Open Casket Funerals: When Family Members Can't Agree

20 July 2021
 Categories: , Blog


For family members who are tasked with making funeral arrangements, it's extremely helpful if their loved one left precise funeral instructions before they passed away. This isn't always the case, however, and family members are often left debating whether particular choices are what their loved one would have actually wanted. One such debate is whether or not to have an open casket at the funeral service. What happens when there's some disagreement about this?

Not Always a Simple Answer

An open casket service gives mourners the opportunity to take a final look at the deceased. For some people, this can be an emotionally (and psychologically) beneficial aspect of the grieving process, helping them to acknowledge the death. However, for some mourners it can have the opposite effect — adding unnecessary trauma to the grieving process. This is why there's not always a simple answer to whether or not your loved one should have an open casket funeral.

The Decision Making Process

Ultimately, next of kin (or the executor of the will) have the authority to make the decision. With some funerals, the decision can be made without consulting other family members. However, many funerals are collectively arranged, with different family members contributing to the planning process. This means that a compromise can be possible between family members who want to have an open casket funeral and those who feel it might not be in everyone's best interests.

A Viewing Prior to the Funeral

Talk to your chosen funeral director about scheduling a viewing (also known as a visitation). This takes place prior to the funeral—typically the night before or immediately before the funeral starts. It's simply the presentation of an open casket at the funeral home, allowing those who want to look at the deceased one final time the opportunity to do so. The casket is then closed for the funeral service.

Additional Factors to Consider

While it's not complicated to arrange a viewing, there are some additional factors to consider. Depending on the period of time between the death and the visitation, embalming may be necessary, although it is not generally mandatory. Your loved one will also be required to be dressed and be attended to by the funeral home's cosmetologist. These details will be discussed with you when you are arranging the viewing with your chosen funeral director.

A viewing can be an extremely helpful compromise when there's a family debate as to whether their loved one should be farewelled with an open casket funeral service. Contact a funeral home like T.A. Brown Funeral Home Limited to learn more.