Frazer Blog

Grief and Loss: How Long Can You Keep a Loved One’s Body at Home?

by | Jul 13, 2017 | For Families

holding someone's hand

When a loved one passes away, it’s hard to face the reality of their death, especially if it was unexpected. That’s why some families choose to keep their loved one’s body at home for several days before the burial or cremation. This gives them more time to grieve and spend some last moments with their loved one.

But what exactly are the rules when it comes to keeping someone’s body at home? How long are you allowed to keep the body? Do you need to call the funeral home immediately? We’ll go over these questions below.

How Long are You Allowed to Keep the Body at Home?

In most states, you’re allowed to keep the body at home until the burial or cremation. The specific length of time allowed may vary from state to state, but generally, a few days is acceptable. Make sure you’re aware of your state and local laws to avoid any legal issues during an already stressful and emotional time.

Check out this link to find your state’s laws for burial, cremation, and other funeral matters.

Do You need to Call the Funeral Home Immediately?

When pronouncing someone as deceased, you should contact a person of authority, like a funeral director, as soon as possible. This way, the death certificate and other legal forms get completed, along with any funeral arrangements.

In most situations, especially if the death was unexpected, you can keep the body at home for a few days. But as soon as your family is ready, you should call the funeral home of your choice to transport the body to the funeral home.

Are There Any Tips for Preserving the Body While at Home?

When making funeral arrangements, in most cases, embalming is not required. However, if the burial or cremation isn’t within a certain amount of time, some states may require embalming or refrigeration.

If you’re keeping the body at home for a few days, you should use dry ice or ice packs to temporarily preserve the body. Also, you should make sure the body is lying flat before rigor mortis begins to stiffen the joints. The rigor mortis process can begin as soon as four hours after death.

When using dry ice, you should never touch it with your bare hands. Instead, wear thick gloves or use a potholder or towel to place them in paper bags or pillowcases around the body. Do not place them directly on your loved one’s body. The ice should be changed every 24 hours and the room should have good air circulation since dry ice emits carbon dioxide when it evaporates.

You can purchase dry ice at many grocery stores or dry ice suppliers. It may be easier if the dry ice supplier can cut the dry ice into small pieces. If not, you can do this carefully by either using a hammer or dropping it on the ground.

When using ice packs, you may need to change them out more frequently than dry ice, since they don’t stay cold as long. Like dry ice, you also should place these in paper bags or pillowcases around the body.


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