So somebody you love has died, one of the first questions you’ll be asked by a funeral director is “Do you want them to be embalmed”. Depending on what experience you may or may not have had in these matters, you might not know what this really means. Embalming is simply the process of sanitizing and preserving the body. If you are considering taking your loved one home for a period of time before the funeral or holding private viewings in the funeral home then embalming will ensure they’re well presented. If your loved one is being repatriated (sent back to another country) then embalming is a legal requirement.
Do I need to see my loved one after they die?
Throughout history people have generally stayed with their loved one up until the funeral. After embalming, the funeral director would bring the body home where it would remain until the day of the service. Family and friends would visit, sit, talk, reminisce and share memories with each other and the deceased. As times have changed and more and more people are choosing no service cremations or burials, this practice, in some cultures, has slowly declined. There are however some very significant advantages to spending time with your loved one after death.
- Facing reality – It’s often hard to believe that someone we love has really gone. In fact, denial is the first of the stages of grief. Seeing the body of your loved one, helps bring home the reality and finality of death. Embracing this reality is crucial to the healing process.
- Saying goodbye – Throughout our lives, as a matter of course, we are taught to say Hello and Goodbye. We’re also taught the physical gestures that go along with those, such as shaking hands, a hug, a high five, or a smile and head nod. When somebody leaves this earth it is important that we get to say goodbye to them so that we can say anything that we need to, touch them for the last time and prepare ourselves for the next step in the grief journey.
- Expressing grief – Grief is universal but individual. We all experience it but how we experience it is unique to us all. Generally, the stronger our attachment to the person, the stronger our grief will be. Grief does not go away but it does get easier to live with IF we allow ourselves to feel and process it. Part of this process is expressing our grief. Gathering with family or friends to view your loved one or having them at home allows you to comfort and console each other, talk about how you’re feeling, cry together and generally mourn the life lost.
What about children and teenagers?
Having a safe and healthy first experience of death can set your child on the right path for dealing with future grief and loss. It’s just as important for children to complete the grief journey as it is for adults. If you’re open and honest about death and funerals with your child, then viewing the deceased should be the beginning of them learning how to live with grief. If you’re not comfortable having your loved one at home with you in the period leading up to the funeral, talk to your funeral director about visiting them in a viewing room at the funeral home. They can support you and your family to have a safe and comfortable experience when spending time with your loved one.