Abschied mit Licht. Was ist zu tun, wenn ein Mensch stirbt?
"Death is but a transition from this life to another existence."
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

What needs to be done when someone dies?

At some point or another most people find themselves in a situation where someone close to them dies and they need to decide what must be done. At times like this, it can be extremely useful and helpful to have a list informing you about the most important steps as well as a checklist with the most important questions regarding the organisational process in the event of a death. Both lists can be downloaded free of charge as a PDF.

Checklist: Important questions regarding arrangements in the event of a death (as a PDF download)

Checklist: "What needs to be done?"

1. Take as much time as you need to come to terms with the situation. Perhaps you want to light a candle, to stand in silence next to the deceased or to say a prayer. Do what feels right for you.

2. Relatives are obliged to contact a doctor within 48 hours in order to confirm the death and to produce a medical death certificate. If the person dies in hospital or in a care home, the nursing staff will contact a doctor. In the event of death as a result of an accident, suicide or suspicion of violence by another person, the police must also be advised.

3. The death must also be registered at the registrar's office of the local authority within 48 hours. For this, you will require the death certificate from the doctor, some form of identification for the deceased person (passport, identity card) and the family booklet.

4. It is up to you whether you lay the deceased person out at home or have them transported immediately to the chapel of rest or the crematorium. You may request assistance to lay them out at home, to help you wash, dress and prepare them. Transportation of the deceased in the Canton of Zurich is organised and financed by the registrar's office or burial office.

5. Depending on the type of funeral you want, you will need to contact the responsible clergyman or an independent minister or officiant. Together, you will begin to arrange a date for the funeral and to plan it in detail.

6. Personal circulars are usually used together with newspaper obituaries to report the passing of the deceased. Most printers and newspaper editors have a selection of suitable texts.

7. Mourners often meet after the funeral service for a reception in a restaurant or café or at home using outside catering. Book the venue for this get-together as early as possible.

8. Once the farewell is over, the family of the deceased sends cards to thank people for their condolences, flowers and gifts.

9. People need time to come to terms with their loss. In many cases, the loss and the new situation it brings about only become clear after a while. People who feel alone in their situation can get help from bereavement support groups or receive professional support from therapists. There are also lots of books available to help people deal with their grief.

Important questions about death:
. Did the deceased person formulate their last requests regarding their
funeral in writing or verbally? Who is in possession of these wishes?
. Did they want to be buried or cremated?
. Should the deceased be laid out and if so, where?
. When will the deceased be transported and by whom?
. What clothes and jewellery will the deceased wear?
. What sort of coffin or urn should be used? What type of grave is desired?
. Where and when will the funeral take place? Important: it is imperative that
burials take place in an official cemetery. In Switzerland, Aschefreiheit [ash
freedom] applies in the case of cremation. This means that you can choose
where and how you keep the ashes, entomb them or scatter them.
. Which clergyman or independent officiant should hold the funeral service?