I run a funeral home chain – what happens to your body after you die & why you don't need to be embalmed

HAVE you ever heard of a green funeral home?

The answer to that is likely no, but luckily, we have details about what happens in a green funeral home and how they handle the bodies of the deceased.

Micah Truman, CEO of Return Home, a Seattle-based green funeral home, gave us some insight on their process and why the body doesn't necessarily need to be embalmed when you die.

Truman started the company because, in his words: "I needed to do a job that hopefully when I was done would leave the earth a better place.

"I wanted to do something that made a difference."


Return home's burial process is different from that of a traditional burial or cremation.

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Return home uses a green burial method which means that, unlike a traditional burial, they do not use embalming or coffins, and the body is allowed to naturally decompose and become soil.

According to Truman: "Return home gently transforms human remains into soil. It's just the way nature always did it.

"We just do it faster. Essentially we ensure the last thing we do on the planet is give back to it, because currently when we leave we're polluting it."

He continued: "And what makes us so amazing is that we're incredibly gentle. And so people can bring us their loved one. They can be here. There's nothing that's going to be a problem or scary.

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"They can come back and visit. And I think that's the most important thing.

"We allow our people to take their loved ones and gently return them to the earth. And we haven't had that choice before."


After you die, the body starts composing within 24-72 hours.

Coffins do not really change this process, but they're a traditional tool which helps people feel they have looked after their loved ones after death.

Micah's team choose not to use them. Embalming, meanwhile, is a process which preserves the body and delays this process, normally until after the funeral.

Most bodies will be embalmed before they're viewed by the family, but it's a cosmetic procedure and is not necessary.

And at Return Home, they have proven that the body does not need to be embalmed to be presentable.

Truman spoke on the process: "We often think that we need to embalm bodies to make them viewable for the family.

"And I think one of the things that we've really learned is because we can't use [embalming chemicals like formaldehyde] that we're able to allow the family to come see their loved one un-embalmed, and that we can make them really beautiful.

"And a lot of people are like can't do that, that's impossible. And our answer is no, it is not."

Truman explained that since the primary ingredient in embalming fluid is formaldehyde, Return Home is not able to embalm because formaldehyde literally makes the body inert.

Everything that's alive in the body is no longer that way once formaldehyde has done its work. And so for Return Home, because their process is microbial, they don't embalm.


According to Truman, they've had many memorable experiences.

Truman recalled: "The most memorable thing that we find happens is our families are coming in, and they're having a service here in our facility with their loved one in a vessel, and we're able to put anything we want, that's organic into the vessel.

"And so our families have been doing the most amazing stuff. So they're filling the vessels with flowers and letters. A woman brought in a layer of her wedding cake.

"You know how you freeze your wedding cake and eat it later. She was fairly newly married. It was sad, but she brought in her wedding cake.

"So it's really amazing to see what people are putting in the vessels. The other thing that's really mind blowing is that people come back and visit and they cover the vessel in decoration.

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"I had no idea that that would happen. So they're coming in and they're covering with pictures and LED lights.

"We had a family come in a little while and they had lunch and left part of it as an offering on top."

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