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Is There a Value in Viewing Your Loved One at a Funeral?

By Shun Newbern
Funeral Home, Cremation, Embalming Expert Witness and Consultant
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The traditions of our cultures are changing. People are considering cremation and direct burials more than before. The open casket viewing has been apart of the death process for centuries and is slowly fading away. Professional embalming, restorative art and preservation can be accomplished with skill, as well as appreciated by families for that final farewell.

Good information is the basis of good solid decision making. When a loved one dies, we all know, intellectually, that they really have died. But people, regardless of how bright or sophisticated - have strong feelings which are not logical when a powerful emotional issue is involved. Seeing the body as the focal point of a ritual (the funeral service) is a powerful form of reality testing. When one is dead, they are dead.

Social scientists who study grief and the serious psychological problems it can cause consistently find value in viewing and the funeral. We all know instinctively how bad not seeing the body would be when a person goes missing, soldier dies overseas, plane crashes or a bombing occurs. Thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent searching for lost bodies, and we all understand why.

Most of us was taught from childhood that the polite and proper thing to do was to say "Hello" when we meet someone and "Good-Bye" when we departed their presence. In the Western Culture we acknowledge contact with another person with a hand shake, hug, high five, smile or a nod of the head. And finally, when we leave the presence of another person we shake hands, give hugs but most importantly we say "Good-Bye" - this was all taught from childhood. Thus, when someone suddenly dies the family and friends has the basic, and very distinctive human need to say "good-bye".

Embalmers are professional, skilled, knowledgeable and well trained to restore decedents after a febrile disease, long-term disease or trauma of any kind. Shun Newbern & Associates also offer training for embalmers who lack those skills or who would like to improve their standard of care. Reconstructive surgery performed is a unique professional expertise that can not be provided by discipline and provides an enormous value for families.

Values of Open Casket Viewing :

Provides the family and friends with the confrontation that death has in fact occurred to test the reality - seeing is believing.
Without viewing it can be difficult for the family and friends to persuade their own mind that their loved one or close friend is gone. Denial can cause a person to continually expect their deceased loved one to someday "just walk through the door."
Viewing the body is a very special time that allows the family and friends to begin the transition into their new life. That new life is continuing to live onward without the presence of their loved.
Viewing provides comfort and a time for everyone to say goodbye to the deceased in their own personal way.
Viewing provides a means of social support. Regardless of the method chosen for final disposition of the body a public visitation can be of great help to family and friends in dealing with the grieving and mourning process.
Viewing of the body should always be considered before final disposition.
The open casket viewing is the most personalized part of any funeral ritual or ceremony. Not having the body present at a funeral ceremony or ritual is like having a wedding ceremony without the bride or groom being present.

"There are two primary choices in life: To accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them." - Dr. Denis Waitley


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shun Newbern, MS
Shun Newbern, CFSP has over 20 years of funeral service experience, embalming in excess of 12,000 bodies and is the founder of Shun Newbern & Associates, a national speaking and consulting service on funeral service, cremation and cemetery matters. As a funeral director and embalmer, he assists in supervising a large staff of embalmers of a high volume location. He has written a series of articles on embalming, funeral ethics and prep room management in the Funeral Home and Cemetery News, ICCFA , The Director, Morticians Journal, Mortuary Management and The Scope. Because of his professionalism and attention to detail, this is the consultant or funeral expert that you want to support your team in a funeral service matter.

Copyright Shun Newbern

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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