A little guide on how to organize a funeral or One point I had hoped would not go on my list of things I have never done just yet…

Posted on: June 7, 2012

Two weeks ago I had the unpleasant task of organizing my grandmas funeral. While the passing of a close person always sucks (please excuse my language, but it truly does, doesn’t it?), it in many ways is even worse when you have to deal with the aftermath i.e. the funeral. Since my parents were on holidays, my sister in London and my uncle and his family in Stuttgart I took on the task of organizing the funeral. Whilst everyone would have come to Cologne to support me, I decided that there was no point in them doing so, since it really only takes one person to organize it all and I was able to call upon them via phone or mail.

So, for all those of you, who never had to organize a funeral, here a short list of things that need to be done:

  1. Get a doctor declare the deceased dead (you need to provide the passport/ ID of that person)
  2. Decide on the clothes the deceased will be wearing and put them out for the undertaker to take with them
  3. Decide on an undertaker, contact them, instruct them (and already mention you preferred date for the funeral!)
  4. Together with the undertaker decide on a coffin, the grave (if you don’t have one already), the amount of candles, whether or not you want a pries & a mass, how many dead certificates and whether or not there shall be cushions in the coffin, etc. The undertaker will also cancel the pension, health insurance, etc if you give them the details
  5. If you decided on a priest, talk to him so he knows a little bit about the deceased if that person wasn’t a terribly active member in the church community
  6. If you have a grave already, remove all the flowers, the light, etc so the grave can be opened. You can also order a company to do that for you if you are not able to do it on your own
  7. Order flowers (don’t forget the flowers that will be thrown onto the coffin)
  8. Order food for after the funeral (in Germany there is usually some lunch/ coffee & cake provided in a nearby restaurant or hotel immediately after the funeral so you can catch up with all the family & friends that are assembled)

I know that this topic isn’t a terribly popular one but I assume that everybody who doesn’t feel comfy has already skipped this post J Anyhow, I think it is important to know these things. While organizing this funeral I spoke with many friends and colleagues and realized that nobody (me included) really had an idea what all needs to be done. In many ways this is a scary thought given that, as much as we all wish otherwise, there is a high likelihood that all of us will be faced with such a task at one point in our life.


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The List

1. Learn how to keep a garden alive - IN PROGRESS
2. Write an article (and possibly publish it if I am able to) - IN PROGRESS
3. Do volunteering I: Read stories on a regular basis to little kids
4. Do volunteering II: Not sure what yet, maybe soup kitchen?
5. Visit Stockholm - IN PROGRESS
6. Visit India - IN PROGRESS
7. Visit Lisbon - IN PROGRESS
8. Do a Sightseeing-tour of Cologne - DONE!
9. Sew a skirt
10. Run a half-marathon
11. Renovate (or at least assist) a flat - DONE!
12. Actually stick to writing this blog - IN PROGRESS

Get a perm - FAIL

Completed: 2/12
In Progress: 6/12
Pending: 4/12

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