In this final part of my visiting/viewing posts I’d like to have a look at the different experiences and thoughts I’ve had with viewings. The fact of the matter is that they still worry me and I still have a total love/hate relationship with them. I have a lot of anxiety around what could happen but I also have a huge number of wonderful experiences with the bereaved where I feel I’ve really helped.
I always worry that the family will not like how their relative is presented, they might not like the room or the way we’ve put them testing in an asleep in a bed-like way. They might not like the lighting, or the background noise from the hospital above. They may not appreciate us talking to them, or there may be another issue that I’m unprepared for.
The truth is, they nearly always go really well and people rarely have problems. Even when they have questions, they can usually be answered or at least I can take them away and get back to them. Some people go into the room and nearly immediately leave. Some people stay for as long as they can, even reluctant to leave when we have to ask them to. Some people barely look at you, eager to get into the room, and some people don’t want you to leave their side as they go in.
These different experiences are what make us human ultimately. Plus you have to consider the number of people who don’t arrange visits, or those who wait to visit at the funeral home where they can stay all day if they wish. No one should feel like they have to, but everyone should have the decision to do this if they wish. COVID was horrible in that it took away that decision for many people and still may do in the future. The issue is not the risk of infection from the deceased but the risk to everyone involved of transmission of the virus amongst the living.
One of the most memorable viewings I ever conducted was a while ago and for a person visiting their parent. They had no idea what to expect and asked me to sit with them first to explain. After a while they said I could open the door so they could look. When I did, all they could do was stand and edge towards their parent like walking towards a cliff edge. Eventually they eased and by the end they were taking photos of them and holding their hand. It was a scary experience for them but it was easy to make better and less scary through that simple interaction.
Seeing loved ones after death is not for everyone, and it’s very much a personal choice. It may be a family tradition to do so, or something you want to do for one relative but not for another. It might be that you’d rather remember them in life, it may be that you need to see them to come to terms with their death. There is no right or wrong, and you should not be made to do one or the other, but it should be considered an option if available to you.
I hope these have been informative and useful for people. If you have any questions about this or anything else please do get in touch. I had a question last week about the difference between a sheet and a shroud. When I say shroud, I mean a fabric gown with sleeves and a collar that is placed on the deceased for dignity like that in the picture below. Shroud could also mean the wrapping of the person however and it depends on what context it is being used. Keep the questions coming!