Over the years many families have asked me, why do people view their loved ones?
Although formal viewings and visitations may less common today, many families still receive comfort by viewing to help them in the grieving process.
The three main reasons are:
1. Acknowledging the reality of the death
2. Seeing them in a peaceful state
3. Saying goodbye
In today's busy society where we are more mobile - either from traveling or from living abroad - many family members are not in the same town when the death occurs. There is often a disbelief that the death had actually occurred - just having to take someone else's word for it. This is the same in cases of sudden death - vehicle or other accidents, murders, and suicide - by not having the opportunity for a viewing, there can be a degree of doubt that the person died. This is evident when families do not have the chance to view their loved one such as airplane crashes and more particularly September 11th. This is why great pains were taken to recover remains for DNA purposes. Still many of these people are left with the uncertainty of the death actually happening. By having the opportunity to view the deceased, the person can acknowledge for them self of that reality of the death.
Also, with the increase of long-term illnesses like cancer, it is more common to see our sick family members suffer in their final days. Usually in pain, on heavy medications, or hooked up to machines, these last visions received during vigils in hospitals can stay with survivors for a long time. The same is true of one who dies from a tragic accident or suicide as their family may have witnessed this horrific site or have been told the gruesome details. For families of these circumstances, a viewing at the funeral home will allow them to see their loved one in a peaceful state - without tubes, sunken cheeks, or ghastly wounds.
And sometimes people just need to say goodbye. Whether if the death was sudden or if family members were out of town - today's busy world sometimes prevents us from making that phone call or stopping by for a coffee. Maybe the last conversation ended in haste or maybe there hasn't been a conversation for some time. Whatever the circumstances, the viewing can give the survivors the opportunity to say thank you, to say I love you, to say goodbye.
From time to time people say that they do not want to remember their loved one lying in a casket - fearing that this memory will haunt them. I like to reflect on the time that my grandfather died. We had the traditional visitation - well over two hours, and sure, if I think about it, I can remember him in the casket - but whether it is a few minutes or a couple of hours - the memory viewing is not even a blip on the timeline of the years of memories - and it is the lifetime of memories that I recall when I think of Grandpa.
Although every circumstance is unique, having the opportunity to view the deceased can assist those left behind, through their journey of the grieving process. Your funeral director can provide you with more information for your specific needs.As funeral directors, it is an honour of assist families during one of the most difficult times of their lives.