When someone passes away

Last updated: 11 11 2021

Image Boken om Sverige
This material is from the book About Sweden.

Dying is also called passing away. When an older relative passes away at home, you have to contact health services staff. Sometimes they collect the body, which is taken to a hospital where a doctor is responsible for officially declaring them dead. If you have any special requests, such as those based on religious procedures, you should talk about this with the health services staff.

Relatives can then contact a priest, pastor, rabbi, imam or other religious representative. Together with the representative of the congregation, the relatives can plan the funeral based on any specific religious requests. It is also a good idea to talk to the cemetery administration and an undertaker, who will be able to help you with contact information and practical assistance.


At funerals in Sweden it is common for relatives and close friends of the deceased to be present. It is also the tradition to follow the wishes of the deceased with regard to the funeral arrangements. These may have been written down in a will or the deceased may have previously described how s/he wanted the funeral arrangements. There are several different funeral rituals depending on the religious faith, or lack of it, of the deceased.

Funerals in Sweden are most often held in a church or chapel. The Church of Sweden is in charge of all funerary activities in the country, except in Stockholm and Tranås, where the municipality has this role. This is the same, regardless of the religion to which the deceased belonged.

Relatives can contact the municipality's funeral agent. Funeral agents are people appointed by the county administrative board who works to ensure the interests and requests of the deceased and the relatives are taken into account. Funeral agents have to ensure that those who are not members of the Church of Sweden are able to be laid to rest in a way that suits them. To contact the funeral agent, relatives can turn to the municipality, the county administrative board or their religious congregation.

There are no rules stating that you must arrange a funeral. However, there are rules stating that the body must be placed in a coffin. There are also rules about how a cremation is to take place and how the ashes are to be placed in the ground. Cremation means that the person who has dies is placed in a cremation oven together with the coffin. The coffin and the body are then burned to ash and the ashes are then placed in an urn. The urn is then usually buried in a graveyard. The ash can also be spread in a specific part of the cemetery called a memorial grove. If you want to scatter the ashes somewhere else, for example the sea, the relatives need to apply for permission from the county administrative board.

If the body is to be buried abroad, an undertaker, for a fee, can help with transporting the body to that country.

In Sweden, it normally takes one to two weeks from death until the funeral. It is usually possible to bury the deceased as soon as possible after their death if the relatives so desire. However, Swedish law stipulates that the deceased must be buried or cremated within one month of their death.

It is uncommon to have an open coffin at funerals in Sweden, but there is no formal objections to this taking place.

Everyone in Sweden pays a funeral charge through their taxes. The charge provides the right to use a space such as a chapel for the funeral. The charge also provides the right to transport of the coffin from the space to the grave.

In Sweden, about 83 per cent of those who die have a ceremony in church. This involves a priest holding a funeral service. To have a funeral service, you must be a member of the Church of Sweden. Church funerals are free for those who are members of the Church of Sweden. A church funeral can also be held in a free church, a catholic church or and orthodox church.

A civil funeral is a ceremony without religious elements. A civil funeral is therefore not held in a church. It can be held in a burial chapel, in a garden or perhaps out in the countryside. A civil funeral celebrant conducts the ceremony.