39 Holding on
How long to stay with a body
After someone dies, family and friends wonder what happens next. They want to know how long to stay with the body. They want to know when and whether to leave.
Here’s what I often say:
“You can stay here as long as you would like.
There isn’t a right amount or a wrong amount. In fact, with four of us in the room there are about nine answers to that question. Part of us wants to get out of here as fast as possible. Part of us wants to never leave, because we don’t want to face the rest of the people out there who have no idea what just happened.
So stay until you know it’s time.”
I’ve known of mothers who have stayed in the room with the body of a newborn for hours. I’ve known of families who came and left within minutes. And there were good reasons for both situations.
I’ve known of family members who have wanted to lie next to their loved one for awhile. Family members often want hand prints, locks of hair, photos. A family member once wanted a sample of blood in case it was needed for genetics testing in the future.
If you are the one who has the information about the process, be sure that you explain the steps. Because a family once sat waiting by the body of their father and husband for two hours. Hospital staff thought they were providing honor. The family thought they were waiting to sign something.