Things have changed slightly thanks to a worldwide pandemic. However, while elements of visiting the chapel of rest have changed (think visitor numbers at any one time), the reasons behind whether you should visit or not remain very much the same.
When you think about visiting a chapel of rest, remember it’s a personal decision and certainly no-one should feel pressured into doing it.
You might feel it is traditional to see their loved one, one last time, while others prefer to remember them in a way that suits them best.
Making the Decision
Mourners often find great comfort in visiting the Chapel of Rest. A visit offers quiet time with their loved one and the opportunity to reflect. Perhaps they could not be with their loved one when they died. But because the Chapel of Rest is a peaceful place it can be hugely comforting knowing a loved one is being looked after.
It can help, if you want to visit but think it will be too difficult, to have a close family member visit first. This person can share their experience with others, perhaps setting any minds at rest.
Your funeral director can also talk through any worries you might have.
Having that chance to say goodbye is important for many people and can be a crucial part of the grieving process too.
The Chapel of Rest with an Open Coffin
Traditionally when you visit a chapel of rest the coffin will be open allowing visitors to see their loved one.
This idea of an open coffin can be the biggest concern for many people. They worry about how the deceased will look. Many funeral directors will suggest embalming – a process which delays the deterioration of the body – and ask for clothes and recent photographs of the deceased. This way they can dress the body to be as close to how family and friends want to remember their loved one.
Etiquette in the Chapel of Rest
The atmosphere in the chapel of rest is often much less formal than that of a funeral service. But when it comes to etiquette, the general rule is to behave in a way that the family considers appropriate and respectful.
Talking is common; some people recite poems or even sing. Some mourners pay their respects with a few words. If you’re unsure however, you should ask the family what they would like, or not like.
Of course it would usually be inappropriate for swearing or shouting. It is not a place where any grievances should be aired either.
Similarly, taking pictures is a matter of what’s considered respectful and the wishes of the family. Many funeral directors in general frown upon the taking of pictures and might require that you have been given explicit permission to take pictures.
Dress is usually informal too, the exception is any required religious attire, but again the family can advise on what is expected if you are unsure. It can be a time to express a fun sentiment or dress in a particular way the deceased would have liked ahead of the more formal setting of the funeral service.
Choosing Not to Visit
It’s perfectly acceptable if you decide not to visit the chapel of rest and you should not be pressured into it. It can be hugely upsetting if you see your loved one in a way that you don’t want to remember them, and can affect your grieving process in the long term.
There may be circumstances where it’s not possible to visit such as if the funeral director advises against it because the manner of the death was perhaps traumatic, or if the deceased passed away through an illness that creates a risk of contagion. But it’s usually still possible to visit a chapel of rest, with a closed coffin in place.
It’s important to give families the opportunity to say goodbye, but it’s also perfectly fine not to visit the chapel of rest if it’s too distressing.
Having a family member visit and report back is often a good way of reassuring anyone who feels they would like to visit, but is worried about what they will find.
Remember, it’s you who is grieving and a visit to the chapel should play a positive part in overcoming that and coming to terms with the death. If it risks prolonging your grief then it’s ok to mourn in a way that’s right for you.