When caring for someone after death people often feel a mix of emotions. There is much sadness but also great satisfaction and peace in providing this very beautiful last act of love. It is a profound and transformative experience that enables us to accept death as the natural passage that it is.
The first steps in caring for someone is to clear the space of clutter and medical equipment. To turn the space into one of sacredness, light some candles, burn an incense, share stories. There is no need to rush, connect with our ancestors who took care of their loved ones in this way throughout history. Be with the quiet, the peace, the sadness, the intimacy…
The first step in caring for our own is to cool the room down, open a window, turn off the heat, take off heavy blankets.
Next, elevate the upper part of the body with pillows allowing the blood to pool in the back and not the head.
Rigor mortis sets in 2 to 4 hours after death. Before rigor mortis you may want close the eyes and mouth by placing an eye bag over the eyes until closed or gently hold them down until they close. They may open slightly over time as the muscles in the face relax. To close the mouth elevate the head. Wrap an ace bandage under the chin and around the top of the head to hold the mouth closed. It can be removed after rigor mortis sets in. As with the eyes the mouth may open slightly over time.
Take your time, be with the sacredness of what you are doing, When your are ready prepare some warm water with some essential oils or some mild soap and wash the body starting with the face and neck and pat dry gently. Cleanse the mouth, wash their hair and work your way down the body. Washing the body is an ancient ritual found in many traditions.
When you are done washing and drying, you can then dress or shroud the person and place them in a special place. At this point you can easily cool the body by placing dry ice under their torso. Check the dry ice once a day as it will evaporate and need replaced.
You can now create a beautiful space around them for friends and family to visit and honor this person in their passing.
Arrange and adorn the person in a way that feels appropriate to you. Use flowers and greenery, essential oils, candles, music, sacred reading material, a lamp, decorative items, photographs and mementos. Provide some chairs to encourage longer visits.
Be with the person who has past, many cultural and religious traditions carry out three day vigils. It is believed that it takes time for someone to complete the dying process. This time is sacred and can be very healing.