Should you view the body? Paul Allcock considers the confrontation of reality in this month’s blog for SAIF.

April 12, 2018   //   No Comments

In continuing the passages from my writings on ‘What the funeral provides for the bereaved’ this blog concentrates on the question many people ask: should I see the body?

Honest confrontation with death and the vast change this creates in our lives, is vitally important to break through the natural defences we have. Natural reactions can include denial and the desire to flee from the painful reality of death.

In my opinion, an equally important part of the funeral process, along with the funeral service, is the confrontation of the body. Many people are afraid to take this step, or are often discouraged by family and friends. It is obviously a very personal decision to make, and it often depends on the last experience and vision that we have of a loved one, but in my experience it can help enormously in the process of accepting death, particularly if this is proving difficult.

This is especially important when the death is sudden. Even in extreme cases and when the body is disfigured in some way, the imagination of how the deceased will appear is, in the vast majority of cases, far worse than the reality. These long lingering thoughts can produce extreme bereavement issues in the longer term.  Very occasionally it may be inappropriate for the body to be viewed. In these circumstances I would still encourage time spent with the coffin closed in a chapel of rest, church or even at home. This can then at least help to affirm that death has taken place.

In days of old, the body remained at home, due to funeral directors not having chapels of rest. I believe that through our society trying to protect itself from the trauma of death, we have inadvertently served to increase the suffering. Sadly, we are ill prepared for the death of a loved one, or indeed our own death, and the sooner we are able to accept death without fear, the sooner we are able to help others through this difficult passage of life.

SAIF have been working closely with the ‘Art of Dying Well’ website which has some excellent resources to help people preparing for death and subsequent bereavement. Find out more here.