Does a wake and a viewing mean the same thing?


Forums User
11 years, 2 months ago

A neighbor of ours passed away recently. He is a member of the First Baptist Church in our neighborhood. The death notice said his viewing would be from 9 am to 7 pm at a nearby funeral home. We went to pay our respects around 11:00 am that morning. There was no one there—not even a family member. A funeral director said the body would lie in state all day and did not know if/when wife would be there. We signed the book and said some prayers. We left as there was no one to extend our sympathy to.

Is this normal? The man had a wife and family; we observed them coming and going all day from their residence.

Does wake and viewing mean the same thing?

Thanks for your insight.


Jennifer Lane
11 years ago

Hi Joan-

“Wake” is a bit of an older term (historically it meant that the family would stay near the deceased in case he or she were to “wake up.”) Today it is usually the same thing as a viewing or visitation, where during established hours, friends and family can come pay their respects to the deceased and offer condolences to the surviving family.

Regarding the situation you encountered, it is unusual to have no immediate member of the family present to receive visitors. I’m not sure why it happened that way with your neighbor, and there could have been some unknown circumstances that left you alone at the funeral home with no one to extend sympathy to – I’m really not sure. The viewing times listed (9 am to 7pm) are a bit long, but I would think the funeral home would have scheduled it differently to accommodate the ability of the wife and/or children to be present to receive visitors.

Forums User
11 years ago

Dear Jennifer– Thank you so much for your quick response. I appreciate your explanation of terms and customs.
Thank you also for your thoughts on our experience. We did find it so very unusual and probably will never understand
why that would happen.
Thanks again!! And what a nice service you offer answering questions for those of us who need some insight!

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