Question: Why do people keep the body for a few hours or even for a few days after the soul has departed?Sri Chinmoy: You can say it is because the relatives want to see the remains. They feel sorry because this body, this person, helped them or loved them during life. The father does not see the mother’s soul during her lifetime, but he sees her body, so he is attached to the physical. That is why, when she dies, he wants to keep the physical as long as he can. When the soul has left, the body is useless. It is just like the old, dirty dress you put in the wastebasket. If it is an ordinary soul, after it leaves the body, it hovers nearby — in the house or in the yard or somewhere nearby. God gives the soul a chance to see whether the family really cared for it, and the soul gives the family a chance to show whether they actually cared about its death. Then after a few hours, usually about eleven hours although it may be longer, the soul departs and does not come back again.
Sri Chinmoy, Death and reincarnation: Eternity's voyage, Agni Press, 1973