Stages of Death


I have always been fascinated by death, related customs and the dying process. Although naturally a part of life, it is still pinpointed as taboo. For many people, myself included, it is a topic shrouded in mystery. When something is unknown to me, I often develop a curiosity about it, often leading to a passion. Such a situation led to my interest in mortuary science.

Many past cases of believed vampires were actually due to the misunderstanding of the dying process, which basically follows as such:

Post-mortem, the fastest and first step is pallor mortis, Latin for ‘paleness of death.’ This stage is most visible in those with lighter-toned skin and is caused by the lack of blood circulations in the capillaries and therefore body. Pallor mortis can begin minutes after death.

The second stage is algor mortis, or coldness of death. This describes the reduction in body temperature  following death. Until ambient temperature

Livor mortis is ‘discoloration of death’ and it is a function causing usually bluish-purple discoloration of the skin due to the pooling of blood in the dependant parts of the body after death. Note that the blood will gravitationally migrate to the lowest point in the body. After about 12 hours, the lividity becomes fixed.

The next and most well-known is rigor mortis, also known as stiffness of death. This stage lasts approximately 36-72 hours (2-3 days). Rigor mortis is a chemical change (the loss of adenosine triphospahate, ATP) to the muscles in a body, causing them to stiffen up. It tends to start around the eyes and other smaller facial muscle groups and thus spreads downward to the larger muscles.

After this time period, during secondary flaccidity, the muscles relax again. This is due to the decay of your muscles, allowing them not to be as contracted as they were in rigor mortis.

Next, decomposition begins to set in. Decomposition is when organic substances (i.e. your body) are broken down into simpler forms of matter(helped along by natural decomposers, such as maggots and scavengers such as vultures). After a body begins to decompose, putrefaction begins.

Putrefaction is when bacterial enzymes cause destruction of soft tissues in the body. Essentially, the bacteria living inside your body eats its way out, resulting in things such as gas buildup, bloating, swelling, skin slip, and liquefying tissue, all leading to the final result of skeletonisation.