Death of a loved one – the decision to see the body

When a loved one dies, the choice to view their body is a complex and very difficult decision. So, what can you expect when you see a loved-one for the last time?

Embalming and presentation of the deceased

If you’ve never seen a dead body before, the experience can be somewhat intimidating. Embalming of a corpse is carried out in order to preserve them for family and friends to see them before burial or cremation.

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Embalming is done by specialists at the funeral home. During the embalming process, blood is removed from the body and replaced with preserving chemicals, including formaldehyde, which inhibits the decomposition process.

Hair styling, make-up and clothing are attended to by staff to make the body of the deceased resemble their real-life appearance as closely as possible, and your funeral director will consult with you about this. Sometimes a recent photograph of your loved-one can be asked for to help staff achieve the best results. For a caring, professional Billericay Funeral Directors, visit a site like Bennetts Funerals, a leading Billericay Funeral Directors.

Although morticians and embalmers are highly skilled, there are limits to what they can do if the deceased died in circumstances that are very traumatic, as in road accidents or fire. Your funeral director will answer any questions you have about this and maybe even suggest that you do not have a private viewing or open casket if the body damage is very severe.

Seeing the body at the funeral home

Many people choose to ‘say goodbye’ to their relatives and find that it gives them comfort and closure to do so. Your funeral director will discuss the arrangements for seeing the body of your loved one.

Some families ask for an open casket so that the body can be seen at the funeral home, service or even during the wake. This is a very personal choice and is often dependent on the religion or ethnic background of the deceased and their families, and the condition of the body at death.

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You can choose to see the body alone, or you can arrange for a group to visit, where you and your family can sit, undisturbed, with the body for a time in a private viewing room.

Some people like to say goodbye to the deceased loved-one by stroking their hair, holding their hands, or kissing them on the forehead. This is all very normal and permissible. Although the body may look ‘lifelike’, the skin will feel cool to the touch. The fingers will move as they would do in life, because of stiffness caused by rigor mortis immediately after death has passed naturally.

In conclusion

The decision about whether or not to see the body of a deceased relative is a very personal one that requires a lot of thought. Some people find the experience helpful and achieve closure in this way, while others may prefer to remember their loved-one as they were in life. Although the funeral director can help you to see your loved one and discuss it with you, the final decision is really up to you.

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