Mondays with the Mortician: To view or not to view, is it even a question

Published 9:00 am Monday, March 9, 2015

Eric Weerts

Funeral director, Mayer Funeral Home

Many times I have heard people say, “It doesn’t matter if you have a viewing or not,” or “I want to remember dad the way he really was,” even “I don’t want people staring at me in a casket.”

Email newsletter signup

Understanding the importance of viewing someone that has died, is the initial phase of the grief process. There is a logical reason for viewing a decedent. Viewing a loved one that has died is the most powerful realization that the death occurred.

If you talk to anyone that has been to a memorial service, where there is no body, they will tell you that the atmosphere is different than a traditional viewing and funeral. They may feel comforted by that notion, because there was not a body there to view, but they are delaying the grief process.



According to Dr. Rabbi Earl A. Grollman, in “Living When A Loved One Has Died”:

“The time to grieve is now. Do not suppress or ignore your mourning reactions. If you do, your feelings will be like smoldering embers, which may later ignite and cause a more dangerous explosion. Grief is unbearable heartache, sorrow, loneliness. Because you loved, grief walks by your side. Grief is one of the most basic ofhuman emotions. Grief is very, very normal.”

I take Rabbi Grollman’s thought to heart because of the nature of my work.  Cremation, with no public viewing, takes away the opportunity for the public to truly accept the passing of an individual and properly begin the process of grieving the loss.

One of my tasks as a funeral director is to educate my community about the psychological benefits of going through the grief process and the options you have when it comes to you or your loved one’s final arrangements.

Cremation is just another method of disposition, like burial. In the event a family chooses cremation but wishes to view their deceased loved one during the visitation, a cremation or rental casket is used for the purposes of viewing, and then the decedent is cremated soon after. This method provides the means to have the viewing, allowing for the grieving process to begin, but also honors the decision of the decedent or the family.

When you consider what kind of arrangements you would like to have for yourself as you age, think of your family coming to terms with your passing.

Cremation with no viewing may disappoint your family because your relatives, especially those living out of the area, may want to see you and say their final goodbyes after you have passed.

Consider the people that you have touched during your lifetime who may not have had the chance to see you or say their goodbyes. By allowing them to view you and pay their respects you are giving them a final gift by allowing them to begin the natural grief process.