Managing Director James Morris explains why saying goodbye is healthy and quite normal.

I really wish we had a better word for it. When someone has died, ‘viewing’ is the term we use when families come in to our funeral homes to say goodbye to their loved one. In our experience, more and more people are choosing to view, which is a good thing and I’ll tell you why.

If I had £1 for every person who, after a viewing, said something like: “I didn’t want to come in, but I’m really glad I did”, I’d be a rich man. It happens all the time. As a funeral director with over three decades of working with bereaved families, I see a pattern. Human beings are emotional and connected, meaning we have a powerful need to say goodbye to those we love. Despite our reluctance to admit it, death is real and the loss of someone we love is so very final.

Viewing enables us to do three things:
1. Face the reality of loss
It can be healing to see your loved one in death. The tangible act of coming to our funeral home enables people to truly experience the the reality of a loved one’s death. To see with their own eyes that the special spark, which made them who they were and why we loved them, has gone. And they look peaceful. It may seem counte- intuitive to see death as a positive, but viewing loved one can be just that.

2. Leaves no regrets
There may be things left unsaid between loved ones that we need to get off our chest, particularly if death was sudden or unexpected. Viewing is a last chance to say what was unspoken: the good and the bad. Sometimes it’s spoken but it can be as a letter, left in the coffin.

3. Goodbye
Seeing a loved one laid out in their own coffin and increasingly in their own familiar clothes, is very cathartic. Most look peaceful, just as if they’re asleep, and that is massively reassuring to those left behind.

Whether the death was anticipated, out-of-the-blue or a painful struggle, viewing can help with the grieving process. At Alistair Turner, we recognise the important role it plays in getting closure – which may happen many months down the line. So we’ll do everything in our power to ensure families have as much viewing opportunities as possible, whether that’s every day before a funeral, or just 5 minutes. We’re here to make you as comfortable as possible whether that’s giving you plenty time and space, or a shoulder to lean on.

Not even the Covid pandemic prevented our families from saying goodbye. We provided viewing and embalming services in full to enable families who were self isolating or unable to attend a funeral immediately, to say their final goodbyes when they were able. Protecting that right for those affected by the virus – even if their relative had died of CV-19 – justified the risk our staff took on a daily basis.

I’ll close with one last observation. Quite often when people arrange a viewing, they leave a memento in the coffin. Keepsakes like a photo, a letter, a drawing, a toy or anything that’s allowable (because of course it must be combustible for a cremation). Some took the opportunity to dress the coffin with flowers, bunting, photographs or a team strip. In some situations, we can even offer a chance for people to leave messages on the coffin itself (some have blackboard tops for just this reason). We can play calming music or upload your playlists.

Viewing, and all that it offers, is a really meaningful, tangible way to say goodbye. And if you can’t make it, or face it, but want to leave something personal, that’s just another one of the things we will do for you.

We’re here when you need us the most.