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Iceland – End of Life Issues

Overview of Hospices in Iceland

Hospice care in Iceland is well-developed and widely available to patients who are nearing the end of their lives. There are several hospice facilities in Iceland that provide end-of-life care services to patients and their families.

One of the most well-known hospice facilities in Iceland is the “Palliative Care and Hospice at Landspítali,” which provides palliative care services to patients with life-limiting illnesses, as well as support to their families. Another notable hospice is the “Hospice Care Reykjavik,” which provides end-of-life care and support to patients and their families.

Local Customs and Practices When Someone Dies in Iceland

Funerals in Iceland are typically somber events that involve the entire community coming together to mourn the loss of a loved one. Icelandic culture emphasizes the importance of showing respect to the deceased and their family during the mourning period.

In Iceland, it is customary for the body of the deceased to be displayed in a casket for a period of time before the funeral. This allows family members and friends to pay their respects and say their final goodbyes. The wake, or “skráning,” is an important part of the grieving process in Icelandic culture.

Another important custom in Icelandic culture is the “grátur,” which is a time for family members and friends to gather and weep together. This can be a private gathering or a more public event, depending on the family’s preferences.

What to Do When Someone Dies in Iceland

When someone dies in Iceland, there are several important steps that must be taken. Here is a numbered list of what to do:

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  1. Notify the authorities: The first step is to notify the local authorities of the death. This includes the police and the coroner’s office, which will issue a death certificate. The death certificate is required for many legal and administrative purposes, such as settling the deceased’s estate.

  2. Contact a funeral home: Once the authorities have been notified, the next step is to contact a funeral home to make arrangements for the funeral. It is important to choose a reputable funeral home that has experience in handling the funeral arrangements.

  3. Plan the funeral: Funerals in Iceland often involve religious or cultural rituals, such as a Lutheran or Catholic ceremony. It is important to plan the funeral carefully, including selecting a location, arranging for transportation, and coordinating with any religious or cultural leaders who will be involved in the funeral.

  4. Notify family and friends: It is important to notify family and friends of the death as soon as possible. This can be done through phone calls, text messages, or social media.

  5. Arrange for the wake: As mentioned earlier, the wake is an important part of the grieving process in Icelandic culture. The family may choose to hold the wake in the family home or at a funeral home. It is important to arrange for food, drinks, and other supplies for the wake.

  6. Attend the funeral: It is customary for family members and friends to attend the funeral to pay their respects to the deceased and offer support to the family. The funeral may include religious or cultural rituals, such as a Lutheran or Catholic ceremony.

  7. Complete administrative tasks: After the funeral, there may be a number of administrative tasks that need to be completed, such as notifying banks, insurance companies, and government agencies of the death. It is also important to settle the deceased’s estate, which may involve distributing assets, paying debts, and fulfilling any final wishes or instructions left by the deceased.

  8. Observe the mourning period: In Iceland, it is customary for family members to observe a mourning period for a period of time following the death of a loved one. The length of the mourning period varies depending on the relationship to the deceased, but it is typically around 30 days. During this time, it is common for family members to refrain from attending social events and to wear black clothing as a symbol of mourning.

    1. Seek support: Grieving the loss of a loved one can be a difficult and emotional process. It is important for family members and friends to seek support from each other, as well as from healthcare professionals, counselors, or religious leaders, if needed.


    End-of-life care and the customs surrounding death are important aspects of any culture, and Iceland is no exception. With a well-developed hospice care system and a rich cultural tradition, Iceland provides comprehensive support for patients and their families during the end-of-life journey. Understanding the local customs and practices surrounding death is crucial for those who may find themselves dealing with the loss of a loved one in Iceland. By following the steps outlined above, individuals can ensure that they are taking the appropriate steps to honor the deceased and support their loved ones during a difficult time.

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