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What is the Purpose of a Viewing?

Published: March 29, 2023

The custom of viewing the body prior to cremation or burial is a common one in the United States. It is also an important part of the grieving process for many, serving not only as visual confirmation of the death of an individual, but also as a way to say farewell one last time to a loved one. Viewings are widely accepted in the Christian and Buddhist faiths, but they are not practiced in the Jewish or Muslim faiths.

In Loving Memory flowers

Typical Viewing Options

Viewings are typically informal affairs that take place prior to cremation or burial. They can be private, including only a small family group, or open to the public. A public viewing may also be called a visitation. At a visitation, the family of the deceased receives visitors who can say their final goodbyes and share condolences with the family.

Viewings Help Provide Closure

In the faiths that practice it, a viewing serves as an initial step of grieving. Seeing the deceased can be very important to relatives who have not recently seen their ailing loved one. The viewing provides visual confirmation of the death. It also allows family members to say a final goodbye to the deceased before they are cremated or buried. 

Gathering for a Viewing Begins Healing

As with any service following a death, a viewing is designed for the living. Those who attend can expect to gather with others who cared about the individual who died. Together, they can pay respects to the deceased and begin to grieve the loss.

Public viewings or visitations invite this process of friends and relatives supporting the immediate family of the deceased. It can also be comforting for those in attendance to show support for the deceased’s family and for one another by sharing memories. If you are unable to attend a funeral or memorial service, you can express your condolences at a visitation or viewing, which is often held the night before the ceremony.

Children can attend a viewing with a parent or other caring relative. Depending on the child’s age and their closeness to the person who is deceased, it can be important for them to see the deceased in order to understand they are no longer living. However, any viewing should be explained to the child, and it should be their choice to see the body. 

Grief is a process, and it isn’t always a linear one. Learn more:

3 Myths About Grief

Viewings Promote Healthy Grieving

In summary, the purpose of a viewing is to provide an opportunity for people to see the deceased and pay respects to them and the family. A viewing promotes healthy grieving, and we encourage families to include a viewing in any final plans for cremation or a funeral with traditional burial.

When you have questions about cremation and funerals, turn to the experienced local staff at Donaghy New Day Cremation & Funeral Care.

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