Category Archives: Loss

Support when Christmas hurts

Tonight at St John’s, Hale, we are holding a service especially for people for whom Christmas is a time of pain and grieving.

The Longest Night – when Christmas hurts will take place at 7.30pm, and is a service of prayers, music, readings and lighting candles, for people who want to reconnect with the love of God from the depths of their own pain.

Lesley Crawley explains the thinking behind this: “Christmas is a particularly difficult time to be grieving or feeling pain. Jesus came into our broken world as a helpless baby and through this simple service we pray that you will find hope and comfort in knowing that you are not alone.”

Anyone who would like pastoral support or to talk to someone in the parish about any difficulty is invited to contact Lesley or Alan Crawley on revd.lesley@badshotleaandhale.org or revd.alan@badshotleaandhale.org or 01252 820537.

 

Services for the Bereaved

At these three simple services we will be lighting candles to remember those who have died.

  • St John’s at 6:30pm on Sat 28th Oct,
  • St Mark’s at 11:00am on Sun 29th Oct and
  • St George’s at 4:00pm on Sun 29th Oct

Please stay for coffee and cake after the services.

If you would like a loved one remembered at one of these services please bring their name on a piece of paper to the service. For more information contact Lesley on 01252 820537 or revd.lesley@badshotleaandhale.org

The Longest Night

From late October, the shops have been full of Christmas decorations, fairy lights and Father Christmas. Children are getting more and more excited and the advertising and media is encouraging everyone to spend, spend, spend and buy a happy Christmas.
With the whole world around you caught up in a whirl of excess, for some people it simply highlights their own feelings of loss, pain, hurt or grief. Perhaps a family bereavement, a broken relationship, loss of a job, loss of health – there may be any number of reasons why people find it hard to join in with the festivities all around them.
At St John’s on December 22nd at 7:30pm we are holding a service entitled, ‘The Longest Night’. It is for people who want to reconnect with the love of God from the depths of their own pain. It is a simple service, recognising that Jesus came into our broken world as a helpless baby. Through prayers, music, readings and lighting candles, we pray that you will find hope and comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Even in the darkest, longest night, God is always ready to meet us wherever we may be.

Lest we Forget

“Lest we Forget” was one of the most moving and interesting events that I have ever been to. Jonathan Jones read poetry from the Great War, first from the perspective of the soldiers, and after the interval from the perspective of the women – wives, mothers and lovers left at home.

In between the poems Jonathan explained the context and I learned so much about such things as the origins of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the tradition of wearing poppies and the tomb of The Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.

We really must never forget the horror of the Great War and I am so grateful to Jonathan for introducing me to poems and history that I was completely unaware of. My favourite poem was “The Road to La Bassée” – so very human and down to earth. I was also struck by the poem “Christ in Flanders” by Lucy Whitmell.

Kathy Robertson did us proud with her team providing authentic WWI refreshments and then Margaret Emberson lead us in singing some WWI songs. Oh and £200 was raised for the “Emily the Organ” appeal.

Lesley Crawley

How to have a great conversation with someone who is going to die

I recently read an article with this title and I found it interesting, provoking and brutal. It is an important subject, though. Often I find myself talking to people in this situation, admittedly it is an occupational hazard! The author of the article gives this advice to a fictional Alice who is talking to a fictional terminally ill Bob:

Here are the things that Alice can talk about that will make Bob happy:

  • Stories of old adventures they had together. Remember that time? Oh boy, yes I do… it was awesome!

  • Clinical details. Bob, stuck in his bed, is probably obsessed by the rituals of care, the staff, the medicines, and above all, his disease. I’ll come to Bob’s duty to share, in a second.

  • Helping Bob with technical details. Sorting out a life is complex and needs many hands and minds.

  • “I bought your book,” assuming Bob is an author like me. It may be flattery, or sincere, either way it’ll make Bob smile.

I suppose one of the questions in my mind is whether making Bob happy is the main aim – perhaps having a real and deep conversation is a better thing to do. The hospice movement has a concept of ‘Total Pain’ whereby emotional, physical, spiritual, social pain can all come together at the end of life. This can be a blessing because in the resolution of this pain comes a total healing and acceptance that perhaps the person has never enjoyed before. It is much deeper than mere happiness.

What do you think? Are you in this situation? What helps you?

What’s the point of a funeral?

Sorry to talk about funerals again – I do a lot of thinking about funerals, I find it a really rich and wonderful area of ministry. People often say to me that they would hate to do my job because of the funerals aspect, normally the bereaved, but funnily enough I find bereaved people minister to me and teach me so much about God and life. I think they would be surprised by this.

I was really affected by the lost yachtsman who came from Farnham, his death came right after another young person who suddenly lost his life and it felt like the whole town was grieving. It struck me that there wouldn’t be a funeral without a body, and of course there would be no opportunity for the family to see their deceased relative. For me, I think the reality of the dead body of my loved one helps with my grief. I used to regularly have dreams that mum was alive and when I woke in the night, confused and distressed, I would remember the day when I drove to the hospital to see my dead mother, and that helped me resolve my confusion so many times.

Then I read this lovely piece by Nancy – On not having a Funeral. Her mum donated her body to medical research and she thought it would be a good thing not to have the coffin there at the service, but it left Nancy struggling to gain closure. I’m sure I would feel the same way.

For me, the healing aspect of a funeral is twofold. The first is the impact of sitting in front of the coffin for half an hour and recognising that the person is dead, my gaze keeps getting drawn back to the coffin and I find myself thinking, “Oh my God, they are dead and I’m not going to see them ever again in this life.” The second is recognising that the person in the coffin was human – they were good and bad, loving and fearful, perhaps a drunk, perhaps compassionate, perhaps anti-social, perhaps inspiring, perhaps lonely, perhaps faithful, perhaps adaptable. Whoever they were, the sum of their life describes something authentic about the human condition and God loves them and loves us just as we are, warts and all. I know this completely and absolutely during a funeral service and it makes me weep with gratitude, God is such an amazing lover of us all.

So what is the point of a funeral for you?

Grief and the need to ‘do’ something

Our community is in grief at the moment, a teenage lad has died and everyone’s thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

Grief is the price of love. It is the ‘cost of commitment’, is how Colin Murray Parkes entitles the opening chapter of his work Bereavement: Studies of Grief in Adult Life.

If we love, we grieve, but no one expects to grieve for someone so young.

I have found myself thinking about grief and how younger people react, and I guess the emotions are the same:

I feel so sad

I feel completely empty

I feel incredibly angry

I feel desperately lonely

I wish I hadn’t said those unkind things

I feel afraid, will this happen again?

Will I feel like this forever?

But children are often so good at intuitively knowing they need to ‘do’ something – light a candle, take some flowers, write a message…

I think we all need to ‘do’ something – we can’t think our way through because our minds are a mess – a tumult of thoughts and emotions that we can barely understand. But physically we can ‘do’ something, we can lay a wreath, we can write down a memory, we can sign a book of condolence, we can light a candle, we can attend a funeral. In all these things we find some way of expressing ourselves, even in the depths of the abyss of grief. Personally, I wouldn’t discourage people buying flowers for a funeral because it may help them.

At times of loss I find set prayers really helpful. I don’t really know why but I find such comfort in this prayer:

Support us, O Lord,

all the day long of this troublous life,

until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes,

the busy world is hushed,

the fever of life is over

and our work is done.

Then, Lord, in your mercy grant us a safe lodging,

a holy rest, and peace at the last;

through Christ our Lord.

Amen

The impact of loss, self knowledge and the cross

reelworship_cross_2Losing my mum two and a half years ago has changed my understanding of so many things. The most obvious change is that I now understand grief in a different way. Grief is an emotion that I meet on a nearly weekly basis thanks to funeral ministry, and obviously everyone’s grief is different so it is wrong to generalise. However, my change in understanding is that grief isn’t a phase, a period of time, an emotion to work through…. Grief is an emotional reaction to the reality of loss, and the loss is forever. Grief may be a process, but it is the process of accepting the loss, and the impacts of the loss are with us for the rest of our lives. That loss can be bad, or good, or perhaps most likely, the impact of loss can be both good and bad.

The weirdest thing that happened to me after mum died was that I instantaneously understood her differently and I understood myself and the whole of my life up to that point in a new way. It was the separation from the one who had been everything to me at one time in my life. I suddenly realised that spending my earliest years in countries where no one spoke my language, other than my mum, had created an incredibly intense relationship between us, one that had been complicated by both of us suffering from anxiety.

Within days of her death I wished that she had been alive so that I could behave differently, speak to her properly, readjust our relationship given my new knowledge of both her and me. It was ironic that it was her death that might have meant that we could have had a better relationship. At times it felt like a bitter irony.

I felt a great loss, like the loss of a limb, but it was a loss inside me, a hole that had appeared and which felt like it couldn’t be filled. And it hasn’t, so far. The hole is still there – still the same shape and size – it feels like a mother-shaped hole. But I don’t regret her death any more. I feel better for the understanding it has given me. I feel both liberated and empowered.

As I contemplate the question of “Why did Jesus die” once again in this Holy Week, I find myself wondering whether some of this experience was the same for the disciples. They were shocked to discover themselves in a new way after Jesus’ death – for many of them cowardice ruled the day without their leader. Perhaps the loss made them realise where Jesus ended and where they began, what Jesus meant to them and how he had affected them. When Jesus rose from the dead he met different men and women than the ones that he had left – ones that could never be the same because in their loss they met themselves and knew themselves more deeply. And Jesus wasn’t restored to them in the same way – his resurrection body was different to his former one – it had the marks of the nails but he was hard to recognise.

In Christ’s death and resurrection one of the things that changed was that the baton passed – making disciples was no longer primarily Jesus’s job, it was now the job of the disciples, our job. Or was it? Because we can’t do it – only God can – but God gives us the Holy Spirit so that we might be the hands and hearts through which God’s grace and love flows.

I hate that Jesus died, I find Holy Week terrible. Every year. But I don’t regret that Jesus died, for in doing so Jesus blessed the world with God’s immense love and grace through flawed people, even people like me.