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Washed and dressed my deceased Mother in Law. I feel numb and stunned (graphic)

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Hello everyone,


So my MIL passed away Monday morning at 2am. My husband and I took the 5 minute drive to say our goodbyes. I was due to go to work early that day, so I thought I'd stay to say my goodbyes and pay my respects to the family who cared for her at the time of her death.


As time ticked on, the Dr came round to declare time of death and then the undertakers were called to collect her at 6am.


The people present were my sister and brother in Law (her carers) and my husband and myself. So my sister in law and I agreed we should wash and dress her instead of total strangers, it is considered a final act of kindness before burial. I didn't think much of it at the time as I'd helped with some personal care toward the end of her life. But this was an hour and ten minutes of pure shock for me. I've never seen a dead body ever and it has left me really traumatized. I know it sounds very dramatic but I don't know how else to describe it. She went cold and stiff so quickly, her eyes wouldn't stay shut and her hands went black. I was so scared I was going to hurt but there she was dead in her bed. I tried to bend her arm into the top we chose for her but was just too preoccupied about her head just .... lulling with her mouth open. I didn't want to harm her incase she physically broke. She was extremely fragile at 80 yrs old.


I'm glad I did it because we made her look like how she should look. We put glasses on her and brushed her hair. We put her cardigan on, which was her signature look. My husband and my Brother in Law just broke into raw emotion because she looked like their Mum and not the Ill, old lady in bed in a hospital gown.


The reason for my post is to just talk about the experience. It's left me really stunned and I've barely uttered two words. I've hidden it as grief but in all honesty I'm just scared. I can't bare to be left alone because I'm just a bit frightened. I don't know what of.... But I feel weird.


I loved her very much, knew her for 6 years but we became very, very close in the last year. I love that I have this gift of delivering their Mum as they knew her, I'm truly humbled but I can't get the images of her dead, naked body out of my head. Seeing death like that has just silenced me.


I'm so sorry for the graphic nature of my post but I need to talk to someone, I can't talk to anyone here. I didn't go to work, I just came home and scrubbed my body in the shower, crying my eyes out. I just needed to get her scent off me.


Will this numbness go away?

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I'm very sorry for your and your husband's loss.


It's heartwarming to know that you had a loving 6 year relationship with your MIL and became very, very close. She gave you her greatest gift which was raising her son who grew to be your husband. It sounds like you had a very loving relationship with your MIL.


Yes, numbness will go away. You need to give it a lot of time to grieve and mourn. It could take months or years even. In the meantime, don't forget to live your life and find happiness and joy with survivors around you and your immediate family. Your MIL would've wanted that. Take good care of yourself and family.

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I watched my mother pass away last November. She suffered for weeks and the days were long and grueling.


My brother and I didn't leave her side during this time and were with her around the clock for her last 72 hours.


I too can't erase the things I saw. I looked at my brother in dark the middle of one night and told him

- no child should watch their parent go through this.

It was extremely difficult. I wasn't sure I'd ever be the same.


It's coming up on 8 months and the visions do lesson. It takes some effort, but you practice replacing those graphic thoughts with the fond moments you had with her.

It does gets better. I promise.


I understand the fear. Death isn't pretty and it's not like the movies. It does kinda rock you for a bit.


I am thinking about the gift you gave your MIL and her family by taking care of a very private moment with such dignity. I also know my mother wouldn't have wanted her children to go through that. But that's my mom. Add in it was her choice to be cremated.


I don't know what else to say. Take your time and be patient with yourself.

Just know what you are experiencing is very normal.


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I'm very sorry for the hurt and the shock this has caused. Death is a very real reminder of our own mortality and how fleeting and fragile life is. My advice is to take your own time to absorb what's happened and be with your family. I'd encourage you all to remember her and celebrate her life and your life together as a family. It's not unusual to have family members wash and dress a loved one but it really doesn't happen often. I'm touched to hear this.


My mother's business which I inherited is in the funeral and casket industry. I don't play a big role in the running of it but I have early memories of spending my childhood in a funeral home as does my mother who also inherited the business from her mother. I can see how this may be a very foreign place for most people. When we are faced with the loss of a loved one, it's helpful for me to remember loved ones in death as they were in life and to treat the body as if the spirit is still alive, with respect and care and love. This is just how I've learned to cope and help others who may be going through loss.


Take time to yourself and space out if you need to. What you did and shared with your family, in giving of yourself as an act of service, is also an act of love and kindness. You've wished love and kindness to your mother in law. It's now time to take care of yourself and your family with the same love and kindness and care. The numbness will eventually fade. It's a good idea to remember that while we have experienced loss, we are remaining and still alive so don't be afraid or feel guilty or too sad to live. You are still alive as are your family around you. She would want you to take care of each other. Take care of yourself too.

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Yes, the numbness will go away. You had never seen a dead body before and you suddenly had to take care of one. That was quite a grand leap, which may be one of the reasons you feel this way. Death is a natural part of the cycle of life. Yet, modern society would like to forget that and shields people from it and people end up feeling it is something unnatural and abnormal. Hence, your shock. Yet, what you did used to be the norm once in the past and families would prepare their loved ones like that for their final journey all the time.


What you did was worthwhile and very meaningful. It sounds like you need some time to process this new and totally foreign experience and find the meaning it holds for you. Likely, it feels weird because it was totally foreign. Yet, it sounds like you are able to see the good in it, and imo that is a step towards the right direction. My condolences for your loss.

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