The offer of an open casket service will likely spark several serious discussions
We wanted to cover a few of the most common topics as well as suggest some ideas for how to decide.
What is meant by open casket?
In traditional funeral practices, the deceased may have done pre-arrangements, or the family of the deceased may have chosen to have a casket. Caskets are the container used to bury the dead or to hold the body for cremation. The family or deceased can choose to have a closed casket, which means the casket is sealed, or an open casket, so the body can be viewed by attendees.
Is an open casket allowed?
Some religious traditions do not allow for viewing of the deceased. Others simply have a personal preference. In certain cases the body may not be able to be restored or reconstructed and an open casket is not a good idea. This could include tragic accidents that caused disfigurement, decomposition or other conditions that could not create a restorative state for the deceased.
Is embalming required on an open casket service?
Typically yes. Embalming is done as a practice to keep the body safe for others to be near it. The embalming process preserves the body, disinfects it and restores appearance that allows for viewing. It postpones the body’s decomposition and brings a bit of color back into the appearance, as do the application of cosmetics. However, the body will likely not look exactly like the person before they passed.
“the body will generally be dressed and made up, giving a life-like appearance. For some, this can be a great source of comfort. For others, this can be uncomfortable. It is important to know that the body of the deceased will often look different from how the person looked in life.” Source: What to expect in an open casket service
Are there benefits to an open casket?
The largest benefit I have learned is that it helps people come to the reality of the situation. They cannot deny the reality of the death, and it allows them to mourn (and heal through that mourning). For some, it brings closure and helps them see that the dead is not suffering.
Is it ok for kids to go to an open casket service?
It depends on the age and maturity of a child, as well as their past experiences with death and their relationship to the deceased. For example, a child who has already experienced grief and loss through the death of a pet, who was able to process, ask questions and be supported, will likely have less of a problem than one who has not.
Death is scary and hard for some adults, so should be treated in a way that allows the child’s curiosity to lead. Be sure to talk to your child about what to expect before you get there. Typically, parents with children will sit towards the back and allow the children to make a choice about approaching the open casket. They will go up with them, if the child chooses, and they will hold them and talk to them. Only you know your child and what their comfort level is.
Am I required to view the body in an open casket service?
No, there is no obligation or requirement. The funeral service is an opportunity for you to pay your respects, to celebrate the life of the deceased and begin or continue the grieving process. However you choose to participate is up to you. The family has chosen an open casket for their reasons, and everyone handles death differently.