3 min read

How to Prepare Yourself for Identifying a Loved One

Featured Image

It’s never easy to lose a loved one, and a devastating event like this is only exacerbated when you also need to identify him or her.

While it’s undoubtedly an emotional experience, identifying a loved one can help you find closure. It’s also a required step of law-abiding funeral homes prior to a cremation. For these reasons, you or a trusted family member or friend must give the funeral home a positive identification.

Because everyone handles grief differently, there is no right or wrong way to prepare for the identification of a departed loved one. To aid in the process, we’ve compiled several tips to prepare, as well as what you can expect.

>>>Related Resource: 6 Steps for Arranging an Authorized Cremation in Ohio

Preparing Yourself for Identification

Your emotions and grieving state may feel overwhelming during the identification process. To help best prepare yourself, follow these steps:

  1. Decide if you’re emotionally ready to see your loved one. You may also choose to designate a trusted family member or friend to perform the identification. If more than one person wants to go, decide ahead of time if you’ll go together or separately. Because this is an emotional experience, some people may prefer to handle it in private, while others find comfort in being with their surviving loved ones.

  2. Understand your loved one may look different. Depending on the circumstances of their passing, your loved one may look different than they did the last time you saw them or from what you may be used to seeing at a typical viewing. Your cremation provider of choice will do anything to make the process easier including dressing your loved one in the clothes you provide and allowing you to choose a cremation container during the identification.

  3. Use the time to say goodbye. View it as a sacred moment to spend with your loved one, and use this as an opportunity to find acceptance and begin the healing process.

  4. Focus on positive memories you had with your loved one rather than their current state. When grieving, it’s easy to fall into a negative head space, and you may even feel fearful about identifying your loved one. Before you arrive to identify your loved one, reminisce on the happy times you had with them. Writing these memories down may also help you to better focus on them. We oftentimes see families leave letters and photos with their loved one.

Choosing a Form of Identification

Those identifying a loved one have three options: to identify them in person, digitally by photo (usually when a viewing is not possible) or by an accurate positive identification method. No matter which option you choose, your experience should be thoughtfully respected by the funeral home.

In-Person Identification

Before identifying your loved one in person, decide if you’d like to go alone or with a family member or friend. You may want to use this time for personal closure with your loved one. Some individuals who choose to do the viewing alone will still bring a family member or friend to wait outside for extra support.

Photo Identification

As an alternative identification, staff can present surviving family members with a photo of the departed. The staff will explain what you will see to help prepare you, and the funeral home staff will be present for support if needed.

Another form of photo identification is a digital identification. The funeral home will send a private, secure photo of your loved one from the shoulders up. In cases where the face may not be identifiable, you may request an image of a unique physical feature to help make a positive identification.

When you receive the identification photo, view it from a secure spot, such as the comfort of your home, using a personal device. Because you may only be able to view the photo once, make the screen you’re using is large enough to easily see it.

Once you’ve confirmed that the photo is your loved one, make sure you follow the instructions to confirm with the funeral home.

Everything You Need to Know Before Arranging a Cremation

Identifying your loved one is one of the many steps you’ll take when arranging a cremation.

To help you get the best value and ensure your loved one is cared for, we created the Cremation Cost Explained Guide, which includes information about common service options and costs, choosing a trustworthy cremation provider and more.

Download it now for everything you need to know about choosing cremation.

Download our cremation costs explained guide

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2016, and has been updated for comprehensiveness. 


David Napoli
David Napoli
David has been in funeral service for over 10 years as a second career, leaving behind seminary life and working in the Catholic Church for a decade. He enjoys all things family, especially exploring the greater Cleveland area and Metro Parks with his wife, two children and their white shepherd.

Recent Posts

How to Honor a Lost Loved One at Your Wedding

Congratulations on your engagement! Getting engaged and then married to the person you wish to spend the rest of your life with is one of life’s...

Read More

Is It Too Late to Plan a Memorial Service for My Loved One?

When we lose a loved one, there’s an overwhelming number of decisions that need to be made. And oftentimes, it can be difficult making these...

Read More

At What Age Should You Plan Your Funeral?

Humans spend a lot of time, money and effort planning for life-changing moments such as marriage, children, or retirement. So, why should planning...

Read More