When a loved one dies, it is common to experience a variety of emotions, including sadness, anger and fear. It’s also very common to experience denial. Naturally, it’s difficult to imagine our lives without someone with whom we’ve spent time and created memories. As a result, we may think it will lessen the pain if we simply move on, without any ceremony, such as a funeral or memorial service. These feelings can be even more difficult to navigate if loved ones were estranged from the individual who died or had an otherwise strained relationship.
Regardless of the circumstances, it may seem like the easiest thing to do is move on as quickly as possible and avoid the emotions that often accompany a funeral. In addition, the thought of viewing the body of a family member or friend can be uncomfortable for many. That’s understandable. We’re sad because our loved one is no longer with us and it can be difficult to imagine viewing his or her lifeless body.
Often, people say they want to remember the person as they were when they were alive. By all means, this is important. However, viewing the body of a loved one helps family and friends acknowledge the loss and makes it almost impossible to deny the death has occurred. This is the first step in healing.
Viewing a body isn’t easy; however, it can play a very important role in helping loved ones move forward in their grief. There are two kinds of viewing: private and public.
A private viewing takes place in the chapel or viewing room of the funeral home. It gives a small group of family members and friends who may not be comfortable expressing their grief the opportunity to grieve in a more private setting. It can also be appropriate when a loved one dies following a debilitating disease or a traumatic accident, making the family less inclined to have an open casket.
A public viewing gives extended family and friends the opportunity to gather, in a shared environment, begin to acknowledge the loss and take the first steps in moving forward. It also allows the family to share in this communal experience so they don’t feel alone and isolated in their loss. Public viewings may be held at the funeral home, a church, a chapel in a nursing home and sometimes a high school, especially if many mourners are expected. A funeral director can provide you with options.
Embalming is not always necessary, especially for a private viewing, but can create a pleasing appearance for a public viewing. Speak with your funeral director regarding requirements in your state.