What is Embalming?
Embalming is the process of chemically treating the deceased human body to reduce the presence and growth of microorganisms to retard decomposition, and to restore an acceptable appearance
Embalming works on the body proteins, it changes the proteins to a firm material that can no longer serve as food for bacteria, the embalming solution converts the body proteins to a more stable longer lasting substance, the preservative destroys the enzymes that break down the body tissue after death, by conversion of these proteins the body is sanitised and temporarily preserved.
Embalming enhances the appearance of the body and returns the deceased to a more natural appearance removing any devastation that long-term disease or illness has caused as well as to help minimize the results of trauma and the removal of any visible post mortem changes that have begun to appear.
Many studies have shown that confrontation with the dead human body by relatives and friends helps to enforce the fact that the death has occurred. This contact can help release emotions that can often be the beginning of the emotional healing process after death.
Source: Robert G. Mayer (Embalming History, Theory & Practice 2d edition)