After someone dies and they are taken to a funeral home, you can still come and see them. The place for this is often called the chapel of rest. So, what happens in a chapel of rest, and what do you need to know before your visit?


What is a chapel of rest?

A chapel of rest is a room or a building where you can come and sit with someone who has died. It’s usually part of a funeral home. To arrange a visit, you need to speak with the funeral director organising the funeral.


What to expect at the chapel of rest

Not all chapels of rest are alike. But most have a few shared features. There will be a table or stand of some kind where the coffin will be placed. This is called a catafalque. There will also be seats, so that you can sit with the person who has died for a while. 

Some chapels of rest have windows; others don’t. But curtains are always closed to give you privacy.


Going to a chapel of rest with an open coffin

One of the things people worry about is what the person who has died will look like – will they look the same? This depends on a few different things, like how long it has been since they died, how they died and whether they have been embalmed. But they will always be clean, neatly dressed and groomed. 

It’s a good idea to ask the funeral director outside the chapel of rest what to expect. You could also ask someone you trust to go in before you and report back. It’s okay if you don’t look in the coffin, too – you may feel that it’s enough just to be close by. 


Nervous about going in?

Remember: you don’t have to visit the chapel of rest if you don’t want to. While many people appreciate this final chance to see the person who has died, many others prefer to remember them as they were. Only you can decide whether you should go in or not. 

If you like, you can ask a friend or someone from the funeral home to come in with you for support.


Who can visit the chapel of rest?

It depends. The people who are arranging the funeral (usually the close family or ‘next of kin’) decide if there will be any visits at the chapel of rest, and who can come. They may say only family are allowed.

So, if you’d like to come, check with the family or contact the funeral home to find out the best time. 


Do you have to be a Christian to visit?

Despite the name, you don’t have to be a Christian to go to a chapel of rest in the UK. 99.9% of them are multi-faith. In fact, if your religion asks that you wash the body of the person who has died, this is often arranged in the chapel of rest.


Chapel of rest etiquette 

What do you need to think about if you’re going to visit a chapel of rest? Here’s the essentials.


When can I visit the chapel of rest before the funeral?

There’s usually a two to three week wait between someone’s death and their funeral. During this time, you may be able to visit the chapel of rest a few times. But it is always better to go sooner rather than later. 

Some funeral homes offer visits out of office hours, while others are 9-5 only. It’s important to call ahead to find out when to come – you don’t want to interrupt someone else’s time in the room.


Can you take photos in the chapel of rest?

You can only take chapel of rest photos if you have permission from the next of kin first. Talk to the family and/or whoever has arranged your visit about it before going ahead to make sure you won’t cause offence. 


What should I wear?

If the family of the person who has died haven’t suggested a dress code, and there are no religious requirements, you can dress as you like. Unlike the funeral, there’s no expectation that you have to dress formally or in black.


Are you allowed to speak?

You can talk as much as you like. A lot of people take this chance to say the things they might not have been able to say when the person was alive. Just be respectful of anyone else in the room. It can help to watch your volume, tone and words.


How do I find a funeral home with a chapel of rest near me?

Our Find a Funeral director page can help you discover a funeral home with a chapel of rest near you. Just pop in your postcode and check the list of facilities on the funeral home pages. Click here to start your search.

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