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bonus_vampirus in dw_britglish

Google is telling me that open casket funerals are not common in the UK. So, if I have a character who is not making the funeral arrangements herself but who really wants to see the body of a dead loved one, how can that be arranged? (For the record, the character in question is about thirteen years old. Her parents are fine with her seeing the body, but they don't necessarily want to see it themselves.) If the dead person is going to be cremated, would there be a chance for loved ones to see the body before the cremation?

I'm not sure if this changes anything, but for the record, the death took place in Scotland and funeral/burial arrangements are being made in Scotland.


The undertaker may provide facilities for viewing a body pre-funeral - not the kind of public viewing that you might have in the US and Canada, but more likely a private room.

I'd never even heard of open-coffin (not casket) funerals before moving to Canada, incidentally; the one time I did go to a viewing here I just found it really creepy, but that's a consequence of what I'm used to.
Thank you for the quick answer!

A few follow-up questions, if you don't mind:

A private room where, exactly? Would the family have to specifically request that the undertaker provide this opportunity? Is it going to be "private" in the sense the only select people (only the immediate family of the deceased?) will be allowed to attend?
I can't really give you any information there, as it's not something I've done. I vaguely remember that prior to my grandmother's funeral there was the possibility that anyone who wanted to see the body could do that at the undertaker's, but we didn't want to, and when my mother died my father didn't want to offer that possibility at all.

You might try looking for some undertaker websites to see if they describe this kind of thing - or wait for some Brits living in the UK to see this in the morning :)
Did a bit of Googling; this page on one Edinburgh-based funeral director's website may be helpful.

Edited at 2014-12-01 04:47 am (UTC)
It would be at the funeral director's premises. I was able to go and spend time with both my Dad and Mum a few days before their funerals. I took my cousin with me on both occasions because she wanted to see them - they'd been like second parents to her. No one else went - I don't know quite what would have happened if anyone else had turned up there without me though I suspect the funeral directors would likely have called me to ask if it was alright to let them in.
It had to be arranged in advance for a specific time in my husband's case, and his body wasn't in a coffin, it was lying on a sort of bed. I can't speak for the general situation as his was the only one I've seen: I didn't see either of my parents. I don't remember any details of the room except that it was fairly small and plain.
British and live in the UK here. Open casket funerals are certainly not common here. The only one I can think of that anyone I know has been to was my dad when he went to the funeral of a work colleague who had been killed in a car accident. This work colleague was Sikh so that may have been a factor. One friend saw her mum's body after she died and that was arranged through the undertakers but I don't know exactly where it took place.
I've never come across an open casket funeral here in the UK.

When my father died, we had a private viewing the day before his funeral and cremation - just for family. It was held in a private room at the undertaker's premises.
Same when my husband died.
You might find it useful to look at the National Association of Funeral Directors site (http://www.nafd.org.uk/funeral-advice/funeral-advice-home.aspx) for information about death arrangements in the UK.

While 'open coffin' funerals aren't usual there is a requirement that the undertaker provides a room for private viewing. (see the section on 'arranging a funeral).

If someone dies in hospital (or at home under a doctor's supervision) then it's usual for the staff to allow family already present to see the person immediately after the death before the body is removed to the mortuary.
I've only ever been to one open casket funeral in the UK. The family and deceased were Afro-Caribbean, which was probably why.
I was going to say exactly the same thing - the only one I have been to was of an Afro-Caribbean woman.
I asked to see my grandmother, after she died in hospital around 18hrs earlier; this was suggested and arranged by the hospital, and took place in a nice viewing room next to the hospital chapel. I have never had the opportunity to see anyone else (nor wanted to).

I suspect at 13 a hospital or undertakers would suggest/insist she had a parent or other responsible adult with her, if they don't actually say she's too young to view.
One point to note is that as open funerals are not common in the UK, embalming is much rarer than in the USA, so the body will probably not have been subject to it (preservation is by refridgeration).
I haven't come across the idea of an "open casket" funeral. Does that literally mean the box is open at the actual service, so the person is staring up as they're put into the ground? That - doesn't sound like something I'd want to see.

What we do have, as others have said, is the opportunity to see the body before the funeral (but this isn't always possible, see [2] below). What tends to happen here, at least with people who are from this country, is that the body is collected from wherever by the appointed funeral director (undertaker) and taken to their premises. The person arranging the funeral goes there to choose the box, the lining, the clothes and stuff, and also to specify the service and the flowers etc. The undertaker has a general reception room, or several if they're a bigger company, where all this takes place. They also have a number of private viewing rooms where the friends and family of the deceased can go and be with them for a while privately.

[1] I saw my grandmother in her hospital bed about an hour after she died, and I then went to see her body on the morning of the funeral to say goodbye properly; I was nervous and they asked me if I wanted someone to come in with me, so one of the undertaker's staff came into the room with me. When I was comfortable with the whole thing she left me to it for as long as I wanted.

[2] A more distant relative - I'll call her Ann - died at home and because there was an inquest it took the police and the coroner a good three weeks to let us go into her flat to search for papers etc. We therefore weren't able to arrange her funeral for some time. A friend of hers asked to go and see her (at the undertaker's) and we were asked if we would agree to Ann being embalmed so that this would be possible. We agreed, but then it turned out that due to the time lapse after death this wasn't going to be possible (I didn't ask for any more details!). The friend apparently went in anyway and spent a long time talking to the closed box. We were informed because of the permission for embalming; I really don't know whether our permission was required for the actual viewing.

As to a thirteen-year-old, I can't imagine there being a law about it, and different cultures have such different ideas about what's done and what isn't. I can imagine the girl just turning up and being allowed in by herself. I can also imagine the undertaker asking for her to be brought in by her parents and have them wait to take her away again. I really don't think anyone apart from her parents has the right to say she can't see the body and at thirteen I'm pretty sure most people would say it's her call.
Thank you!

During an open-casket funeral, [in the US, at least] the casket is closed for the burial but it's open for the funeral oration.

Your #2 is actually very important, because the circumstances of this death are such that there almost certainly would be an inquest! Even though you couldn't start planning the funeral right away, if you'd known right away that someone wanted to see the body, you could have immediately requested the embalming (though obviously it might not have been done right away, depending on the status of the post-mortem), correct?
When my father died (this was in England, in 1986), on the day of the funeral the immediate family got to sit in a sort of waiting room at the funeral parlour for a little while before leaving for the church, and I was told that if we wished we could view the body then -- I suppose it was in an inner room. My mother recommended against it, so I didn't go to look, and I don't know whether anyone else did. Anyone who wasn't immediate family went directly to the church and waited for the coffin and family to arrive. I don't remember going to the funeral parlour for my grandfather's funeral, so ``immediate family'' in this context would seem to be quite narrowly defined.

Recently I've been to a few funerals where the interment was carried out first, with only close family and friends present, followed by a service at the church that was open to all, but I don't know how common that is.
When my parents died in Ireland in the last few years, we had a viewing of the body the day before the funeral, at the funeral home. Family and friends were invited and a rosary was said.