Whether to have the body present and available for viewing, are often the most difficult questions that families have to answer. The problem becomes even more complicated because for some seeing a dead body is helpful, but for others the very idea can be horrifying.
To make matters more complicated, the deceased often requests not to have a viewing for a variety of personal reasons, but research shows that having a viewing can be vitally important for many people. Some research suggests that as many as 90% of people will have some difficulty in the grieving resulting in hostility if the body isn’t present.
Indeed, research into the grieving process supports the importance of seeing the body as it can help mourners accept that the death has really occurred. When death becomes real, we are forced to grieve; we can no longer deny what has happened. This may be especially important for those who had not seen the person for a while.
About a viewing
A Viewing means, that the casket, or a portion of the casket lid is left open, allowing mourners the opportunity to have one last look at their loved one. The viewing can happen during the service or in private.
Whatever you decide, it is unlikely you will please everyone. A common solution to this dilemma is a private viewing, where those who need to see the body have the opportunity to say goodbye. If some people don’t want to attend, they don’t have to. It’s a personal choice.
An important question to ask is “What potential damage am I doing by not giving people the opportunity to say goodbye?” vs. “What are the negative outcomes by having the body present?.”
These are questions that can only be answered thoughtfully before someone dies as it requires reflection and discussion, which is not possible after a loved one has died. There are thousands of cases of people who have made the wrong decision for them, and they regret it for a lifetime…
When There is No Viewing
One of the most painful types of loss is when someone dies unexpectedly, and you can’t retrieve and see the body. Thousands of people have died in plane crashes, war, and events like Sept 11th. In these cases loved ones are left with no mortal remains, yet many hold desperately to the hope that such remains will be found, that this loss can’t be real because there is no proof, no body. This pain and denial can go on for many years.
This experience may be paralleled by those who have not given themselves the opportunity for a final viewing of the body. While having a viewing may be more painful for some, it is often what they need to grieve healthfully. Death is ugly, and no matter how hard we try, we can’t hide from the damage it leaves. What we can do is provide people the opportunity to recover.
For more information, we recommend that you contact one of the funeral professionals located on this website.