General Question

ibstubro's avatar

How many times have you seen a dead human body, unembalmed, in your lifetime, and what were the circumstances?

Asked by ibstubro (18636points) March 4th, 2014

I never have. Nor do I want to, as far as I know.

What’s your experience with unembalmed dead people?

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42 Answers

hearkat's avatar

I have not, unless you count brain dead being kept alive by machines.

talljasperman's avatar

Five times at least both my grandmas, my grandpa ,my uncle and a family friend… and I found a human arm when I was 4. edit Unembalmed… that would be my Grandpa….We screwed up his insulin dose and he died 1 hour later. He died right in front of me and the nurse… She tried to revive him and failed… . Also the human arm was freaky I touched it.

wildpotato's avatar

Twice – we did viewings for each of my paternal grandparents, and we Jews do not embalm. It was…fine. Kind of weird; kind of cathartic. I should explain more: we don’t embalm, but we also bury within three days and keep the body on ice in the interim, so it’s not like there’s noticeable decomposition.

Cruiser's avatar

I watched a man drown in a lagoon and then watched the Fire Department spend the next 2 hours diving to recover his body and was repulsed to see the waterlogged body of my first dead person…I was 9.

I watched the kid in the hospital bed next to me scream in agony and die…I was 10

I have seen more misty stains of the remains of humans bodies on trees, bridge abutments, and windshields than I care to recount.

I watched my BIL die in a hospital bed he was 27. I drove up on a motorcycle accident and watched this lump of flesh gulp his last breath.

I watched both Grandma’s take their last breath.

I responded to a hysterical call from my then 15 year old cousin to come help him and walked through the front door of his house to see my Uncle in his sitting chair with half his head blown off from suicide with a 45.

I helped my Aunt pry my uncle’s lifeless body from around the toilet he dropped dead from a heart attack 9 hours earlier.

I helped cover my FIL’s body when my MIL found him dead after he went back to bed to take a nap.

I can keep going….:(

Pandora's avatar

One time. A former neighbor jumped from his 5th story apartments to his death. We got a quick look before we were whisked away from the window by my mom. He was freshly dead so there was no big difference yet. Just very still.
Oh, wait, come to think of it, I think my dad was unembalmed. He died of hepatitis so I think he wasn’t embalmed because he was considered very contagious. He was laid to rest in his coffin with a glass cover on top. Like @wildpotato, I believe that we had to bury him quickly. Though I do believe a quick autopsy was performed, so I am not sure if they still embalmed him afterwards. He looked swollen, and pale. His skin looked kind of fake like.
My husbands grandmother was embalmed for sure and she looked normal but the skin looked sunken and she didn’t look swollen like my dad. So I am assuming that my dad wasn’t because of the rush to bury him.

Mimishu1995's avatar

A lot. In games. And the murderer is always me. hahaha

creepypastagirl's avatar

Never in person. I’ve seen countless pictures, it’s actually pretty interesting. Death is sad but I don’t understand why people are so freaked out by bodies. It’s fascinating to me, the stages of decomposition and all that jazz. I find it to be quite intriguing. No disrespect or judgement intended.

kritiper's avatar

You mean in real life, not photos in a magazine or on the news. Three times for me, 2 separate auto accidents and a grandfather who had just passed in the hospital. Once my grandfather (same one) was walking in the hills and came across a murder victim. Missing 1 hand and his head!

SQUEEKY2's avatar

The Father inlaw in the Hospital but that was it.

Bluefreedom's avatar

When I was in the Army in Seoul, South Korea in 1989, there was an accident when two Blackhawk helicopters collided with each other during training exercises near Camp Casey where the 2nd Infantry Division was located.

Myself and several members of my company (we were military policeman) stationed in Yongsan at the time and were pulling duty on a QRF (Quick Reaction Force) team when we received a call to go to the morgue / graves registration area on base and meet with members of the quartermaster company. We were notified that 11 Army personnel had burned to death as a result of the 2 helicopters colliding and were being transported down to us and we had to help offload them from the transport vehicles.

All 11 individuals were sealed in body bags and laying on field litter type stretches when we offloaded them from the trucks. The odor of a burned human being isn’t something I would ever want anyone to have to experience, ever. Needless to say, being involved with what we did that night was both very difficult and sad for all of us and it is something that I’ve always remembered and can never forget.

susanc's avatar

My husband died of lung cancer in the hospital while I was with him. I tore all the horrible paraphernalia off of him – tubes, needles, bandages – and laid in bed with him for a couple of hours. Before he died, he was so hooked together with drips and oxygen and other hospital junk that we couldn’t touch. I had to be as close to his body as possible. The nurse said, “This is your room as long as you need it” and no one came in except after awhile our sons did. I asked them if they wanted to like down with him too and they smiled and said no, that was okay, their dad and I could have all the room on the hospital bed. They sat with us for awhile and then they left and I waited till his body showed me that he wasn’t alive any more and then I left him on his own.

Berserker's avatar

When I was a kid some old man lived a few houses away from us. He was real mean and he didn’t like me, but that’s probably because I kept yanking all the flowers out of his front yard. But anyways he died of a heart attack on a real hot day while working on his house. He fell off the ladder, or something like it. Never heard the details, but when I saw him he was lying face down in the bushes by the house. I saw him when he was dead from afar, didn’t wanna go near. Police and the ambulance were there anyway. Guy was lying on his stomach but I could only really see his legs. I ran back home and told me parents and I was laughing. My mom got pissed off, because I was laughing at a dead guy, but years later, my dad told me it was probably some kind of defense mechanism. When you’re 6 you don’t really understand death, so you might react strangely. The fact that this poor old man was always yelling at me gave my brain the reason to laugh, but I really didn’t think any of it was funny, I just felt nervous and the laughing came out of nowhere, was barely aware of it until my mom pointed it out.

That guy’s wife was sweet though, and after the authorities took the body away and all, she gave me candy.

Another time as a preteen I was sitting with my mother by the river bank, and we eventually spotted a dead body floating in the river. Not trying to be mean or insensitive or anything, but at first I thought it was a big garbage bag floating around. Then I told my mom, dude that’s a man, and she’s like, yeah I know, she got up and grabbed my arm and dragged me away. She called the cops and then they fished the guy out further ahead. As it happens, that dead body had been reported by someone else long before my mom called, so that’s why it seemed quick.

And in my early 20’s I was living in a rooming house, and the guy in the room next to mine hung himself. His music was playing really loud for like 8 hours, and someone complained and they went in there after calling the caretaker who had the keys to all the rooms. I was playing games all night long during then. I heard screaming and some guy was crying, so I went over there, although reluctantly, and I saw him there hanging by a wire from a lamp. We cut the guy down and got bitched at by the cops for touching the body, but nobody got in trouble. Had to go through reports for the following days and shit though, describing our experience and what we knew of the guy. I remember this cop asking me, what was the last thing he said to you? In my head I was like, how the fuck does this matter, he’s dead goddammit.

This dude was about my age at the time, and was schizophrenic. He was barely ever home though, I saw him about three times in the seven months that I lived there, never got to know him, but that one experience really hit me, it’s still there after all these years haha.

jca's avatar

Other than at a funeral (which, I know, is an embalmed body), I have never seen any dead human body. I have never been in a morgue.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I have seen two. I watched someone slip away while performing CPR. I came across the scene during a hike and immediately relieved the person who was about to die from exhaustion from doing CPR himself.We gave up after about an hour. The second was a motorcycle wreck and I only saw the scene from a distance.

ucme's avatar

None, although I witnessed a “comedian” “die” on stage one time, a genuinely unsettling experience #cringe #tumbleweed

tedibear's avatar

I was with my mom when she died, and I saw my dad about 20 minutes after he died.

delphysmith's avatar

Well couple of time. Many of my relatives died and i have seen them

Coloma's avatar

I have never seen a real dead body but have seen many pictures, I like the old Victorian era Memento Mori photos and recently saw some very touching modern day Memento Mori photos of stillborn infants and their parents. Tastefully done and very poignant.
My daughter works, on call, for a local mortuary as a transport person and has many stories of recovering bodies.

Only from hospice, hospitals and private residences. Murders, accidents, suicides etc. are handled by the Coroners office. Leaking body fluids, seeping from the skin, etc. are pretty hard to deal with. One of the saddest was having to pick up a full term infant that died of unknown causes not long after birth. She transported him in a tiny little Igloo lunch box. That made me cry. My heart was just wrenched for the parents.

As a matter of fact, she is on deathbed vigil for her paternal grandfather ( my ex FIL ) right now, since yesterday afternoon. He is dying at home of Prostate turned to bone cancer.
His kidneys shut down yesterday and he has been unresponsive for the last 24 hours. They have been taking shifts all night and his death is imminent, so she will be with her grandfather when he passes, most likely today.

Coloma's avatar

Do animals count too?
In that case I have held many a pet in my arms during the euthanasia process and buried them at home.
Animals effect me more than humans because they are completely innocent and do not understand why they are suffering.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I thought about this after reading the question, and was shocked to realize the number of motor vehicle fatalities I’ve stumbled upon in this city. I’m out and about a lot. I’ve actually witnessed some horrific deaths over the years, and within the last month wound up arriving at routine stops twice to find gruesome scenes within a block of my destinations where wreckage and bodies were strewn in the streets, and the police and paramedics had yet to arrive. It bothers me that I hadn’t really thought about the issue before this question. @SQUEEKY2 I can’t believe that you , who drive for a living haven’t come across MANY dead people over the years, and I really do believe that most of the folks here have probably seen more corpses than they remember. Currently there is an absolute epidemic here of bicycle fatalities.

Coloma's avatar

I’ve told this story here before, but it merits a re-telling. haha
Years ago I came across a guy on the side of the road in a state park, whose downed motorcycle was nearby. A park ranger had a blanket over him but he was lucid and talking.
Thing was, there was a huge pile of guts in the middle of the road and I couldn’t fathom HOW this person could be alive and talking with intestines and other, various organs splattered across the road.

It was mind boggling and I was completely freaked out, could hardly keep driving.
Then, on the return trip a little while later, I saw a disemboweled deer in a ditch on the other side of the road. Aaaah…so THAT’S where all the guts came from!
Talk about a mind f—k! lol

livelaughlove21's avatar

In person? Twice. Both times at the hospital. Once was when I was in nursing school (he wasn’t my patient) and the other time was just a couple weeks ago when my dad was in the ICU after a heart attack. My husband and I were walking out when we saw a stretcher with a body bag on it heading toward us. I glanced into the room just as we passed it and saw the man dead. It gave me a creepy feeling, but I quickly got over it. They told my dad 90% of the people on that floor would die there. Luckily he was one of the other 10%. I believe the man that died was suffering from cancer, as were both of the patients on either side of my dad’s room.

keobooks's avatar

Never, but when I was a little kid, I was convinced I saw a dead party in the middle of a downtown park. I was amazed that people didn’t do anything and they just stepped over the dead body. I watched while I was eating my lunch. I was too scared to go up and check on the dead guy. Suddenly he rolled over and threw up. He was just a wino.passed out on the sidewalk.

Blackberry's avatar

Deployed to the Mediterranean in the navy. Apparently its common for people in Algeria or Albania (the country under Spain on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar) to attempt to flee to Spain from their country. They use life rafts, the type you see on Cruise ships. Some make it and sme don’t.

There was a bloated body floating in the Med.

The body just looked like an inflated discolored body.

gondwanalon's avatar

The first autopsy that I assisted in was a shocker. We removed the organs of the thorax and abdomen for analysis. The old man looked like a side of beef lying on the table with all his organs removed. I was glad the pathologist didn’t think that we needed to remove the brain as it was obvious that the man had a massive heart attack. Then we took a lunch break and I could not eat a thing. From then on dead people in hospitals where I’ve worked didn’t bother me much.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Just my grandfather, it was a life-changing experience for me.

@gondwanalon Wow, I bet you have some really good stories.

Seek's avatar

Not certain that I have. I did see a guy get hit by a car, and fly a couple dozen yards. The paper said he passed away.

And I saw a gravel truck flip over a small gold sedan when I was 19. That gentleman died as well, but I never actually saw him, before or after.

johnpowell's avatar

I saw the guy in the wheelchair that was hit and killed by a See’s candy truck.

But I saw tons of pictures of crime scenes and suicides when I worked at the photo lab. A lot of the police stations sent their photos to us to be converted to digital. It was 2001 and digital cameras weren’t very good at the time.

Seriously folks. If you are going to kill yourself use pills and not a shotgun. It is a lot less messy.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Only once – my husband. He had been on life support for 10 days and then passed. Before that, I have only been to funerals after the fact.

Once when I was a child, I witnessed a car/pedestrian accident where the child that was hit was lying dead on the side of the road, but he was covered with someone’s coat, so didn’t see anything, thank goodness, because that was traumatic enough.

1TubeGuru's avatar

I have lived on the waterfront for my entire life. over the years i have seen four drowning victims brought into the local marina after being recovered from the Chesapeake bay by the Maryland natural resources police. these bodies looked bloated and ghastly.20 years ago a coworker and I found a man who was my friend and supervisor dead in his locked office trailer. he had committed suicide with a 38 snub nose revolver,he also had a large pile of cocaine on the desk in front of him. another friend of mine had bought a new firebird trans am and had let another friend drive it. i watched him lose control and veer off into the woods ,I ran into the woods and found my friend dead from a broken neck after he had hit a large oak tree.i saw my father die from renal failure in a hospital bed in his own living room after a long battle with diabetes.

Adagio's avatar

Removed by me.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@stanleybmanly well the ones I have seen on the road already have a cops tarp covering them.

Brian1946's avatar


We viewed my father’s frozen body before it was cremated.

flutherother's avatar

I was at my mother in laws bedside when she died. She was unconscious from a stroke when it happened but I could still tell she had died. Her body just looked different.

Coloma's avatar

My ex FIL passed away at 11:25 a.m. yesterday. :-(

Cruiser's avatar

@Coloma Bummer girl! Sorry about the sad news…((Hugg))

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I’m very sorry to hear that, @Coloma . (BTW, what is an ex FIL?)

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt It means her ex father-in-law.

On a slightly related note…It took me forever to figure out what the hell DH means on forums. Dear/darling husband is the answer to that one. Personally I think that’s pretty stupid. Almost as corny as “hubby.” Blech.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Thanks, @livelaughlove21 . I wouldn’t have known either of those.

ibstubro's avatar

Sorry to hear, @Coloma. At least he’s finally at peace.

Seek's avatar

DH easily translated to “damned husband” under the appropriate circumstances.

kdbabym's avatar

4 times, just realized that. Wow.
My parents and two strangers.
The strangers were surreal. I saw a young man after a tragic motorcycle accident and another young man after an accidental drowning. Both appeared to be college aged and my thoughts immediately turned toward their families who were about to receive a life-changing phone call. How awful.
I was on my way to fun events and was struck by this antithesis.

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