The Power of a Final Viewing Before Cremation

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Many families we help come to us wanting to carry out their loved one’s wishes to be cremated, but are worried that means they won’t be able to have a funeral. That if they choose one, they can’t have the other. They’re met with surprise (and immense relief) when we tell them that is most definitely not the case.

In fact, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Cremation services are but one part of a unique, dignified goodbye. They’re an option for disposition of the deceased, not a replacement for honoring their legacy, nor a way to help find closure. Traditional funerals, celebrations of life, religious rites, wakes, and everything in between are all ways to say goodbye with cremation services being a part of them.

A rising trend in cremation is companies offering cremations and nothing else, leading some to believe that memorialization services aren’t an option when choosing cremation. But honoring the deceased with a funeral, celebration of life, or any service that honors their memory and helps bring closure to the living is not only an option, it’s a crucial step in grief and healing.

Direct cremation can also create distance between the grieving and the deceased, which creates a “short circuit” in the grief process. When we’re so far removed from death and the deceased, we rob ourselves from the reality of it and the benefit of closure. Which is why we strongly encourage all families who choose cremation to opt for a final viewing of their loved one before the cremation service takes place.

When we make this suggestion, most families decline—at first. The thought of being in a room with someone you love one last time can be daunting and painful—even scary. But in reality, it has a powerful effect on the grieving. We usually give families one more gentle nudge toward choosing a final viewing. Most who were skeptical end up changing their minds, and those who decide to go through with it are always grateful they did in the end. Countless families have given our funeral directors heartfelt thank yous for providing them the opportunity to have a protected space and time with their loved one, away from the commotion of extended family and friends and funeral planning, and to have one last chance for a private goodbye that helped bring them closer to closure.

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