The funeral ceremony is an essential aspect of a healthy grief journey. One thing to consider as you plan is whether or not you want to have the body present at the funeral service. Whether you choose burial or cremation, you can have a visitation or service with the body present, and, according to grief expert, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, there are many benefits to making this choice.
Having the body present at the service allows us to:
- Acknowledge the Reality of Death - Viewing the body allows mourners to physically see the reality of the death that has occurred. When a loved one dies, especially if the loss is sudden or unexpected, the first reaction for many people is shock and denial. Some may have trouble accepting that the loss has occurred until they can see for themselves. This need for acknowledgement may sound strange, but it’s a vital step to the grief journey.
- Look Back Before We Look Forward - You might think that viewing the body will be emotionally painful or that your loved ones won’t want to remember you that way. It’s important to understand that we can only move forward through our grief after we have had a chance to look backward. Letting yourself experience painful emotions allows you to begin the journey towards acceptance and healing.
- Recall the Life Lived -Loved ones will frequently gather around the body and share memories of the deceased. For many, this a treasured and vital part of the funeral experience. Some people may come from a background where this practice hasn’t been normalized, but for those who’ve experienced a community of support following a death, spending time with a loved one’s body one last time can be one of their most cherished moments in the grief journey.
Adding a viewing or visitation to the funeral experience provides unique opportunities to remember and honor a loved one’s life. Though the process may be feel foreign, understanding the value of a visitation or viewing with the body present allows you to make an informed decision and take steps to processing death in a healthy way.