What To Expect When Attending An Open-Casket Funeral

Many funerals feature an open casket, where part or all of the body of the person who died will be on view. The casket will usually be in the front of the ceremony room, or in a side viewing room, and funeral attendees will have a chance, should they choose to, to approach the casket, see the body, say a prayer or pay respects. For many people viewing the body offers a sense of closure and a final opportunity to say goodbye to the person who died, though you have no obligation to view the body.

What to expect

When the casket will be open, the body will generally be dressed and made up, giving a life-like appearance. For some, this can be a great source of comfort. For others, this can be uncomfortable. It is important to know that the body of the deceased will often look different from how the person looked in life. If you are uncomfortable with an open casket, there is no obligation to view the body. You may enter the room and take a seat without approaching the casket.

Reactions to an open casket

Many people become emotional when viewing the body, and this is normal and acceptable. If you want to view the body but are afraid you will become overwhelmed, you might consider approaching the casket with another person who can support you if you become very emotional. Likewise, if you are very close to someone who you think might not be able to handle the emotional experience, it might be a good idea to accompany them as they view the deceased. If you are accompanying someone to view the deceased, it is understandable that you may want to return to see the body for yourself. Each mourner who is inclined should have a chance to see the body of the deceased, say a prayer, pay respects, or say goodbye.

For more funeral etiquette tips, see our article Funeral Etiquette.

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