7 min read

How to Decide Between Open or Closed Casket Funeral

Choosing between a closed or open casket funeral can be a difficult decision. Our comprehensive guide covers the benefits of hosting an open casket funeral, its impact on the grieving process, and how to make an informed decision you're comfortable with using a prepaid funeral plan. Read on to learn more.


Shaping funeral service to you

Losing a loved one can be one of the most devastating experiences we can go through in life. As we face the loss of a friend or family member, it's natural to want to give them the best possible send-off and feel the pressure of getting it right.

On top of funeral service location, funeral directors, religious beliefs and guests attending- choosing between a closed or open casket funeral is another decision to throw into the mix. In this blog post, we explore the practicalities of each option to help you come to a decision suited to you, and your family.

What is an Open Casket Funeral?

An open casket funeral is where the casket is left open, and the body of the deceased is displayed for mourners to pay their respects.

The casket is usually placed at the front of the room, and the body is dressed in clothes and makeup to give the deceased a more life-like appearance. This aims to make the deceased look more peaceful, and allow family and people attending the funeral to have a final goodbye in the presence of their loved one.

Why Host an Open Casket Funeral?

An open casket funeral can be a powerful and peaceful way to say goodbye to a loved one. It can provide closure for family members and friends who may not have had a chance to say goodbye before the person passed away.

For some, this can make a funeral service feel more personalised and helpful towards the grieving process. For others, the visible presence of the deceased's body can provide closure, or have deeper spiritual significance.

If you're unsure about the idea of an open casket funeral, we've listed a few benefits below:

  1. Provides Closure: having a final few moments in the presence of the body of a loved one can provide a sense of closure for family and friends. This allows time to say a proper goodbye if the circumstances of the death did now allow out and, in providing visual confirmation that the person has passed away, can help provide closure.

  2. Pays Respect: An open casket funeral can also be a meaningful way to pay respect to the deceased- honouring their life and their importance in yours.

  3. Preserves Memories: Memories of a loved one can fade over time, but an open casket funeral can help preserve a peaceful last image of the deceased and trigger back memories of happy times spent together.

  4. Cultural or Religious Tradition: In some cultures or religions, an open casket funeral is the norm and can form an integral part of the funeral ritual- providing a sense of continuity with tradition.

Impact of an Open Casket Funerals on the Grieving Process

One of the common concerns with having an open casket at the funeral service is that it might upset some attendees.

Contrary to this concern however, many friends and family of the deceased find an open casket actually helps with the grieving process. By seeing their loved one at peace and rest, mourners can come to terms with their loss and begin the process of healing, starting with a sense of closure.

Death can sometimes come suddenly and having a moment to see a loved one for a final time can be pivotal in providing a sense of peace surrounding the upset of a death.

Where an open casket display might not be suitable

With this being said, concerns or objections to an open casket service are sometimes valid. For some, the presence of a loved one's dead body would be upsetting or uncomfortable at the funeral. Similarly, in other situations the deceased may look injured and unsuitable for viewing at a funeral.

This can bring up traumatic and intense emotions for some people, who would rather honour their loved one in a different way.

Funerals look different for everyone, and for many a closed casket funeral maintains the sense of closure without the upset of seeing the dead body.

Closed Casket Funeral

A closed casket funeral is when the body of the deceased is kept unseen, within the coffin. Whilst the coffin might likely still be on display, the body will not be on show and the coffin will then be buried.

This can be a necessity for certain circumstances surrounding death, or can be down to personal preference. Funeral services should provide an opportunity to seek emotional support and honour the deceased, and for some, a closed casket funeral is the most respectful way to do this.

Closed casket funerals provide alternative opportunities to bring peace to the family members- integrating casket decorations or specific coffin details, for example.

End of Life Planning

Having conversations about death are important for deciding on future funeral service details, such as closed or open caskets. Many people have strong opinions either way, which are important to honour in their service.

If you know you're preference, making your family aware can help remove the burden of self-doubt for those left to plan your service. In addition, it can bring a sense of peace knowing that your specific end of life wishes will be honoured when the time comes.

As society shifts away from death being seen as a taboo, end of life conversations and planning are more relevant than ever.

End of Life Plan

Planning for the end of life can form a key part of getting this sense of mind, gleaned from not shying away from death. Having a specific plan in place can ensure that your wishes are met, and details such as closed or open caskets are decided in advance.

An end of life plan can include a variety of elements, such as a Will, power of attorney, healthcare directives, and funeral plans. By having a plan in place, you can ensure that your wishes are carried out and that your loved ones are not left guessing about what you would have wanted.

Decide Your Way with a Prepaid Funeral Plan

One way to make actionable, empowered end of life decisions is through a prepaid funeral plan.

A prepaid funeral plan is an agreement between you and a funeral director that allows you to design and pay for your funeral service in advance- choosing between the type of funeral you want, as well as songs played, guests invited and whether its open casket or closed casket.

More than just peace of mind, the benefits of a prepaid funeral plan extend to those you love. In taking away the stress of key decisions, it can remove stress and strain from family members at an already difficult time- both emotionally and financially.

If you're preference is more an open casket funeral service, you can even arrange how you'd like to be dressed and the materials you'd like to be embalmed in. This can be chosen in alignment with your personal beliefs, and allow you to find peace in how you decide to shape your celebration of life.

To Wrap Up

Open casket funerals can be a powerful way to add meaning to a funeral service- helping loved ones to grieve whilst honouring the life of the deceased. Whilst this might be comforting for some, for others open casket funerals might sound distressing.

There's no right or wrong way to honour a loved one, and personal preference is the only real important factor in deciding what's right for you, or if you choose an open casket or closed casket funeral. In consulting with loved ones in advance, you can get an idea for what everyone wants and how individuals would like to be remembered.

Whether that's a closed casket funeral or specific songs, flowers or people- knowing these details in advance can help take the burden off when the time comes to plan.

How Safewill can Help

Safewill provides expert, affordable and flexible services for all your end of life needs. From writing your Will to seeking guidance from a funeral director, our team of compassionate experts are here to help at your time of need.

We help keep the cost low without cutting corners, and can provide expert estate or cremation support around the time of funerals.

Call us on 1800 10 33 10 or get in touch via live chat, to get started now.

Last updated 01st May 2023
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Hannah Comiskey
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