Bereaved by Sudden Death in Northern Norway (Etterlatte ved brå død i Nord-Norge)

Experiences with the support system and coping in a cultural perspective

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This project has been completed.



  • To examine the types of help people bereaved by sudden death in northern Norway have received from the local support system, voluntary organizations and social networks
  • What understanding does the local support system have of the needs of bereaved people, what specific actions are taken for them, and how relevant is cultural understanding in this context?
  • In what ways are traditional Sami norms and rituals used in the mourning process?
  • Which elements of Sami culture and way of life have helped to strengthen bereaveds’ coping ability?


Research design

The project “Bereaved by Sudden Death in Northern Norway” collected data from two samples: 1) municipal providers of bereavement care, and 2) bereaved . The studies were called the “Municipal Study” and the “Bereaved Study”, respectively. A quantitative  (questionnaires) and a qualitative approach (in-depth interviews) were used.

The Municipal Study (a self-administered questionnaire): Here the respondents were municipal doctors and/or leaders of the municipal crisis team who were responsible for providing bereavement care in all municipalities in northern Norway (n=88) and selected municipalities in the South Sami area (n=9, Trondheim, Engerdal, Røros, Snåsa, Røyrvik, Steinkjer, Lierne, Namsskogan and Levanger) and Svalbard (n=1). These were contacted and informed about the study. Ninety-three municipalities agreed to participate in the study, giving a response rate of 60%.

The Bereaved Study (a self-administered questionnaire): Municipal doctors and leaders of crisis teams in all the municipalities mentioned above except for Trondheim and Svalbard were asked to recruit survivors from their municipality for the questionnaire. A total of 437 requests were sent out and 244 survivors signed a consent form. The response rate among survivors receiving the questionnaire (N=244) was 74% (n=180).

The inclusion criteria for the BereavedStudy were as follows:

  1. Adult participants (18 years or above)
  2. Bereaved by sudden death (accidents, sudden infant death, suicide and homicide)
  3. An interval of at least six months and at most seven years since the death

The Bereaved Study (qualitative in-depth interviews): Bereaved who had agreed to be interviewed were contacted after the questionnaire survey for an in-depth interview in their home municipality. Interviews were conducted with 31 bereaved from selected Sami areas. The participants were Norwegians, Sami and Kvens living in Finnmark, coastal and urban areas of Troms, the Lule Sami area of Nordland and the South Sami areas of Nordland and Nord-Trøndelag.  



The following self-administered questionnaire was used in the Municipal Study:

  • The Community Questionnaire (Dyregrov, 2003)


The following self-administered questionnaires were used in the Survivor Study:

  • General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28) (Goldberg & Williams, 1988)
  • Resilience Scale for Adults (Friborg et al., 2005)
  • The 22-item Impact of Event Scale (IES-22) (Horowitz, Wilner & Alvarez, 1979)
  • The Inventory of Complicated Grief (ICG; Prigerson et al., 1995)
  • The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI, Norwegian version NKTVS, 2007)
  • The Assistance Questionnaire (Dyregrov, 2003)


The in-depth interview was based on an interview guide

In the qualitative part of the project, a phenomenological approach was used with the aim of gaining insight into how bereaved persons from different cultural contexts and traditions experience and relate to the same phenomenon, namely to be a bereaved of sudden death. The interview guide focused on bereaveds’’ experiences of help and care from the support system and their natural social network. A further focus area in the guide was bereaveds’’ grief processes and ways of coping in their cultural context.


Forside rapport

Report: Bereaved by Sudden Death in Northern Norway

The project “Bereaved by Sudden Death in Northern Norway” was completed in 2011. A report on the project has been published and distributed to the study participants, all municipalities in Northern Norway and selected South Sami municipalities.

  • Sucidology Volume 6 Number 1 2015: Sudden and unexpected death in Sámi areas in Norway - A qualitative study of the significance of religiosity in the bereavement process, pp. 53-62.
  • Sucidology Volume 5 Number 1 2014: The need for and barriers to professional help – a qualitative study of the bereaved in Sámi areas, pp. 47-58.
  • Sykepleien forskning no. 1 2014: Etterlattes erfaringer med lokalt hjelpeapparat i samiske områder i Nord-Norge, pp. 36-42.



The project manager was researcher Anne Silviken (

The project was a collaborative effort between the Centre for Sami Health Research (SSHF), the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI), the Regional Resource Centre for Violence, Traumatic Stress and Suicide Prevention (RVTS Nord) and the Sami Norwegian National Advisory Unit - Mental Health and Substance Use (SANKS, Sámi Klinihkka, Finnmark Hospital). The project team consisted of researcher and psychologist Anne Silviken (SSHF), researcher and sociologist Kari Dyregrov (FHI), anthropologist Gro Berntsen (RVTS Nord) and ph.d-student  Lena Slettli Gundersen (SSHF). During the development of the project, we received professional advice and support from anthropologist Vigdis Stordahl (SANKS) and socialworker Øyfrid Haugli (SANKS).



Anne Silviken (Principal investigator)