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Warning -- Gloomy. Have you ever seen someone after they've died? Should children see?

(76 Posts)
Spidermama Sun 07-Jun-09 18:47:00

As I mention in another thread, my friend died suddenly in the night, leaving three young boys.

Her DH now has to decide whether to let the boys see their mum. He's undecided. Says she looks awful. sad

For my part I' very glad I saw my grandmother. It really helped with accepting her passing.

I'd be really glad to know how others feel and particularly if they have experience of children seeing their loved ones dead.

TheProfiteroleThief Sun 07-Jun-09 18:52:34

I have seen a few loved ones after they have passed on. If she looks 'awful' then I certainly would not. Even the best condition ie very soon after sudden death and not after a long illness, did not look like them.

A few things we tried included visiting at the funeral directors, but keeping the casket closed - it gave us a chance to 'talk' and to give letters/items to be placed in the casket.

At the funeral itself, we had a large photo placed on the casket, as we found it easier to focus on the person, rather than the remains.

We also made sure we were the last to leave (not the first as is customary at local crematorium) as we each wanted to place a flower on the casket and have a final moment.

Have seen your other thread, but did not have much useful to offer. sorry for your and their loss sad

hobbgoblin Sun 07-Jun-09 18:55:18

I have no idea whether I'd want to. However, I did want to visit my dead friend when he committed suicide even though his body was not found for days. I begged the coroner who STRONGLY advised me not to as it would be grim. I gave up trying to convince her so never went but I soooooooo wanted to be near him because I hadn't been when he died. So, I think the need to 'say' goodbye can be a powerful one, particularly if the circs are tragically unexpected as in the case of your friend.

Oddly enough, I've just spent the afternoon with a friend who has the anniversary of her mother's death to cope with tomorrow. We talked for about an hour about their last moments together and I asked her if it felt strange to be with her mum til she was actually cold. (She described how the moment of death was and then the hours afterwards). She said she had been afraid of what that might be like but that at the time it was wonderfully comforting.

My Dad wishes he'd never seen his mother after she'd died due to the articifical reality - weird make up and general eeriness of her lifelessness.

I think you need to present people with the facts of what they will see and the difference between that and what they remember and then give them the choice. There is no need to say a final goodbye if in your head you have already started that process. Equally, a note can be written and placed with the body if the person feels they do not want their visual memories tarnished in some way by the altered state of the person that has died.

HTH

TheProfiteroleThief Sun 07-Jun-09 18:56:44

I think that is a very good point Hobbgoblin - I was with my mum at the moment she died, and that was a very different experience to my FIL which was only 4-5 hours after he died.

wotulookinat Sun 07-Jun-09 18:57:44

How old are the children?
When my sister died a few years ago, her DDs went in to see her, and the youngest then was 11.
I thought that was fine, but I'm not sure how young would be too young to understand.

plantsitter Sun 07-Jun-09 18:58:50

I saw my grandfather after he'd died and wished I hadn't afterwards. It didn't look like him and for ages afterwards I could only think of the empty shell I'd looked at when I remembered him. Also, part of me felt like I'd intruded somehow - like I'd caught him sitting on the toilet or something.

I'm sure everyone feels different though.

girlandboy Sun 07-Jun-09 18:59:13

Ah, I have just posted on the other thread about my mum's experience of viewing her father's body.

Not a good one I'm afraid.

Grammaticus Sun 07-Jun-09 19:00:52

I wish I hadn't seen my grandma - and this was just before she died. She looked so ill and yellow. I understood that she was dying, it didn't help me to see her like that.

girlandboy Sun 07-Jun-09 19:04:37

Pasted from other thread -

"WRT viewing the body, I can only state my mum's experience. Her father died when she was 9 years old and was taken to see him. He died of a brain haemorrage, so didn't look bad, but she has regretted seeing him like that all her life.

She says that if she tries to remember her dad, then that is the only picture that comes to mind. She wishes that it wasn't when he was dead. She would much rather have been left with a memory of a living daddy.

However, that is just her opinion. But she has forbidden me to view her body once she has died. She doesn't want that to be the last way I see her."

MadameCheese Sun 07-Jun-09 19:09:22

So sorry, this is simply awful. FWIW my Dad who was 21 when his father died said he wished he hadn't seen him afterwards. I think like plantsitter he couldn't remember him as he was for a long time.

Especially as she doesn't look like herself, I think it would be a bad idea. They want to remember the lovely person she obviously was.

So sad, will be thinking of and praying for the family and you.

Onlyjoking Sun 07-Jun-09 19:09:42

It's a difficult one as I was with Steve when he died and went up to see him at the funeral place twice, he looked very odd smelt very odd and felt very odd, that was the last time I saw him and it is an image that I can't get out of my mind even a year later.
For our 3 kids who had watched their dad get progressively worse and he was in a coma for the last week, they thoughht he was just sleeping and I felt that if they saw him after he had died they would still think he was sleeping and it may scare them about going to sleep, I am glad that they didn't see their dad after he died and that the last time they saw him he was alive.
It might be different with a sudden death and a lot depends on the age and understanding of the children.
It is a hard choice to make as I think you may always wish you had done the opposite.

ruddynorah Sun 07-Jun-09 19:14:53

i saw my mum's body in the chapel of rest when i was just turned 9 and my sister was 6. it was fine. we kissed her and said bye.

Pannacotta Sun 07-Jun-09 19:19:05

I'm not sure, it is hard to say.

It's one thing if you see someone die (I was with my father when he died) but not sure about seeing a dead body after the event.

How old are the boys and is there a particular reason why your poor friend looks awful as her DH said, are there any really obvious signs of cause of death which would be especially upsetting?

wotulookinat Sun 07-Jun-09 19:20:28

I can completely understand what people have said about wishing they hadn't seen a loved one after death, but I am glad that I saw my sister. I went three times, once on my own, once with my partner, and once with my mum and my three brothers.
I found it reassuring to see her. She looked peaceful and at rest. As the week on (I went three times in the week that she was in the chapel), she obviously changed, but I felt that her soul was no longer there and that she had moved on. I found that comforting, especially when it came to the funeral and the cremation.

swissmiss Sun 07-Jun-09 19:25:20

It's a difficult one Spider. For me it depends a bit on the child.

I was with my Dad when he died, and saw him after they had laid out the body, still in hospital. Also saw him in the Chapel a few days later. I did find it wierd at the time, a bit surreal but I'm glad I went. My younger brother, who was 8, also saw him and 10yrs later I think that he is glad he got the chance to say good bye as he refused to go and see Dad whilst he was in hospital.

Thinking of you and your friends family at such a sad time.

MerryPonymum Sun 07-Jun-09 19:25:33

I wouldn't. I made myself go and see both my parents-in-law with DH when they died because he was told that many people found it gave them closure, but to be honest they didn't look like themselves - they had already 'gone', so to speak. I think he wished he hadn't gone. I definitely wouldn't take children, I think it would be disturbing and not the way they should be remembering her.

How very sad for them all, and you. My best friend died aged 30, she was hit by a car crossing the road soon after emigrating to the US with her two lovely young boys. I still miss her.

Spidermama Sun 07-Jun-09 20:15:09

Merrypony that so terrible. Sorry you still miss her. What a shocking way to go.

I like the idea of spending some time with the closed casket. Perhaps then it could be opened on request for any individual boy or none if it doesn't come up.

I wonder if I would regret not looking and always wonder. Hobbgoblin how sad. I can completely understand wanting a last chance to be near them.

wotulookinat the boys are 9, 7 and 4, so probaly have different needs.

Spidermama Sun 07-Jun-09 20:15:57

Good point about the funeral wotulookingat.

Spidermama Sun 07-Jun-09 20:18:29

Swissmiss it's good to know it worked for you 8 year old. I guess the worry is they will be frightened and the image might stick in their heads.

But for me my grandmother was not frightening and not there. Just like a big waxwork or something. No spirit. No soul. Just the discarded shell.

It really helped me, but then I'm grown up and we're all very different.

Dh is from a big Catholic family and they lay the body out at the wake with everyone around. He said he felt reassured, after the initial terrifying panic he'd felt.

Paolosgirl Sun 07-Jun-09 20:22:29

I saw my grandfather after he died (I was about 26), and I'm glad I did as it helped me to accept he'd gone. It wasn't my GF lying there, it was just a body with no soul. I don't think I'd let my DCs see a body there - far better to remember their mum as a living, breathing, loving human.

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend sad

lizziemun Sun 07-Jun-09 20:24:28

I realy don't know.

All I know that i have both my dad and grandad this year and i didn't want to see 'them' as i wanted to remember them as they were and i'm 39yrs.

whomovedmychocolate Sun 07-Jun-09 20:25:11

I personally wouldn't unless they specifically asked to and then I'd prepare them at length for what they were going to see. I have seen a few dead people - they aren't real people anymore, just bodies and yes depending on how they died it can be quite disturbing.

My friend who came from North Africa looked really unearthly when I saw him after he died. My gran looked, well just dead really, blue and waxy and bloated. Then I saw her a few days later when the undertakers had 'done' her. It was not good.

Grammaticus Sun 07-Jun-09 20:42:56

Thinking about it, my Grandad died when I was 12. I remember thinking his body was in the house when I got there (it wasn't, the undertakers had taken it). I was terrified and no way did I want to see it.

I was 16 when my Grandma died, BTW.

Spidermama Sun 07-Jun-09 20:53:00

That's just it Grammaticus. Some would think that actually seeing the body might get rid of some of the fears as what can be conjured up in the imagination is possibly more scarey.

Hassled Sun 07-Jun-09 20:57:58

I saw the title and thought no. I didn't let my DCs see my father. But for the kids' mother - I don't know. The one hesitation is that when I saw my Dad it wasn't him, IYSWIM. He'd already gone - it did make it all more final, which I guess is a good thing but bloody hard for children to go through. On the one hand that was proof that he had really gone, on the other hand it wasn't a good last memory to have.

Then again, I didn't see my Mum and have always wished I had - I needed that chance to say my goodbyes.

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