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Humanities 2015, 4(2), 224-235; doi:10.3390/h4020224

Death, Dying and Bereavement in Norway and Sweden in Recent Times

Department of Cultural Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo, 0315 Oslo, Norway
Academic Editor: Albrecht Classen
Received: 23 March 2015 / Revised: 27 May 2015 / Accepted: 27 May 2015 / Published: 2 June 2015
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Abstract

One of my research projects examines pictorial symbols and epitaphs on gravestones in Norway and Sweden. The focus has been on the 1990s and the 2000s. The choice of this period is motivated by the fact that new national burial laws were adopted in both countries in the early 1990s. These laws provided the next of kin with the possibility of choosing memorial symbols and inscriptions more freely than had previously been the case. To judge from the data under study, individual symbols have gained popularity, especially in Sweden, while Norway has been more faithful to earlier traditions of a collective character; moreover, secular motifs are more manifest on the gravestones in Sweden than in Norway. Another research project analyses memorial websites on the Internet related to persons who have died in recent years. The all-inclusive issue in these studies concerns mourners’ expressions of their emotions and beliefs regarding the deceased person’s afterlife, that is, beliefs in after-death existence. Belief in the deceased being somewhere in heaven is common. Belief in angels is also a popular concept in memorial websites. Moreover, in Sweden, this includes deceased pets as well. The previously strictly observed distinction between humans and pets has become indiscernible in Sweden. Norwegian practice, however, remains critical towards this type of “humanlike characterization”. In Norway, memorial websites for the deceased are generally associated with more traditional Christian concepts than are similar sites in Sweden. By contrast, in Sweden, one observes a kind of diffuse religiosity reminiscent of New Age ways of thinking, according to which the individual plays the central role, and glorification of afterlife existence prevails. Secularization, that is, a decline in the influence of traditional forms of religious experience, is conspicuously more prominent in Sweden. Within the project on memorial websites, I have performed a special study of memorials of persons who have committed suicide. In Norway, differences between suicide and deaths by other causes are conceived in an entirely different manner than on memorial websites in Sweden. There, the contrast between suicide and other forms of death has been increasingly wiped out. Norway has preserved earlier mortuary traditions to a greater extent, and no notions of a bright afterlife, or of angels, are to be found in connection with suicides. View Full-Text
Keywords: afterlife; collective mentality; cross-national comparisons; gravestone symbols; individual characteristics; memorial Internet websites; secular views; tradition afterlife; collective mentality; cross-national comparisons; gravestone symbols; individual characteristics; memorial Internet websites; secular views; tradition
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Gustavsson, A. Death, Dying and Bereavement in Norway and Sweden in Recent Times. Humanities 2015, 4, 224-235.

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