Every day in Los Angeles, as well as throughout California and across the United States, people of all ages and from all walks of life suffer traumatic deaths. The most common reasons why an individual suffers a traumatic death are:

  • Accident
  • Homicide
  • Suicide

A key issue that arises following the traumatic death of a loved one is whether bereaved family members should view the deceased’s body for identification. A 2010 research study in the United Kingdom delved into this issue and came up with no clear directive as to when and how a bereaved family member should view the remains of a loved one after a traumatic death and to identify the deceased.

The researchers behind the study summed up their overall conclusions in this way:

“Whether bereaved relatives should be encouraged to view the body after a traumatic death is uncertain.”

Two Timeframes for Viewing Remains Following a Traumatic Death

As has been discussed thus far, the initial point at which a family member may be called upon to review the remains of a person killed in a traumatic event like an accident, homicide, or suicide. Moreover, in some cases following a traumatic death, there is a desire for a funeral home to prepare the remains for at least a private viewing by the family.

The study referenced a moment ago was geared to the viewing of the body of the deceased shortly after the traumatic event, or at some point after the traumatic death is discovered. The later period is a viewing that is not all that different from what occurs in the course of mourning the loss of a loved one in a manner that was not traumatic. (With that said, there may be some limitations as to what the staff of a funeral home can do to prepare the remains for a subsequent viewing following a traumatic death.)

Reactions to the Prospect of Viewing the Remains of Loved One Directly After a Traumatic Death

If an accident, homicide, or suicide occurs, a close family member may be asked to identify the body. In the grand scheme of things, this task does not have to be done by a family member and can be undertaken by a friend or colleague, by an individual trusted by the family who is familiar with the deceased individual.

Some family members do not want to identify the remains of a loved one. The reality is that following a traumatic death, the appearance of the deceased family member can be troubling. A good many people want to remember their family members as they were in life. They fear that those images may be supplanted by how the loved one appears following a traumatic passing.

At the other end of the spectrum, some individuals insists on seeing a family member in the aftermath of the traumatic death. They want to take this step to make sure that the deceased family member is being properly cared for in the aftermath of a horrific death.

In the end, in the more immediate aftermath of the traumatic death, family members should be given the option of viewing the remains or not doing so.

Viewing Remains of a Loved One Following a Traumatic Death and After Preparations of Body by Funeral Home

The next juncture at which the ability to view the remains of a loved one who died a traumatic death comes up is after preparation of the body by the funeral home. Those who prepare bodies at funeral homes do wonderful work. However, there can be limitations to what can be done in the aftermath of the traumatic death.

Before viewing the remains of a loved one in this type of circumstance, the funeral home staff needs to be candid about what a family member needs to anticipate. A candid explanation of the state of the remains allows a person the ability to make an educated decision about whether or not he or she desires to view the remains of a family member who died a traumatic death and after preparation by the funeral home.


Emily Kil

Co-Owner of Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company

Together with her husband, Emily Kil is co-owner of Eco Bear, a leading biohazard remediation company in Southern California. An experienced entrepreneur, Emily assisted in founding Eco Bear as a means of combining her business experience with her desire to provide assistance to people facing challenging circumstances. Emily regularly writes about her first-hand experiences providing services like biohazard cleanup, suicide cleanup, crime scene cleanup, unattended death cleanup, and other types of difficult remediations in homes and businesses.