Is it Important to Have a Public Viewing Before a Funeral?

By: Ian Elliott
Friday, October 30, 2015

In most cultures, it’s common to have a viewing, visitation or wake prior to the funeral. The viewing can happen days before or on the same day of the funeral and typically include family and friends of the deceased.

There are various factors that can determine the importance of a viewing. Different cultures and religions have different opinions on viewings but for the most part there are several factors that make holding a viewing or visitation important.

What’s the Difference Between a Viewing and a Visitation?

Both a viewing and visitation can seem similar at first, but they are very different. A viewing is giving family and friends a chance to see the body of their loved one a final time. Guests of the viewing are allowed to look at the body and touch the body if they want to.

Typically if a viewing is public, meaning it’s being held at a funeral home or church, the body will already be embalmed and ready for burial as per specific regulations. A private viewing typically takes place prior to the public viewing to give family members a chance to say goodbye before receiving their friends for the public viewing.

A visitation is a chance for friends and family to meet at a convenient place to talk and reminisce about the deceased. The body is not present at a visitation however there are usually pictures or other memorials laid out to remember their loved one.

Why is a Viewing Important?

When a loved one passes away, especially if they pass away suddenly or unexpectedly, finding closure is hard. A public viewing is one of the best ways to give friends and family a final chance to say goodbye or resolve any unfinished business.

By viewing or touching the body, friends and family can work through their grief and try to find comfort in their loss. Viewing also   brings the reality of the death to the forefront.  

When Is a Viewing Not Appropriate?

While having a viewing can be therapeutic and helpful in managing grief, there are some instances where it does not make sense to hold a viewing. Some of those reasons are as follows:

  • When the deceased specifically requests no viewing: Going against someone’s wishes for their funeral process is wrong. Having a viewing when no viewing was requested is taking advantage of your loved one and should completely be avoided if asked.
     
  • If the deceased was a victim of an accident that altered their appearance: Funeral homes will often work to restore your loved one to the image of health for their viewing, however some accidents cannot be undone, and for these types of deaths, it’s often better to have no viewing.

If a loved one requests no viewing, or if a viewing is not possible, there is always the option to hold a visitation instead. Meeting with friends and family to discuss memories and comfort one another can be just as therapeutic as seeing your loved one at a viewing.

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