Jump to content
Grief Healing Discussion Groups

Choosing Not To See The Body.

Recommended Posts

I was (and still am) so distraught that I couldn't see my dad's body. My mom asked me if I wanted to go to the morgue to see him, but I couldn't.

I didn't want to see him at the viewing.

I didn't want to see the cremation.

I didn't even want to see the urn with his ashes in it (when I knew the people were bringing it in, I went to another room).

I did finally hold the urn, but I didn't believe he was in there. I never saw the ashes, so I told myself there was something else in there.

I couldn't do it. I need to keep the fantasy alive that this is a mistake. I browsed books that said it's important to see the body for closure, but I don't want closure. This is a man I saw for every single day of my life. There's no way I can see him any other way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's OK. Some people just can't handle it. They want to remember the person as they were, but it may take you a little longer to get through this because as you said it makes it even harder to believe he is "gone".

You are expecting so much from yourself. You have to give yourself some time. This is all so new to you. If you go in to some of the other forums (like the loss of spouse, especially) you will see that people are 3-4 years out and still having difficulty. You not only have the loss of your dad but your first holidays (I don't know how special they were to you) without him.

Give yourself time to BREATHE.

I am assuming that you are female when I write this, but no matter what it may be good; go take a nice long bubble bath with some soft lighting and soothing music. I recently had a Reiki treatment for the first time because a friend of mine is taking a class and it was wonderfully relaxing. Maybe there is someone near you that does them and you could do that. I know pampering yourself seems like you are trying to forget, but it's not. It's just trying to get you under control so you can begin to accept all of this. I know now that you feel that will never happen but it will come.

Find things to distract you, like your job, helping with a soup kitchen, help someone else do grocery shopping. Taking the focus off of me has helped but I still have a long way to go since my husband died. It all just take TIME.

Hope some of this helped. Most importantly keep coming back here for (((HUGS)))

Edited by mlg
Link to comment
Share on other sites


I think there is nothing wrong with not viewing the body. It is a very troubling thought, of seeing someone that you love so so much, in a different state. You would rather remember him as he was when he was alive, when he was smiling and happy.

I wasn't able to attend my dad's cremation, because a couple days after I found out I had lost him, I got terribly sick. I was still sick on the cremation day, so I couldn't attend. But someone got a video of some of the ceremonial rites my religion does, before the cremation.

I have yet to see that video, because I am scared. But at the memorial for my dad, someone had a picture of him from the cremation, and my mom looked at it and said, it was okay, so I decided to take a look.

Now, I sortof wish I hadn't, and I am a little scared of that picture of him. People are saying, "oh, he looks like he's asleep," and he sortof does, but...I still don't like the picture. It makes me feel strange, and hurt, and sad. So I won't look at it anymore.

I also read that viewing the body is closure, but...personally, it just made me feel more miserable and sad, and kind of scared, because even though it was my dad and looks like my dad...he's not the same.

So, having this own experience of mine, and reading what you have said about your feelings, I would say, maybe waiting would be good. Give it time.

Also, I have a question. What are you going to do with the urn? Are you going to have a ceremony for it, or maybe a scattering?

I think, for those of us whose loved ones were cremated, an important step of healing is what we do with that urn.

My dad's urn is at a special place by a big framed picture of him at my grandmother's apartment. In the spring, I am going with a friend or two to India, to scatter my dad's ashes in 2 particuar holy rivers, as he requested. I actually look forward to it, even though it is sad, becuase I feel it is a healing thing, and it is a spiritual connection to my dad. Also because it is one of the biggest gifts I can give my dad ever, to fulfill his request, and to allow his soul to feel satisfied and complete.

So, even though the urn might be scary now, maybe in the future, wherever the urn goes can be a place of refuge for you, where you can go talk to your dad.

I hope that some of what I said is helpful, and I am sorry if I brought things too much too real too fast.

Wishing you the best,


Link to comment
Share on other sites


That's the thing. I read that viewing the body is closure, but I think it'd make me feel so miserable. This is the body I hugged and kissed since I was a little kid. This is the body that carried me on his shoulders.

There were a few rituals for my father. His urn is currently in a columbarium, but it's a temporary place until my mom finds a place where they can be put together in the future.

What you'll do for your dad sounds lovely. It is nice you know what your dad wanted. I am not sure; we never talked about it. But I have a feeling he might want to stay in his native country.

What's strange is that I don't even feel he's in the urn. For some reason, it feels like he's still alive. My mom and I were talking about it recently. It feels like he's on a business trip and will come back. I did hold the urn at the columbarium, and I sobbed over it and hugged it, but it felt like it was empty. I didn't go, "He's in here." It might as well have been empty. I can't exactly describe it. It just feels like he's on vacation.

I hope your trip to India goes well. Please post when you do go.

MLG, yes, I'm female. I might try a pampering treatment later. My form of pampering now is letting myself sit around and cry. Thanks so much for the suggestion. I do plan to come back a lot for ((hugs)).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I read that viewing the body is closure

I don't necessarily agree with that. Many, many people wouldn't have "closure" if that was true as many families do not view bodies or have an open casket at a wake or even have anything to bury with certain tragedies etc.

I think what is important is that we honor the person we lost with some reflection. Whatever ritual one is comfortable with is fine. And I firmly believe that it can be an entirely unique & personal ritual. ANything that promotes healing rather than disrupts it for the family is good.

Now both of you said it would have been upsetting to view a body.. I do not think there is a thing wrong with that. Again... whatever works for you is what is right.

Many people feel much better having their own memories of what their loved one looked like maybe when they were feeling healthy and well. And in the end I think that is the images we will always recall. Not them very ill but them.. feeling good.

It does take time though to have those images of their last days be replaced by happier memories... but it does indeed happen in time.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I didn't even think of that, Leann (about some people not being able to see the bodies).

I've flipped through some grief books, and a few of them said I'd come to regret it because it's important to do so. I think I need to read these books with a grain of salt. You're right. It's an individual experience. I hate the words "closure" and "healing" now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Know whatcha mean... I have to really try hard not to eye roll when I hear those words too.

Imagine me..being a smart alleck.... lol

In all honesty, it depends on who is saying them and in what context..

I don't know.. all I can say is I've found that once you lose someone significant in life... words, among other things, sometimes have new meaning and understanding.

I wouldn't dismiss ALL books on grief.. Marty could point you to some of the better ones. But with any book.. 'take what you want or need and leave the rest' is my motto.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was with both my parents when they died.When I think of them, I work really hard to picture them alive and healthy, I want that memory in my head, not the last time I saw their bodies.

I think I have decided that "closure" means acceptance, at least for me. I will never have closure but am learning to accept my life without my parents.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My mom died alone in her apartment and the police called me (long story), but then they asked what funeral home should come and get her....? I had to call them back with an answer, however I asked if they wanted me to go there and see her and the officer said, "Ma'am, you might not want to do that"... so I stayed home, but my pig-headed sister had to run right over there and "identify" the body which we all knew it was her anyway.... and ended up stealing stuff out of my mom's apartment and then whining that "she has PTSD" from seeing my mom like that.... :angry2:

To make a long story short, my mom did not want "a viewing" at her funteral, she specifically stated this in her wishes, so we had her creamated also per her wishes and a grave-site service.

Several of my mom's sisters wanted to go to the funeral home and see her before she was creamated and I told them no, that my mom did not want that, and they were all mad at me.

I did however go see her and the funeral director "warned me" that they did not do anything to her (no makeup, fancy clothes) since she was being cremated.... so I got to see her as she was when she died and I was sad and I will always remember that in my mind, but it does not disturb me (as was mentioned everyone is different). I remember her fine laughing and smiling and I also remember the end and for some reason, that helps me think of it as real and stops me from calling her to share my life with her .... Weird, but that worked for me.

We are all different and we all have certain things that help us to cope and this time, I was happy that I got to see her at the funeral home.

My brother was away at college out of the state and we offered to fly him home for the funeral, but he refused and he sort of feels bad for that, but then again, he said that is something he will deal with....and ultimately now, 5 years later, he feels he made the right choice by not coming home for that. AS I said, we are all different and handle things in our own way.

Empty inside: I'm sorry you lost your dad and I know it is painful and you have a lot of things going on now, and I wish you peace and fond memories to help you during this difficult time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do think it's very individual. When my ex-husband died, I was devastated. He was cremated, which was fine with me, because he had told me while we were married that's what he wanted. But I wasn't there when he died. I was told by his friends that he looked pretty bad when he died. I wished I had visited him while he was still alive and ill, though he didn't look very ill most of the time. But I couldn't afford to go across the country, so we just talked on the phone for hours for comfort while he was ill. I did go to the funeral, and I visited his friends a couple of years later and held the container of his ashes, which made me feel very weird, to think he was in there. Then I got this strong feeling like he was there in spirit, telling me it was okay because he wasn't in that box, his spirit was free.

When my dad died, my sister and brother were with him. He was taken to a funeral home for the cremation, and it was the law that someone had to identify the body before the cremation to make sure it wasn't a mistake. So I went with my mother to see the body. I had never really seen a dead body before (except on TV), so it was weird. He looked okay, but not asleep -- he was too quiet, too still. I remembered my ex-husband said that when his mother died, he felt she was a mannikin made up to look like his mother. That seemed to describe it. But my mother seemed to relax when she saw him, and she said, "He's at peace now." I guess that must have been a comforting statement from her childhood, because I don't remember her ever reacting to anyone's death that way. But she nursed him through all the chemo and radiation of his cancer, and knew how he had suffered, so it must have been some relief to know that he was out of pain. They were married for 56 years.

As for "closure" -- to me that is a meaningless term. When someone so close to us dies, our lives are never the same. We are always dealing with it to some extent. Does it help to see the body? I did not have as much anguish when my father died as when my ex-husband died, but I believe that's not just because I saw my father's body and not my ex's. There was a lot of other stuff -- you know you will lose your parents some day, and my father was 78. My ex was only 50. And my ex and I had only a couple of years before that been able to put the past behind us and become close friends, which we were both really happy about, and now I feel I was cheated out of the years we might have had that friendship. I wish all the time that we could have established that friendship earlier, instead of losing the 8 or 9 years we weren't speaking to each other. We couldn't be married because he was gay, but we could be friends, and I miss him. Given all that baggage, my grief counselor said I was suffering from both complicated grief and disenfranchised grief in relation to my ex (because in many ways I feel like his widow, but I am not perceived that way by anyone). It doesn't seem to me that my ex is any less gone because I didn't see his body.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

After my father died, it took me 2 full days to get to his home, so I had just a few precious hours to be with his body before the rites took place. I watched my father getting cremated, and the image is burned into my mind. And then I had to let his ashes go away in a river. It was the most traumatic day of my life.

emptyinside, if you believe your father's soul is separate from his body, take heart in that. You have just not seen the clothing that he had shed. If it has made it easier to keep him alive in your mind by not witnessing his funeral, then that by itself should justify it for you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


I must tell you that I also had some PTSD after finding my Mom so I don't doubt your sis suffered the same. Yes maybe it was her choice to go view it.. but.. maybe that is what she needed to do at the time.

I had no choice... I couldn't get Mom on the phone and went to check on her and found her. It wasn't pretty and I still have flashbacks from time to time... BUT

Like BSK said.... I believe what I saw was only what my Mom walked around this earth in... it wasn't my Mom per se. In my belief, Mom was already with my Dad and at peace. But the images I saw did indeed give me some trouble.

I had to go on Klonopin for about 2 months as I couldn't get my heart rate to go down to normal. But.. all in all.. yes it was awful to see her that way.. BUT.. this wasn't really about me. It was about Mom dying exactly how she hoped she would; viable and independent to the last second. So that helped me... Mom earned that death.. No suffering and over in the flash of a second.

That knowledge is what sustained me through my worst PTSD symptoms and what helps me still today.

If I had been called on the phone.. I no doubt would have done what your sis did and go make sure. But the bottom line for me is... I would have needed to make absolutely certain and also if I hadn't gone.. I wouldn't have been blessed to hear the EMT's tell me that she was gone "before she hit the floor" which eased my mind tremendously. I could let go of the guilt then.

But I think.. we are ALL different.. what one person may need another may not, and.. that's OK.. really.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Although we hear the word "closure" in the news all the time now, the fact is that, for those of us in mourning, this word is among the most offensive. You might like to read what Rabbi Earl Grollman has to say about this matter of closure:

I have a confession to make. I hate the word closure when connected with the loss of a loved one. You know what I mean -- a spouse, a sibling, a friend dies. Weeks later there are those who want to know when the bereaved will find closure. The dictionary defines closure as '. . . to be imperious to . . . to choke off . . . to constrict . . . to bolt . . . to bar . . . to end.' For survivors, the word closure often connotes that the bereaved are underachievers who flunked a grief course. Though the intention is meant to be sympathetic, there is evoked a note of chastisement for failing to end the mourning process. In the eloquent words of Dr. Jimmy Holland at New York's Sloan-Kettering Hospital: 'We create a sense of failure as if the bereaved is not doing it fast enough.' For grief work takes more time and effort than most people ever anticipate. And even after weeks, months, and years later, grief may ebb, but never ends . . . The Song of Songs has an insightful perspective on the death of a beloved. Instead of a word like closure ('to end'), are the thoughts of never forgetting, always remembering. The final day of Passover . . . is a Service of Yizkor ('Remembrance') for those whose memories will never die. In the synagogue is a 'wall of remembrance' of past members who are recalled with lights lit by their names. There is no closure. The beauty of their lives never ends. The life of the dead is now placed in the memory of the living. For 'love is strong as death' (8:6).

~ Rabbi Dr. Earl Grollman, in "Closure and the Song of Songs," Bereavement Magazine , March/April 2003.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thank you so much for posting that! Wow! Oh, I love it. I would love to light a candle for my dad. I think both the Rabbi and Dr. Holland have excellent points.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...