- From infancy all of us are taught that it is proper to say Hello and Goodbye.
- Viewing allows each family member and friend an opportunity to say goodbye in their own special way.
- Viewing allows the family and friends time to share grief. It has been said that grief shared is grief diminished.
- Viewing allows the family and friends time to begin the transition of life with the loved one into a life without the presence of that loved one
- Viewing is a confrontation of the death. It helps to confirm the reality that death has occurred and helps to eliminate the later thoughts in one’s mind that he or she will just walk though the door. One should remember that -seeing is believing.
- Viewing, visitation or wake periods provide an opportunity to share grief with family and friends and to reminisce about how the deceased has touched lives. This special time can provide support for those grieving.
- Viewing allows a direct point of contact time with your loved one before final disposition.
- Viewing can be the beginning of a celebration of the life of your loved one and a recognition of the significance of that person to all who attend
Holding the body in a refrigeration unit
Cooling the body, in a specifically design unit, to a temperature around 35 -38 degrees is a method to slow down the natural decomposition process. The effectiveness of the cooling will vary dependant upon a number of factors that are related to the condition of the body when it is placed in the cooling unit. It may not always be the most desirable method to delay the natural decomposition process.
When viewing, visitation and any restorative procedures are to be implemented then embalming is the preferred method to hold the body tissues stable.
For the purpose of better understanding refrigeration one can use the example a grocery product that you place in your refrigerator at home. Typically the product will remain stable for a few days and then eventually it will deteriorate to a point beyond use. Family members should consult with the embalmer regarding the recommended method to hold the body.
I will be glad to discuss this further, via phone, with any interested family member without any obligation.
Vernie R. Fountain, Embalmer, Post Mortem Reconstructive Specialist, Funeral Director and Certified Funeral Service Practitioner (CFSP)
For additional accurate information or research into death related issues a good resource for information is written by Mr. Chris Raymond: http://dying.about.com/bio/Chris-Raymond-110469.htm
Possible Open-Casket Viewing Option when Disfiguring Injuries Occur
In some situations the family of the deceased may wish to have open-casket viewing even following severe traumatic injuries to their loved one. In this case the embalmer will need to repair the injuries. This procedure can be referred to as post mortem reconstructive surgery. In some situations the severe disfiguring injuries may exceed the skill level of the funeral home staff. In this case the family may request that the funeral home contact an embalmer that specializes in post mortem reconstructive surgery to evaluate the injuries. If necessary, an outside specialist may be hired to restore the deceased to a viewable state. Exercising this option is often more desirable than closing the casket and never seeing a loved one again.
Did You Know?
Vernie Fountain has been a licensed embalmer for over 30 years and specializes in Post Mortem Reconstructive Surgery. In addition to teaching his successful techniques at FNA seminars, state and national conventions around the U.S. and abroad, he has been called upon by funeral homes to reconstruct some of the most difficult head injury cases. He will travel to your firm to reconstruct a crushing head injury case, or will offer an initial telephone consultation with no obligation to you.