What Identifying a Dead Body is Really Like

The thought of identifying a dead body, particularly that of a loved one, sends shivers down one’s spine.

  • Most people have only seen the dramatic identifying a dead body on TV or in the movies. And that is why it has become a feared experience. However, because this has become such a well-documented fact, more and more places are changing the whole run-up to the identification process. It is all about making the experience as non-traumatic as possible.


Identifying a Dead Body – Where It Happens

  • Identifying a dead body takes place in the mortuary. A morgue attendant puts you at ease and explains that they’re there to help you. Some mortuaries have a special viewing room, where the person views the body through a pane of glass. Others have a little room especially open for the grief counsellor, and you have some time together before the viewing. Grief counselling prevents Identifying a Dead Bodypeople from becoming re-traumatized during the identification process. The suddent or unexpected death has already caused some trauma.
  • Anyone may identify the deceased. It does not necessarily have to be the next of kin.  Anyone who has the necessary information can determine the one who passed away can identify. The viewer could be a good friend or even a relative. You will also have to supply some information about yourself, and have your identification documents ready.


Identifying a Dead Body – The Small Room

  • In some countries, the identifying of a dead body takes place in a small room almost like a sitting-room. There could even be soft music playing in the background. There is no visible sign of anything to suggest a specific religion, as this could offend. The identification is by photograph, which usually shows the face only. The funeral parlour employee places the photo  on a clipboard face downward. Only when the identifier is completely ready, or has plucked up the courage to look, will the photograph be turned over. The grief counsellor will have explained what is to be seen in the photo, so as to minimise any shock the person might feel.
  • Often, it is necessary to identify a body following an unnatural death. These include accidents, murder, suicide, fire, explosions, and other traumatic incidents. In these cases the body may be very disfigured and distorted, making it almost unrecognisable. In these cases, the body identification by ID book or card, a passport or driver’s licence, fingerprints, tattoos, dental records, and if necessary, even DNA tests will suffice.


Identifying a Dead Body – Medico-Legal Issues

  • Body identification is crucial for any medico-legal process that follows an unnatural death, which applies especially in the case of car accidents. Or there might be death by explosion or fire, where a case of negligence is likely to follow. If the death is not natural, a post-mortem is likely  as well, which will be to establish the exact cause of mortality.


Identifying a Dead Body – Finish Off Your Life With Dignity

It is unfortunate that the movies and TV shows have provided the graphic images of cold, dirty mortuaries with blood and sheets covering rows of corpses. In some instances, this is not too far from the truth. The mortuary staff are curt, unkind and do their job without a hint of compassion. We can only trust that this will all change so that the process is as dignified, compassionate, and caring as possible.

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All info was correct at time of publishing