The funeral with the body present is not an American
phenomenon. This practice has existed since time
immemorial. And there are many reasons for it.
|The Body Present|| ||12/13/2013|
Why the Body Present?
When someone dies, a life on earth ends. What remains is the body of a man, woman or child who
once was loved and who loved in return. And when
we remember that person we often think of them in
terms of their physical being ó their body.
That is why it is difficult, if not impossible, for most
survivors to disassociate themselves immediately
from the lifeless body. Our mind requires evidence
that life has ended. The presence of the body gives
this evidence, It also provides opportunity for recall
and reminiscence. It offers testimony and tribute to
the life that has been lived.
In most events and ceremonies there is a meaningful symbol or person upon which to focus our
attention; At a wedding itís the bride and groom. For
the pledge of allegiance itís the flag. At a birthday
party it is the person whose birthday is being
celebrated. And at the funeral itís the body of the
person who died.
Just as there are important reasons for the body to
be present at the funeral, there are important
reasons for viewing the body. The first step in starting the process of healthful mourning is to
acknowledge that the death has occurred. Nothing confirms
this reality like viewing the body. Seeing is believing.
It is the first essential step toward managing oneís
Viewing has taken on greater importance today
than ever before. More people die away from home. There are more deaths following long and
devastating illness. There are more people whose lives end
under tragic circumstances, Several helpful purposes
are served by viewing:
The moment of truth comes when living persons
confront the fact of death by looking at the body. This is particularly true after a sudden or accidental
death or one which most, if not all, of the family did
not witness. This confirmation is vital. Often much
effort is expended to recover a missing body, basically to confirm the fact that death has occurred.
Proper preparation and sometimes restoration provide to the bereaved an acceptable recall image of
the deceased while confirming the reality of death. The effects of a devastating illness may change a
personís appearance considerably. An accident may
disfigure the entire body. Removal or modification of
the marks of violence or the ravages of disease help
provide an acceptable recall image.
Viewing is considered therapeutic for people of all
ages. It is especially helpful for a child who has lost
someone loved. Instead of fantasizing, there is the
opportunity to realize what has happened ó that the
life on earth has ended for the dead person.
In many instances of loss, an immediate response
to comfort those involved is not essential, Death is different. Time is both an urgent and steadying
factor. Many find it difficult to express themselves it
they donít do it right away. Thus the body present
and viewed during the visitation provides an immediate and proper climate for expression.
Organ and Body Donations
When an organ or body part will be donated to
medical science, there is no problem concerning the
availability of the body for the funeral. The uniform
donor card or driverís license points out that anatomical gifts must be
medically acceptable and needed
to take effect upon death. Anatomical gift laws say
that when the gift is of a part of the body that after
removal of the donated part, custody of the remainder of the body vests in the surviving
spouse, next of
kin or other persons under obligation to dispose of
the body. Thus the body can be present for the
When an entire body is given for anatomical study,
most medical institutions will permit the use of the
body for funeralization after which it is delivered to
the medical institution.
There need not be a choice between an anatomical gift or a funeral with the body present. With few
exceptions both are possible.
The Value of Viewing
Most psychiatrists agree that viewing the body has
therapeutic value for survivors. The late Dr. Erich Lindemann, who pioneered wise ways of coping with
grief, declared that viewing was the most important
part of the whole funeral process. He emphasized: ďPeople tend to deny painful reality . . . but when
they experience that moment of truth that comes
when they stand before the dead body, their denials
collapse . . . Grief is a feeling. If you deny it, you
have difficulty coping with it, but if you face it you start the process of healthful mourning.Ē
One inescapable conclusion can be drawn from
this brochure ó for most people the funeral with the
body present becomes an experience of value as
they work through the sociological, psychological and
many times religious needs that are a part of the