What Exactly Happens To Your Body When You Die?

A philosopher once said, “Death is the most beautiful part of life.”

I’m not sure how many people would agree with this statement, but there has always been a morbid sense of curiosity in humans surrounding the concept of death. Many scientists have tried to prove various things that people believe, such as things that take place after one is dead (the afterlife, for instance). However, as of now, we can’t comment with any hard evidence about the afterlife, but we can certainly help you look at the things that happen to a person after death from a purely scientific perspective.

When the Body Dies

Heart: Immediately after a person dies, his heart stops pumping. Since the heart is responsible for pumping blood to every part of the body, the moment the heart ceases to function, blood stops flowing and begins to form thick lumps. The force of gravity then pulls it downwards in the human body; this phenomenon is known as postmortem hypostatis or livor mortis. As the blood is no longer flowing, the body becomes rigid (rigor mortis) and the temperature also drops. That’s why a dead body feels ice cold when touched.

Cells of the body: Since there is no longer any intake of oxygen, the cells in the body that require oxygen on a continual basis stop functioning and die quickly.

Why the Stench?

After the cells of a body die, they break down, creating an environment that is ideal for fungi and bacteria. The bacteria enter the skin and the decomposition of the body begins. The decomposition process can be slowed down using a technique known as embalming (more about it in the video below). Bacteria release chemicals like putrescine and cadavarine, which cause that unpleasant stench of a dead body.

Do Hair and Fingernails Grow After Death?

The simple answer: NO! This is one of the most common myths related to death. In fact, it’s not the fingernails that are growing, but rather the body that is shrinking. This “optical illusion” of death makes the fingernails and hair look as if they are growing.

For a more visual representation of the biological processes that occur after life has been snuffed out, check out the video below:


  1. What Happens When We Die? – Biola University Center for Christian Thought
  2. What Happens When We Die?- Columbia University Press Website
  3. The science of DEATH – Mail Online (Dailymail)
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Ashish is a Science graduate (Bachelor of Science) from Punjabi University (India). He spends a lot of time watching movies, and an awful lot more time discussing them. He likes Harry Potter and the Avengers, and obsesses over how thoroughly Science dictates every aspect of life… in this universe, at least.

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