My name is Lena Siverhag and since January 2011, I have been one of four funeral officiants in Lund. I also do funerals elsewhere, preferably within Skåne. Until December 2010, I worked at the municipal office in Lund as a lawyer, project manager and with various other tasks. For many years, I had wanted to devote myself to civil funerals but that was not possible to combine with a demanding full-time job. The opportunity to do so arrived when I finished working.
I grew up in Uppsala and Knivsta and have a law degree from Uppsala University. In 1986, I moved to the south of Sweden and now live in the countryside outside Dalby, a village east of Lund. I have never been a religious person and I have always been interested in alternative ceremonies. I have no affiliation with any religious community and left the Church of Sweden in 1968. While I have a lot in common with the humanistic movement, I don't share all their views. I think the most important thing about my assignment is helping distressed people in difficult situations and creating a funeral that suits them, one they will leave feeling was just perfect for the deceased. Every time I have been involved in and arranged funerals, I've realized the importance of funeral consultants, officiants and the other people involved in the ceremony being able to support people in a time of distress. I hope the interest and engagement I bring to my assignments can be of help to people.
How I work
When I get an assignment from the undertaker in charge of the impending funeral, I contact the originator of the funeral. We book a meeting, which usually takes place at the home of the originator or at the funeral agency where we discuss the programme and decide about the music. The chapels have music facilities and recorded music on CDs are common, although there is also the option to have live music, performed either by an organist or by other professional musicians. If so, they need to be auditioned and booked: the funeral agency can always help with this. The choice of music can reflect the deceased’s own taste in music if this is known and relatives or friends who play instruments or sing can be part of the ceremony.
Another important reason behind this meeting is to learn about the deceased, which helps make a correct tribute possible. For instance, the deceased may have expressed wishes about her or his funeral, and this is an opportunity to discuss those wishes. Although it is quite rare for people to do so, funeral agencies have a “White archive” where people can leave suggestions for their future funeral. However, many people have never attended a civil funeral and therefore find a meeting useful in finding out about the options available for the funeral.
After we have agreed on a programme, I try to get a fuller picture of the deceased, to get a sense of who she or he was, including what her or his life looked like, any particular interests and other things that might be worth mentioning in a tribute. As a guideline, a commemorative speech usually takes 4-7 minutes. After the programme is communicated with the customer, I inform the funeral agency and ensure that the CDs or musicians are available and auditioned in time for the funeral. The funeral agency can also produce printed programmes if desired.
Example of a programme for a funeral
(Keep in mind that this example is just a suggestion among many and is not a must.)
A civil funeral can be designed completely according to requests from the relatives of the deceased. There are no rights or wrongs: the order of the programme can be changed, and parts can be removed or replaced by other elements as wanted.
You can have a funeral with only music.
You can have a farewell ceremony at the urn that contains the ashes of the deceased – and not necessarily in a chapel. It can be held outdoors, in a garden or any other place that is suitable or has special meaning for the deceased.
The ceremony doesn't need to have a tribute – perhaps poems feel better, maybe a slide show or something else that reminds you of the deceased.
I am happy to answer questions about this. Contact details can be found on the start page.