After you die, and before your funeral, you may want to give family and friends the option to visit your body to pay their last respects.
We consider the rationale for it and one or two things about this tradition that you probably weren’t aware of. Read this guide to weigh up the pros and cons deciding if it’s right for you and for your loved ones.
Who is this guide for?
Is visiting my body before the funeral a good way to pay last respects?
If you are unfamiliar with the custom of going to visit a body in the days leading up to a funeral, the idea may seem strange, or even scary. Well it is worth knowing it was actually a commonplace occurrence in the early 20th century and had a sound purpose behind it.
Visiting your body can be a valuable part of the grieving process. As loved ones literally face death and have to come to terms with its finality. It also affords visitors some private space to say their goodbyes, away from the shared, public gaze of a funeral.
Naturally, it can be very upsetting to look upon the face of a loved one after death – and that is as it should be. Grief is love. Some people prefer to pass up the option to view, and that's okay too. But the people you care most about may appreciate having the choice.
What are the choice of locations for visiting my body?
Regardless of where you die, there are two primary options for a viewing location for people when they pay their last respects.
Visiting your body in the funeral home
Every funeral director has a chapel of rest or service room, which is designed for this purpose.
The coffin rests on a stand, and there is usually seating available. Religious emblems can be placed in the room with you, according to your religious beliefs, or the room can be left unadorned. You may also be able to have photographs or other personal items on display. If that idea appeals to you, leave instructions for the funeral director in advance.
Visiting your body at your home
The second option is for your body to be brought home for the viewing. In this instance, you will need to consider who will be responsible for looking after you until the funeral and how they will cope with this.
We recommend discussing this most sensitive of all your funeral preferences with your loved ones so that you understand how they feel about it, before you let them know why you feel the way you do about it and what you would ideally like to happen.
Can I stop someone from visiting my body before the funeral?
Conventionally, anyone can visit your body, but you are free to specify who can and cannot attend. You may have valid personal reasons for excluding people from this privilege, which is your prerogative.
If you intend to buy a prepaid funeral plan, leave your wishes in the notes section on the application form. It may be helpful to discuss the 'guest list' with your family too, so that everyone understands your wishes.
When would visiting the chapel of rest not be ideal for paying last respects?
If you were to die in a manner that caused trauma to parts of your body that would be clearly visible, the funeral director may suggest that a viewing is not recommended. You could also leave instructions in this instance to inform any decision your loved ones may have to make.
What is the cost to visit my body before the funeral?
The option to visit your body in the chapel of rest is subject to be included in the total cost of your prepaid funeral plan. Usually finding the more basic funeral plans tend not to include the option to visit. Although your family may be able to pay for this service at the time of the funeral.
A funeral director's fee for this service today, is anywhere between £100 and £250. The cost usually goes up if this service is required out of normal working hours.
The option to visiting your body is not included and cannot be added at a later date to the lowest cost Direct Cremation or a Direct Burial service. (i.e. a cremation or burial service with no-one in attendance).
The pros and cons of giving loved ones the option to pay their last respects more personally
Weighing it all up, a viewing affords loved ones the opportunity to say their private goodbyes. Some people say it helps them come to terms with their loss. While others find the idea too distressing and prefer just to attend a funeral.
If you consider a viewing to be a valuable element of the grieving process for loved ones, you can specify whether you'd like to be dressed in a funeral gown or in your own clothes. Mourners often find it comforting to see the deceased in familiar clothing. You can leave this sort of detail for your family in our Funeral Wishes Planner which is free to download.
Typically prepaid funeral plans that include this option are more expensive than other funeral plans in a provider's range. To keep the cost of a funeral plan down, you could consider a plan without this service and your family could pay for it at the time of the funeral. You would need to check the terms and conditions of the funeral plan to see if this would be possible.