What to do with the body – Open casket and closed casket

open coffin

For many an open casket ceremony (where you can actually see the deceased person) can be highly distressing at first. Even before the ceremony as the information comes to hand the distress can overwhelm, especially where the departed person was a close loved one or someone with whom you had a very meaningful relationship with. For many the lead up is actually more distressing than the event itself. While most eventually allow themselves one last look despite their anxiety some still refuse to face the corpse. The choice of facing or not facing the body may well be tied up with many other rituals. If you are in any doubt about the customs involved ask the planners (if they’re not too distressed) or simply talk to someone about your fears. Who knows, it may be deeper than just your fear of death, perhaps you’re simply struggling to say goodbye?

What happens during embalming and viewing?

Before the body is displayed it’s common for it to go through a process called “embalming”, it can just be washed but for viewing (the name for open casket ceremonies) the norm, and in some cases the requirement is that the body be embalmed. Embalming usually involves draining blood and using specific chemicals to preserve the body. Once this is done the body is literally dressed in the clothes of choice. Following this the body may have makeup and concealer applied to present the corpse in the most presentable way possible. Once this is all done the body is placed in a casket (not always but normally) and the either the top half or the full lid of coffin is opened for viewing. Closed casket is simply the opposite of this where the casket is closed, it is also called a “visitation”.

What happens at the end?

Following a visitation (where the coffin is closed) or viewing the body then moves on to be either cremated, buried or placed in a above ground burial plot (a crypt or a tomb). Their may be a funeral service before or after the visitation or viewing. While it is normal for the visitation or viewing to precede the funeral service in religious cases there is no requirement for this to happen. Indeed the viewing or visitation can be at any stage of the funeral proceedings as long as it’s before the cremation/burial/entombment.

Is there anything else I need to know?

An interesting element about open or closed casket viewings or visitations is that they can occur in most if not any location. This is interesting as it opens the door to a lot of locations which could serve as a suitable place for a viewing.

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