Should We View the Body?

While we are a great believer in the value of the family seeing the body, every family must make that choice for themselves. If the choice is made not to view, then we recommend that the family find other ways to face the reality of the loss.

Viewing can give reality and be the first step of a healthy grief experience. This may seem like a terrible ordeal to put a grieving person through, but it is hard to find reality without it. It may seem difficult, but in most cases it has a healing and comforting effect on us. Our last view of a loved one alive is often not the one we want to carry the rest of our lives. This is especially true after a death following an illness. We often hear folks say they wish to remember the person as they were. That is fine if we did not have to see them while they were ill. After my father died, I was so relieved to see him peaceful instead of gasping for one last breath when he was dying.

Our efforts to avoid viewing often leave far too much to the imagination. Imagination will always make it worse than it was in reality. My former business associate did not get to see her son who died of suicide. Months later she got the pictures the police took of the scene and told me the pictures were so much better than her imagination had made it seem to her. As a grief counselor, I have seen how much solace this can provide a family, and how little is then left to the imagination.