Category Archives: Loss

When Christmas hurts

Christmas is not always a time of joy and peace. There are years when you cannot celebrate, when grief, exhaustion, depression, anxiety, illness, or other life events mean that the season seems dark or empty. Sometimes it may simply be that the commercialism and busyness of Christmas is too much.

Join us then for The Longest Night – a service for when Christmas hurts, at St John’s Church, Hale Road, GU9 9AB, on Wednesday, December 18, at 7.30pm.

This simple service gives time for peace and reflection and offers words of comfort and support for those dealing with grief and hardship.

Everyone is welcome, whatever their beliefs.

Picture by Anne Nygard on Unsplash


In memory of lost babies

The loss of a baby, either in the womb or at or soon after birth, is a tragedy which affects thousands of families every year, and each person’s grief will be personal and unique. This year, during Baby Loss Awareness Week (October 9-15), St George’s Church will be holding a drop-in session on Friday, October 11, from 3-4pm, for people to come and reflect and light candles in memory of lost babies. There will be a memory tree in the church and there will be the opportunity for anyone who wishes to talk over a cup of tea.

Rev’d Hannah Moore said: “We hope that anyone who is grieving the loss of a baby – however long ago this happened – will be able to draw comfort from coming to the church on Friday afternoon. They will have the opportunity to light a candle for their children and write their names on paper ribbons to hang on the memory tree, and will also be able to talk about their lost little ones if they wish. Acknowledging that grief – whether it stems from a recent tragedy or one that occurred months, even many years, ago – can help enormously in the healing process. There will be the opportunity to pray if anyone wishes – we believe in a God who is alongside us in the tragedies of life as well as on the good days.”

The annual awareness week, now in its 17th year, is an opportunity for bereaved parents, families and friends, to commemorate babies’ lives and break the silence around pregnancy and baby loss in the UK. The week is led by Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, in collaboration with 70 charities in the UK.

Clea Harmer, chief executive of Sands, said: “Baby Loss Awareness Week is a unique opportunity for parents to commemorate their babies who died, and I hope the afternoon at St George’s will help bereaved families in the local area feel less isolated and alone in their grief.

“Pregnancy loss or the death of a baby is a tragedy that affects thousands of people every year. It is devastating for parents and families and it’s vital they get the bereavement support and care they need, for as long as they need it.”

Anyone who needs pastoral care is urged to contact Hannah Moore on 01252 659267 or Wendy Edwards on 0​1252 406772.

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 or 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

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.