Is a Viewing Necessary?

Most people have heard the old saying, "Seeing is believing," but many people also have lived through a life experience that gave them a deep, emotional understanding of this simple phrase.

Is viewing necessary for a visitation or wake service?Consider what happens when parents receive a call from their child’s school saying that their child has been hurt on the schoolyard. They’re told that the child is OK, but still they’ll spend the rest of their work day counting the minutes, waiting to see their child, because seeing is believing.

Consider what happened to our entire society when the planes flew into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Within minutes of hearing the news, televisions across the country were turned on as people watched the event replayed over and over again. They have estimated that more than 90% of Americans saw the videos that first day. Many people had the TV on all day, trying to grasp the magnitude of the moment, trying to come to grips with the trauma, because seeing is believing.

The burning desire to see is the natural human response to any traumatic event. Seeing the event, or seeing the aftermath of the event, makes the traumatic event real. It’s already real on an intellectual level once we hear about the event, but to make it real on an emotional level, we must see.

A common point of debate in our culture today is whether or not there should be a public viewing of the body after the death of a loved one. Some people think that the viewing makes it even harder for the family. In fact, viewing the body can play an extremely important role in moving a person through the experience of grief in a healthy way.

If someone you care about passes away, you can never avoid grief; you can only move through it. Seeing the remains of a loved one is an undeniable confirmation of the death. Witnessing the final disposition of the body is also critically important because it brings closure to the traumatic event. Whether it is the lowering of a casket into a grave or the scattering of cremated remains, experiencing the farewell tribute ceremony firsthand provides a powerful way of finding closure, moving forward through the grief process, and allowing healing to begin.

Some people who are preplanning their own funerals assume they are making it easier for their family by requesting no viewing of their remains. Sadly, they are actually making it harder for their family. Allowing their body to be present is actually the last meaningful gift they can give to their loved ones. Their soul may have departed, but their earthly body will help those who remain to accept the loss and begin their journey through the natural grief process toward emotional healing.

Seeing is believing.

And believing leads to emotional healing.