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In this video, Dr. Wolfelt discusses the importance of the body and shows how having the “guest of honor” present contributes to a healthy and healing funeral service.

Acknowledging the Reality of Death

Historically, the body was the focal point of the wake. Having the body present allows the reality of the situation to sink in. Often, mourners approach a body and literally say things like, “she really died.” While some people may think that this sounds strange, it’s a necessary part of the road to healing. It is important that you give yourself every opportunity to fully process the passing.

Referring to the Body

In an effort to emphasize the spiritual life or the soul of an individual, you may hear people refer to the body as a shell. While this is well-intended, it is often unhelpful. We shouldn’t underplay the importance of the body that animated life. We want to refer instead to the precious body of a loved one.

Hurting and Healing

It’s natural to feel conflicted about having the body present. You may think that viewing the body is going to hurt. But we can’t forget that hurting is a part of healing. By allowing yourself to face painful emotions, you open the door to growth and acceptance.

Recalling the Life

Often, friends and family will gather around the body to recall memories of the loved one’s life. For many people, it’s an essential element of the funeral process. Not everyone feels this way, but it’s important that we help people to understand its value so that they can make an informed choice.

Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is an author, educator, and grief counselor with over 30 years of experience working with bereaved families. He has written many best-selling books on grief and loss, including Healing Your Grieving Heart and The Journey Through Grief. Dr. Wolfelt serves as the Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. Visit him online at


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