Funeral Etiquette: An Open Casket

Every funeral is different. Each one reflects the individual who has passed away, their beliefs, the beliefs of their family, their culture, and their personal tastes. For those who have not attended many funerals, or have never been to one at all, some common rituals and practices might strike you as alarming or upsetting. One such practice is the open casket.

Why do some choose this?

Open casket viewings give loved ones a chance to say goodbye to the deceased and see them one last time. You might see mourners standing by it weeping, or praying, or simply quietly remembering them.

For some, they won’t believe that the person is truly gone until they see it with their own eyes. It’s both a comfort and a confirmation.

What to expect

Funeral home staff prepare the body for viewing. This includes embalming – to preserve the body – as well as dressing and applying makeup to give them a life-like appearance. Even with all of this, you cannot fully expect the person to look like they did in life. This can be jarring for some.

What to do

First of all, you are under no obligation to approach the casket before or after the service. If an open casket upsets you, it is most polite to arrive and take your seat. Resist the urge to say anything out loud about your feelings on open caskets. Unless you are close family, you can sit at the back if that makes you feel more at ease.

You can mourn and remember your loved one in your own way. Do not feel any guilt about not approaching the casket. Remember, everyone deals with grief in different ways, viewing the body is just one of many. You can look at old photos, share stories, and hold onto keepsakes to help you get through this difficult time.

Chapel Ridge Funeral Home and Cremation Centre in Markham offers advice on many subjects relating to funerals, grief, and death – including funeral etiquette.