To View Or Not To View
Families are often conflicted about whether they should view their loved one's body before the funeral or not.
In some cultures, open coffin is standard procedure, whether before or during the funeral - or both, but for most families in modern Australia, it's a choice, and not always an easy choice.
Ideally, we would all have the opportunity and the time to either be there when our person dies, or at least shortly afterwards. The transition from life to death is not instantaneous, and bearing witness to the physical changes in the hour or two after death is, for most people, a quite sacred time of vigil and acceptance as well as of grieving.
Often there is a very comforting softening of the deceased's face when the struggle to breathe, or to fight against pain has ended. There is no mistaking that the soul has left the body and this can be helpful in our acceptance of the physical death.
We are often asked for advice on whether family should view the body, to which we can only answer that for most people who are conflicted but decide to view, they are glad that they did. No one should ever be asked to view their persons body against their wishes - it is an entirely personal choice and there is no right or wrong.
Of course it is also important to consider the manner of death - if death is accidental or very sudden, the need for family to view the body is generally very strong, however if there are visible injuries this can be very confronting.
Sensitive guidance from the funeral director is key in this situation.
One thing that can be helpful in a viewing is to take something to place with the body - perhaps a flower, a photograph or a letter. Or perhaps a favorite blanket to tuck around them.
When the coffin has been closed, it is often helpful to touch it once again - it's another step on the path of acceptance.
Every person is unique. Every family is different.
With us, every Funeral is Individual.