Home > Special Circumstances > Identifying Remains

Identifying Remains

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 28 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Death deceased identifying Remains

Sadly, not everyone is surrounded by friends or loved ones when they die, which means that there is not always someone able to confirm the deceased's identity immediately. When this is the case, one of two common options is followed. Either the authorities contact someone able to positively identify the victim, or they may turn to information such as fingerprints, dental records or even DNA samples. These options can both be emotionally trying for friends or family members waiting to hear if their loved one is confirmed as deceased, and seeking counselling or therapy during this time may make it easier to survive the wait.

Confirming an Identity

In television programmes and films, confirming the identity of a deceased individual is usually a tense, traumatic time. In real life the authorities involved in the identification process will do everything in their power to make this time as comfortable as possible. Generally the individual who will be confirming or denying the identity of the deceased will need to be a close friend or relative, but their confirmation or denial will not be the end of the investigation. Once a preliminary decision is made, authorities will likely then build a further case - or at least check that all other existing evidence - supports this identification. The individual who confirmed the deceased's identity will likely need to be involved in this further investigation and should expect to at the very least answer more questions about the deceased.

Evidence about Identity

If there is no one around who may be able to identify the remains of the deceased, or if the deceased's body is in some way unidentifiable by sight, then other evidence about the identity of the deceased will likely be needed. Fingerprints, dental records and DNA samples may all be used to try to confirm an identity, but these options are only available if fingerprints, dental records or DNA samples are available from the deceased and then may only be successful if they match a record held in a database. The time it may take for these records to be traced and matched can vary, but some searches can be lengthy. Seeking counselling during this wait may appeal to some people.

Counselling for Loved Ones

The wait for the identification of a deceased individual can be a long one, and whether loved ones must confirm the deceased themselves or wait for test results to return it can be a stressful time. Turning to counselling during this time may help, and some individuals may decide that they would like to explore bereavement counselling though they are not 100% certain that their loved ones are deceased. Bereavement counselling aims to help an individual explore his or her emotions. At the first meeting, the individual will likely be asked about his or her loss, about his or her relationship to the deceased, and about his or her own life now that (s)he has lost a loved one. At this time the individual seeking counselling should explain that (s)he is waiting for a confirmation on the death of a loved one. Allowing an individual to explore his or her emotions without guilt or censure is often what appeals most about bereavement counselling. The British Association of Counselling and Cruse Bereavement Care (www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk) are both organisations available to help the bereaved find care and support.

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