Svenska kyrkan

Swedes don’t have time for grief in everyday life


In preparation for the weekend during which All Saints’ Day is commemorated, the Church of Sweden commissioned research company TNS Sifo to survey what Swedes think about grief and loss. The survey shows that the vast majority think that it is important to remember those who have died. A large proportion – 38 percent – want to do more to honour the memory of those they miss, but they say that obstacles in everyday life get in the way or they don’t know what they can do.

About half of all Swedes light candles at someone’s grave during the weekend when All Saints’ Day is commemorated.

About half of all Swedes light candles at someone’s grave during the weekend when All Saints’ Day is commemorated.* Parishes throughout Sweden are now preparing to welcome the weekend’s visitors.

Together with TNS Sifo, the Church of Sweden has looked into how Swedes regard grief. The survey revealed that 80 percent think that it is important to remember those who have passed away.

“We often keep our grief inside us, but it is part of life and something that unites all people. Grief has a place in everyday life and not just on certain occasions, such as during the weekend that includes All Saints’ Day,” says Ingrid Edgardh, hospital chaplain in the Church of Sweden.

A total of 38 percent want to do more to honour the memory of those they miss. When we asked what prevented them from doing so, we received various types of responses. 29 percent find it difficult to express in words what prevents them, despite the fact that they think it is important to remember those they miss. 22 percent say that external disruptions distract them, while 10 percent wish they had a longer uninterrupted period of time for reflection. Another reason is a fear of the grief itself, especially among young people aged 18–29, of whom 35 percent are afraid of feeling sad or that others will see them feeling sad.

“We all encounter grief during our lifetime. It’ s OK to grieve and process grief in different ways. Some people light candles, others need to talk, some people go jogging, while others feel it is wholly right to share memories online of the people they miss,” explains Edgardh.

During All Saints’ weekend the Church of Sweden wants to use the initiative #taenminut (take a minute), to encourage people to take a break to remember someone they miss. To give more people access to the experience of what a cemetery is like during and around All Saints’ weekend with all the candles, a one-minute film recorded in 360° has been published on YouTube and Facebook (in Swedish) today, Thursday.

TNS Sifo survey about grief

The survey was performed by TNS Sifo in October 2016. A total of 1,000 people filled in the online questionnaire; 537 men and 463 women.

– A total of 85 percent miss someone who has passed away. 80 percent think that it is important to think about those who have died. Women think that it is more important than men do (43 percent of women responded “totally agree” compared to 25 percent of men).

– A total of 38 percent want to do more to honour the memory of someone who has died, especially men over the age of 50; in this group nearly one in two want to do more (46 percent for men aged 50–64, and 44 percent for men aged 65–79). Just 13 percent think that what they do is entirely sufficient.

– As regards the 38 percent who want to do more to honour the person who has died, the following list contains some of the obstacles that the respondents said prevent them from doing so, despite the fact that they think it is important:

– Don’t know what prevents me/Find it difficult to express in words (29 percent)

– External disruptions that are distracting (22 percent)

– Afraid of feeling sad (14 percent)

– Need a longer uninterrupted period of time for reflection (10 percent)

– Afraid that other people will see me feeling sad (8 percent)

– Find it difficult to remember (8 percent)

– Men find it more difficult than women do to put their thoughts and feelings into words (43 percent of men compared to 28 percent of women). Women think that it is more important than men do to be remembered themselves by friends and family after their death (43 percent of women compared to 29 percent of men).

– Two-thirds of young people aged 18–29 miss their grandparents (64 percent)

– 21 percent are not comfortable with using the word “dead”

– Among the group of 30–49 year-olds, people in midlife, there were various views of how long it is OK to stay off work in conjunction with the death of a close relative. 47 percent of the men think that “a couple of days” are enough. Only 18 percent of the women think the same.

The Church of Sweden’s duty press service, +46 (0)18 16 94 75.

The Church of Sweden offers the following to people who are grieving:

– Support through conversations in your parish

– The Duty Priest Service (Jourhavande präst) is available by phone if you need someone who will listen to you: ring 112 to be connected

– Share your grief with others in a grief group.

– Chat to a priest/vicar online

– Email and receive an answer from a priest/vicar within 24 hours

More information in Swedish:

Link: *Bromander, J. (2012), the University of Gothenburg, the SOM Institute 




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