I’ve argued with myself since attending a grief workshop led by Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a national expert on bereavement.
Should the dead be at the funeral or not? Wolfelt, a prodigious writer and enthusiastic speaker, crafted a “Ten Freedoms For Creating a Meaningful Funeral.” His #4 was . . .
While viewing the body is not appropriate for all cultures and faiths, many people find it helps them acknowledge the reality of the death. It also provides a way to say goodbye to the person who died. There are many benefits to viewings and open casket ceremonies; don’t let others tell you this practice is morbid or wrong.
Thomas Lynch—a poet, essayist and undertaker—agrees with Wolfelt. In a 2013 edition of the digital magazine Aeon, Lynch wrote . . .
Thus, on my short list of the essential elements of the good funeral, the presence of the dead is the first and definitive element. Memorial services, celebrations of life, or variations on these commemorative events – whether held sooner or later or at intervals or anniversaries, in a variety of locales – while useful socially for commemorating the dead and paying tribute to their memories, lack an essential manifest and function: the disposition of the dead. The option to dispose of the dead privately, through the agency of hirelings, however professional they might be, and however moving the memorial that follows, is an abdication of an essential undertaking and fundamental humanity.
I disagree with Wolfelt and Lynch. But should I? Is the body’s presence at the funeral—open casket and in plain view of the living—a “morbid or wrong” decision? Do we abdicate our “essential and fundamental humanity” when keeping the casket and its contents out of sight? Read More →by