When someone is bereaved they often report feeling like they have landed in an alien land. Finding others who are experiencing the same problems and being facilitated to express concerns and emotions can be a great help, both for those for whom the death was long ago, as well as those for whom the pain is raw.
Churches are ideal places for this as they can provide a base for meeting and sharing as well as occasions for special remembrance and reflection.
The information below is just the beginning of what we hope will be lots of ideas of special activities for the bereaved that we will share, but for now we list 3 things for churches to consider:
- The Bereavement Journey Course
The Bereavement Journey is a tried and tested course developed by Holy Trinity Brompton, for anyone who has been bereaved, whether recently or long ago. Over 6 sessions of films, followed by discussion, the course helps guide people through the most common aspects of bereavement and assists them in processing the issues that relate to them. The last session is an optional session on faith questions providing a Christian response to some of the most commonly asked faith questions. As this session is optional, the course is suitable for people of any faith or none. The course is accompanied by guidelines for leaders, publicity material and Guest manuals and can be used over again.
Churches are finding The Bereavement Journey a straightforward and effective way of providing help to the bereaved in their communities. When advertised to those outside of church it is surprising how many people choose to attend and say how much they appreciate it. Since the sessions are delivered on film, the course can be run by a team with basic awareness of how to pastorally support the bereaved but we recommend attending (or running) one of Care for the Family’s Bereavement Care Awareness days and for the leader to experience, if possible, The Bereavement Journey course elsewhere before they begin.
Churches are encouraged to run The Bereavement Journey course online to respond to the increased need for bereavement support during the Coronavirus pandemic. The material is also available for individual purchase for bereaved people unable to access a nearby or online course. See The Bereavement Journey.
There are other peer support groups that churches can run for the bereaved, such as Drop-Ins. We hope to offer information about these in due course.
2. Hold Special Services for the Bereaved
Bereaved people can find it very helpful to be given individual or regular occasions to remember their loved ones. These can be anything from special memorial services for individuals, e.g. after a miscarriage, or annual services for anyone to remember loved ones who have died.
Many churches offer annual remembrance occasions in November around All Saints’ day, which is becoming increasingly popular, and some churches are now providing special services at other key times, such as Christmas.
We hope to provide examples of these and other initiatives on this website in due course.
3. Arrange one-off events at key times
There are several national awareness days or weeks throughout the year that have been earmarked for activity around death and dying. These are ideal opportunities for churches to engage in public conversation around grief and dying and to hold events for people to talk, whether that be in preparing for death or activities for the bereaved.
One such week is Hospice UK’s ‘Dying Matters week’ in May, which has been growing in popularity over the past 10 years. The 2020 Dying Matters week is 11th-17th May and the theme is listening, entitled ‘Dying To Be Heard’.
We hope to share ideas of what churches are doing and decide to do as one off events at key times. But for now please see the Dying Matters website about this week, and also our page on Pre-Death Support which gives several ideas of one-off events that churches could arrange to talk about death during Dying Matters week or on another occasion.