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Spending Time With a Person Who Has Died

Spending some time with a person when they have died is traditional for many peoples of the world. This pattern changed during the last century for some groups of people though, and they began to feel uneasy about being with the body of someone close.

In recent years it has changed again, and the practice of spending time together has become much more common across cultures once more in New Zealand. Most people find great comfort in doing so, even if they feel uncomfortable with the idea at first.

Feeling uncomfortable

If this is the first time you or your family members have been around someone who has died, you might feel anxious about what it will be like, or what you should do. Many people have only seen a dead body on TV or in movies, and are worried or unsure about what the appearance of the person who has died will be like.

We are able to advise you beforehand about what you can expect with this experience, knowing that this takes a lot of the fear of the unknown out of the situation, 

Helping you accept what has happened

Sometimes it is hard to believe what has happened when someone dies, especially if it is a sudden or unexpected death. Seeing the person who has died can begin the process of believing that the death is real, and help with coming to terms with it.

A chance to say what you need to say

Bereaved people often feel overwhelmed by many intense emotions. For many, spending time with someone who has died gives them an opportunity to express some of these feelings and feel some relief. Others appreciate the opportunity to see the body of a person they love for the last time, though they will always feel a connection with them in their hearts.

Where can you spend time with someone who has died?

Having the body of the person who has died at home or on a marae provides people with opportunities to spend time together in the days before the funeral. Others prefer not to have them at home, but like to spend time at the funeral home. Grinter’s Funeral Home can easily arrange either of these options.

When there are visible injuries

Even when the person who has died has visible signs of injury, spending time with their body gives comfort to bereaved people. Grinter’s Funeral Home is able to prepare and embalm the body to preserve it through the period between death and cremation or burial. Before viewing you will be advised about the extent of the injury, to help you to deal with the possible shock.

What can you do?

Many families provide familiar clothes that belong to the person who has died for them to be dressed in. If you want to, you can dress them yourself, or your funeral director will do it for you. You may like to find some special mementos to have with the casket, or write a letter to put into it. There are many ways you can make this time with the person who has died special for you, and we will help wherever we can to make this possible.

What about children?

Spending time with someone who has died is just as important for children and teenagers as it is for adults. In many cultures children commonly play around the open casket when someone dies, and feel much more comfortable about death as a result.

Younger children are usually very accepting and curious about a person who has died. Seeing them helps them to understand death better; to realise that death is final, and that someone who has died doesn’t feel things as living people do. This makes it easier for them to cope with burial and cremation, because they understand that it won’t hurt or frighten the person who has died.

What do they need to know?

Children and teenagers are often more uncomfortable with being with a person who has died if the adults around them are uneasy with it. If it’s new for you to see someone when they have died, it’s often best that you do so first, and then bring your children in when you feel ready.

It’s very important that they are well prepared, know what they will see, and what is expected of them. You can explain that being dead means a person’s body doesn’t work anymore, so the blood isn’t circulating and their body won’t feel warm as a living person’s body does. Give them time to get used to things, and don’t force them to do things like kissing the person if they don’t feel comfortable to do so. Encourage them to ask you questions about things that puzzle or worry them, and get your funeral director to help if you don’t know all the answers.

Children also often like to draw a picture or write a letter to put into the casket when they spend time with someone who has died.

Further help and information

The funeral and the days before it are an important early step in coming to terms with the death of someone close. We can help you during this time and after the funeral, finding you support for dealing with your loss. We may be able to put you in touch with a free bereavement support service, or suggest someone you can talk to if you are finding things hard. We might also suggest or lend you books or video material to help you cope with grief.


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