Planning a funeral can be an emotional and daunting task, with numerous decisions to make. One pivotal choice is whether to have an open or closed casket at the funeral service. 

At Bare Cremation, we understand the importance of creating a meaningful farewell that aligns with your unique beliefs, values, and preferences. In this article, we will explore the differences between open and closed casket funerals and help you decide which option might be right for you or your loved ones.

What is an open casket funeral? 

An open casket funeral allows mourners to view the deceased's body during the funeral service. The casket is open, typically at the front of the church, chapel, or funeral home, providing an opportunity for family and friends to pay their final respects. While this option can be emotionally challenging for some, it also offers a final chance to say goodbye.

The emotional significance. 

For many families, the opportunity to see their loved one one last time can provide solace and aid in the grieving process. It allows them to create lasting memories and find comfort in the tangible presence of the departed. The emotional significance of an open casket funeral lies in the opportunity to have a more intimate and personal connection with the deceased.

Factors to consider for an open casket funeral.

When deciding on an open casket funeral, consider the emotional readiness of family members and close friends. It is essential to ensure that this option will bring comfort and closure rather than additional distress.

What is a closed casket funeral?

A closed casket funeral involves keeping the casket closed during the funeral service. Mourners do not view the body, and instead, the focus is on honouring the memory of the departed through eulogies, prayers, and reflections.

The emotional significance. 

For those who find the idea of viewing the deceased too overwhelming, a closed casket funeral can offer a sense of protection and privacy. It allows mourners to remember the departed as they were in life, rather than how they may appear after passing.

Factors to consider for a closed casket funeral. 

If the deceased had expressed a desire for privacy or if cultural or religious beliefs dictate a closed casket, this option may be more appropriate. Additionally, if family members and friends are not emotionally prepared for an open casket, a closed casket funeral can be a respectful alternative.

Open vs. closed casket funerals: finding the right fit.

Deciding between an open and closed casket funeral can be challenging and emotional, especially if different family members have varying opinions. Remember: there is no right or wrong choice here. Consider the following factors to help you make the right choice.

Personal beliefs.

Reflect on yours and the deceased’s personal beliefs and values surrounding death and the grieving process. What feels most appropriate and comforting to you and your loved ones? Have you attended a funeral with an open casket, and if so, how did that make you feel? Did the deceased ever express their wishes or thoughts regarding this?

Cultural and religious norms. 

Consider any cultural or religious traditions that may influence your decision. These practices often play a significant role in funeral arrangements, and the first step should always be to respect the deceased’s religious views.

In some cultures, open casket viewings are a common practice, seen as a way to pay respects and bid farewell. On the other hand, some religions have specific guidelines regarding viewing the deceased, and closed casket funerals may be more in line with those beliefs. It's essential to honour these traditions while also considering the personal preferences of the deceased and their family.

Emotional capability. 

The emotional readiness of mourners plays a significant role in choosing between an open or closed casket funeral. Grief affects each person differently, and some may be better equipped to cope with viewing the deceased, while others might find it too distressing. Discuss the options with close family members and friends to ensure everyone feels supported and heard in their feelings and preferences.

Circumstances of the death. 

The manner in which the person passed away can also impact the decision. If the death was due to a traumatic event or resulted in severe physical injuries, an open casket funeral might not be suitable. Even if a mortician can use their skills to ensure your loved one is presentable, that itself may be a stark reminder of how different they were in death. In such cases, a closed casket service can be a compassionate choice, preserving the memory of the deceased without exposing mourners to potentially distressing images.

Impact on children.

Whilst not everyone is required to go up and view the deceased during the funeral service, it’s important to consider if children will be present when deciding on an open or closed casket funeral. 

Younger children may find the sight of a deceased loved one unsettling or confusing, especially if they have never experienced death before and do not understand the finality of death. It's essential to have age-appropriate conversations with children about the funeral process and give them the option to decide if they want to view the deceased or not. Always provide a supportive environment for children to express their emotions and ask questions.

Personal connection and closure. 

Consider how viewing the deceased might affect your personal connection and sense of closure. Some individuals find peace and a sense of finality through seeing their loved one, while others might prefer to remember them as they were in life. Acknowledge that different family members may have varying emotional needs during the funeral process and find a balance that respects everyone's feelings.

Do open caskets give us closure?

Some psychologists have spoken on the importance of an open casket in the grieving process, and even expressed concern that this part of the process wasn’t available to many during COVID. There is the belief that seeing the deceased brings some closure to those mourning and helps them accept the finality of death.

However, viewing the body of a deceased loved one can bring the opposite effect for some people. If the deceased was ill in the lead up to their death, or has not been properly cared for post-mortem, this can distort their features and won’t resemble the memory you have in your head. Viewing your loved one this way could be how you remember them for months and years to come, rather than the vibrant person they were in life, which can be quite distressing.

If the concern behind the decision between open and closed caskets is closure, consider this. People cling to this idea of closure in many aspects of life and death, but the reality is that no one thing will bring us closure - it is a combination of all of your thoughts and actions after a loss. Yes, a funeral service helps some people with closure, and others may feel the need to see the deceased before cremation and burial, but the ability to accept the death and move forward in life without their presence comes from within.

There is no final true stage of grief, despite what some literature has us believe. Grief is lifelong, but you learn to live and grow around it, with that person always holding a special piece of your heart. 

Final thoughts on open and closed caskets.

Ultimately, whether you choose an open or closed casket funeral, it won’t take away from a meaningful and respectful farewell. At Bare Cremation, we understand the significance of this decision and are here to support you in planning a service that reflects your unique preferences and the wishes of your loved ones. There is no right or wrong choice—what matters most is that you find a fitting way to honour and celebrate the life lived.