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Answers to Death’s Frequently Asked Questions

Discussing death is often considered taboo in many cultures, leading to a lack of understanding and discomfort.

Common Questions About Death

Discussing death is often considered taboo in many cultures, leading to a lack of understanding and discomfort. However, addressing these concerns and having open conversations about mortality is essential. This Q&A blog includes common questions about death, from cultural practices to scientific studies. We hope to provide valuable insights and encourage a more informed and compassionate approach to death and dying by shedding light on these subjects.

Question 1: Why is discussing death often considered taboo?

Answer: Many people fear discussing death because it's an unknown concept, and it raises various concerns, such as sadness, superstitions, potential conflicts, unpreparedness, and reminders of unaccomplished dreams.

Question 2: According to urban legend, hair and fingernails grow after death. True or false? 

Answer: False. After death, the skin retracts or shrinks as the body dehydrates. This can make it appear as if the hair and nails have grown when, in fact, it's the skin pulling back. After death, the body no longer functions or maintains itself, making cell growth impossible.

Question 3: When are autopsies performed?

Answer: Autopsies, which determine the cause of death, are conducted when someone dies under unknown circumstances. Medical examiners or coroners usually order them.

Question 4: What's the scientific study of death called?

Answer: The study is named thanatology. Thanatologists provide insights into various aspects of death, benefiting professionals like coroners and grief counselors.

Question 5: Why do we have to die – is immortality possible?

Answer: Despite medical advancements increasing human lifespan, our cells and organs aren't designed for immortality. People are living longer than ever, but living indefinitely isn’t feasible.

Question 6: Are deathbed confessions admissible in court?

Answer: Sometimes. Depending on the jurisdiction, a dying declaration (a deathbed confession) could be admissible in civil or criminal cases. 

Question 7: What happens if you die on a cruise ship? 

Answer: Most reputable cruise ships have a morgue where the deceased can be safely and securely stored until the ship reaches the next port or the port of origin. The body is not buried at sea because authorities generally require a postmortem.

Question 8: How much do cremated remains weigh?

Answer: The amount and weight of cremated remains depends on the individual’s height and weight. The average adult’s cremated remains weigh between five and seven pounds.

Question 9: Can you be buried in space?

Answer: While total burials in space aren't feasible, symbolic amounts of remains can be sent to space, orbit, or even lunar surfaces, albeit at a high cost.

Question 10: Burial or cremation: which is more popular?

Answer: While burial was traditionally preferred, cremation has gained popularity due to environmental and cost concerns. Both methods have their own merits.

Question 11: Why are they called “hearses”?

Answer: Funeral professionals refer to the vehicle transporting a casket as a funeral coach, not a hearse. The word "hearse" comes from the Middle English "herse," which refers to a type of candelabra often placed on top of a coffin. Around the 17th century, people started using “hearse” to refer to the horse-drawn carriages that conveyed the casket to the burial place during a funeral procession. The name stuck into the automobile era.

Question 12: Is wearing black mandatory at funerals?

Answer: No, it's not a strict requirement. However, dressing respectfully is essential. Checking with funeral directors for specific attire requests is advisable.

Question 13: Which religions prefer or encourage cremation over burial?

Answer: Many world religions that previously disallowed cremation have eased their guidelines. Other faiths have always preferred cremation per specific beliefs, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism. 

Question 14: What is a death certificate, and why is it necessary?

Answer: A death certificate is an official document that confirms the cause, location, and time of death, along with other personal information. It's essential for legal, burial, investigative, and statistical purposes.

Question 15: Why do some people prearrange their funerals?

Answer: Prearranging funerals offers multiple benefits, including fixed pricing, ensuring one's wishes are respected, aiding estate planning, and protecting family members from potential overspending or aggressive sales.

Have more questions?

It's natural to ponder mortality or the loss of loved ones. Taking proactive steps like funeral pre-planning can offer control and peace of mind. Contact an Afterall location near you for more information on preplanned funeral arrangements.

To learn more about how planning ahead of time can help you in the long run, take a look at our article Own Your Send Off: 6 Perks of Planning Your Funeral in Advance.