Mummification, cremation, Buddhist celestial burials, and embalming are some of the countless ritualistic processes humans use to deal with someone when they die. Although these practices differ in cultural origin and context, they all pertain to one universally daunting object: a dead human body. Over time we have also learned about the various biological reactions a human body goes through when you die.
Death itself is full of life. Moments after a heart stops beating, the body begins triggering complex systems of biotic breakdowns. This prepares the lifeless body for a sort of reincarnation, and by means of decomposing, it becomes organic matter that can easily transfer itself back into the earth. Pretty cool, right? If this sounds interesting (come on, it totally is), read on for the full facts.
Here are six oddly fascinating things that happen to your body after you die.
1The big chill
Algor mortis is a term that refers to the body temperature of a corpse experiencing a deep chill and dropping to match the temperature of its surrounding environment. The loss of the temperature is usually 1.5 – 2 degrees every hour that the person has passed. So when you die, your body gets colder to the touch by the minute. Freaky.
2 The big stiff, too
When rigor mortis sets in, the blood that once flowed warm and free through the body begins to chill. It coagulates and stops muscles from being able to contract and relax. Every muscle in the body, from the ones in your eyelids to the ones in your limbs, become inflexible, and the joints become locked in place. You essentially turn into a stiff board that can’t be bent in any way.
3The body deflates
A few minutes after the heart stops beating, autolysis begins, which means oxygen levels in the body plummet to empty. Cells begin to eat themselves inside out as they “become deprived of oxygen, and their acidity increases as the toxic by-products of chemical reactions begin to accumulate inside them,” according to Mosaic Science.
4You lose all your color
As the broken down blood cells begin to escape their disintegrated vessels, gravity draws them to settle in smaller veins and capillaries. This causes color change in certain areas of your body after you die. By noticing where blood coagulates and discolors, the body autopsy specialists can actually better determine the exact cause of death. Discoloration occurs in phases and in accordance to the process of decomposition, turning the body various shades of green, blue, red, purple, and eventually black.
5 You get really bloated
Putrefaction takes place when blood vessels and tissues break down even more. Gases and liquids build and bubble which causes the body to become, or appear, bloated in certain areas. Don’t mean to gross you out, but when you die it’s not uncommon for your eyeballs to come out of their sockets and your tongue to slowly fall out of your mouth.
Bloating is most noticeable in the stomach. Trillions of bacterial organisms take on a newfound role in the decomposition of their surroundings. They explore parts of the body they’ve never been. At this stage the body really begins to smell like you think a dead body should smell—horribly putrid. The fermentation process is now under way, and like a fine wine, the body becomes easily influenced by its surroundings.
6You pretty much turn into liquid
About a month after death, all major organs and vessels in the body liquify. Moreover, when the liquids accumulate enough, the body will burst. Nutrients leak into the surrounding environment and create a hotbed of life. Microorganisms flourish, and assuming the body has been buried, the soil becomes extremely nutrient rich, a perfect place for plants to call home.
Thinking about death can be emotionally arduous. Remedying the existential crises that may come with accepting our inevitable fate can be easier than it looks. Death is a harbinger of life. Thus, death becomes the most provocative purveyor of life.