What is a funeral viewing?

A funeral viewing is essentially a private moment before the funeral where you can see and spend some quiet time with the person before the service. This usually happens at the funeral home, but it can be held at your home if you wish. It may sound like a confronting experience, and it can also be a very comforting process of closure and acceptance.


What happens at a funeral viewing?

This is very much up to the family of the deceased, and the funeral home will be able to help you with the preparation. The tradition of viewing a dead body will change depending on values and beliefs.

In a typical viewing service and depending on the nature of the death and what the family wants, the casket may be fully open, and you can see the body, or the casket may be left closed.  Those in attendance will usually get a few moments alone with the casket. This may lead people to choose to openly talk to the loved one and perhaps speak some final words or otherwise keep those words to oneself. Each person will usually get the opportunity to have this time with a loved one in what is generally considered a more relaxing setting to the funeral itself.


Why have a funeral viewing?

The idea of gathering to observe a loved one may be difficult for some and a viewing isn’t appropriate for every family. That said, many find viewings a central part of coping with grief  and their healing process. It gives them a moment to see the departed for the final time and say their last goodbye with the body present.

Seeing the body before the funeral can hopefully help in the grieving process. It is a personal decision for many and there is no right or wrong choice. Furthermore, as the body is cared for by mortuary staff, it can be of great comfort to see the loved one not in pain and in their final resting state. Having the opportunity to say any last personal words that you may have been unable to say when the person was alive can also help with the grieving process with the viewing providing a good opportunity to do this.


Should children attend a funeral viewing?

It’s common to assume that children should not be present for a funeral viewing as the process would be too traumatic, however many find that they could benefit in the same ways that adults do from seeing the body. They too have goodbyes to say. Children may like to draw a picture or write something to place on the coffin. If you are going to bring a child along, remember to advise them prior of a few things:

  • There’s going to be a dead body present, but you don’t have to look at it if you don’t want to
  • People will show emotion and that is a normal part of the service
  • They always need to be quiet and respectful

Bringing children to a viewing is an individual choice and at each parent’s discretion and judgement. Only bring children if you believe the child will be mature enough to handle the process.


What do you wear to a funeral viewing?

How to dress for a funeral viewing is a very personal decision. It will depend on where it is being held and the cultural norms attached to the service. Normal funeral etiquette is to wear respectful, formal attire is donned which may be black or dark coloured, however the opposite could be the case in some cultures or if the family makes a request for a certain attire.

If you are organising the viewing, decide on a dress standard that will make everyone comfortable and create a caring ambiance. If you’re attending one and aren’t sure, it’s always best to ask someone in the family what they would like you to wear. When in doubt, simple, formal clothing is a safe option.


Who should be invited?

This is a personal decision for the family to make. It depends on the tone and ambiance you wish to have during the viewing. Some find comfort in being surrounded by family and friends in such circumstances, whilst others may rather have a few of the deceased’s closest relatives and/or friends present. Remember that a viewing is a very individual moment that doesn’t normally feature regular funeral proceedings which allow for greater attendance and participation of others.


How much does a funeral viewing cost?

Often the costs involved will include the use of the space and needed support from staff (should you choose to hold it at the funeral home), transport of the coffin and body, and any embalming or mortuary care desired by the family. Talking with an experienced Funeral Director will help in the planning of the viewing. Your Funeral Director will be able to help you with a breakdown of the prices, which will vary.

To have a funeral viewing is a personal choice. This may be a way for family and friends to gain closure as well as pay final respects and farewell a loved one.  If you are interested in holding a viewing for your loved one, please speak to your funeral director. They will be able to guide you on what is best for you, your family and your loved one.

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