Support following a Bereavement
The death of a loved one can occur at any time and is probably the most painful parting that humans experience - it may be something for which people are prepared or it may be very sudden. Bereavement when at University can create acute short-term pressures and the need for support over a longer term. If you, or someone you know, has recently lost a friend or relative then this document may be of use to you. The loss of a loved one is one of the most stressful and traumatic experiences we can have as human beings. Some find their grief is so raw it feels as though they have lost part of themselves. Others can feel anger, resentment, fear, and lack of confidence, whilst others find a quiet peace. Each person’s experience is unique although we can have common strands, which we call the stages of grief.
As Chaplains to the University, we are aware that many will want to seek outside support. The University has a range of services which may help in a bereavement, among these members of the Chaplaincy Team. If you feel you need us, we are here to help. The Team made up of Chaplains from a variety of faith backgrounds and the content of these webpages is reflective of our experience and traditions. Chaplaincy Team members come from a variety of Christian denominations, and from Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist backgrounds. We can, however, put you in touch with a local leader from another faith community should you wish it. If you need a listening ear, advice on practical issues, someone to pray for you or with you, or anything with which you think we might be able to help then please get in contact.
If you wish to contact a member of the University Chaplaincy Team please email firstname.lastname@example.org or see the ‘Meet the Chaplaincy Team’ page on this website for our individual contact details.
If you wish to contact a member of the University Counselling Service please email email@example.com
If you wish to speak with someone beyond the University, there is help available from –
- Cruse Bereavement Support who provide a local service to this area: https://www.cruse.org.uk/get-help/local-services/wales/north-wales
- Ataloss: www.ataloss.org who organise special activities for 18 – 30 year olds who have lost someone special.
Further information concerning bereavement from the Chaplaincy Team’s individual faith traditions can be found on the following page
Assemblies of God
The Assemblies of God Ministries’ approach to grief and bereavement is supported by a host of resources captured in this document. Pastors and pastoral counselors are often the first to be called upon by people dealing with loss and the grief that accompanies it. Counseling hurting people can be a rich opportunity for ministry and support at critical times of a persons’ life.
Fear of not knowing what to do or say among clergy, close friends, and family, puts distance between those grieving and confidants when they are most needed. Expressing compassion is helpful and should be done gently. Since hurting people often call pastors and pastoral counselors to walk down the path of grief with them, it is important to understand what grief is and how-to best minister to those who come for help.
Grief, according to Russell Friedman, who is the Executive Director of the Grief Recovery Institute, is “the conflicting feeling caused by a change or an end in a familiar pattern or behavior.” The author further suggests that, “The human condition doesn’t like change; it rejects change. It wants stasis so it can go back to what it knows.” Therefore, a common expression is the difficulty to move on without the loss of a loved one.
Comparably, J. William Worden defines grief as “the experience of one who has lost a loved one to death,” but readily notes grief can be applied to other losses. Grief has also been defined as “the feelings of sorrow, anger, guilt, and confusion that arise when one experiences a loss. It is the affect that accompanies bereavement.”
In essence, there is no one approach or definition of grief. Every person expresses and experiences grief in their own individual way, and over a specified time that is appropriate to their respective situations. Please review these resources and may I always leave by expressing God’s love for you and the gift of life.
GRIEF AND BEREAVEMENT RESOURCES
Care Notes. Order from: One Caring Place: www.onecaringplace.com
Grief Support Guide, a handbook for pastors and churches by Lou-Ann Redmon. Order from: www.thegriefcareplace.org
Willowgreen is a multifaceted provider of information, inspiration, and support for life transition and aging, loss and grief, illness and caregiving, hope and spirituality, and healing presence. For more information, visit: www.willowgreen.com
New Leaf Resources promotes healthy relationships and personal growth through counseling, education, and consultation from a Christian perspective. Contact: www.newleafresources.org
Various resources including a DVD video series. Order from: www.griefshare.org
PROFESSIONAL TRAINING AND INFORMATION
American Academy of Bereavement
CMI Education Institute, Inc. is a nonprofit organization committed to providing high-quality education and training for health-care professionals, counseling professionals, and the general public on topics related to palliative care, mental health, grief and bereavement, serious illness, loss and/or other subjects of interest to health-care and mental health professionals, and all persons working with those who are grieving and/or suffering from physical or mental illness. For more information, visit: www.cmieducation.org
Center for Loss and Life Transition
The Center for Loss is dedicated to “companioning” grieving people as they mourn transitions and losses that transform their lives. We help both mourners, by walking with them in their unique life journeys, and both professional caregivers and laypeople, by serving as an educational resource and professional forum. For more information, visit: www.centerforloss.com .
Grief Recovery Institute
Provides resources and training for those recovering from grief or want to learn how to minister to those experiencing grief. For more information, visit: www.grief-recovery.com .
Support groups designed to help those who are grieving.
Google Searches: Christian Grief Resources; Grief Support Training for Clergy and Congregations
The 'Death and Dying' site run by the Awakened Heart Sangha based in North Wales presents Buddhist perspective on the meaning of death and explains:
How meditation helps us understand death and bereavement
How the living can help the dead or dying
How can we prepare ourselves for loss and cope afterwards
Bereavement: A Baptist Perspective
This is the shortest verse in the Bible (John 11v35). It is also one of the most significant verses in the Bible. Jesus is at the funeral of his friend Lazarus. He weeps, even though, only 8 verses later, he will raise Lazarus from the grave and bring him back to life. Jesus also comforts others. In this same chapter, Jesus has already made a bold statement to the family of Lazarus. In John 11v25: Jesus says,
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever believes in me will never die.” (John 11v25)
From this chapter, we understand that (i) it is expected that we would grieve the loss of a Christian brother or sister. (ii) Through Jesus we can find consolation for our grief as we mourn for others. (iii) We also find certain hope in our faith and belief in Jesus, that there is the guarantee of eternal life beyond the grave for anyone who believes in Him. Including a thief who dies on a cross at the same time as Jesus and who, in the very last moments of his life, speaks to Jesus putting his faith in him (Luke 23v32-43).
Isaiah 66v13: “As a mother comforts her child so I will comfort you,’ says the Lord.”
Lamentations 3v22: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
As we mourn, we have both painful grief and certain hope in immortality. We may try to develop thanksgiving through our sadness, but it is quite natural to wrestle with God during these periods of anguish too. Many feel numb in these times and some struggle to believe that God is listening. C.S. Lewis, one of the greatest Christian writers of the modern period wrote ‘A grief observed’. He describes a time when he felt like God had closed the door at his time of greatest need of comfort, but then later goes on to ask whether his floundering screams of raw feelings would have made it possible for him to hear anyway. God was there for Lewis, but he was unable to connect with him. Whilst Christian faith does not provide instant answers or remedies for all the feelings of each individual, we journey with the God who lost his own Son whom He dearly loved, and in the person of his Son, Jesus, God weeps for his friend, Lazarus. God remains with us in our bereavement. Jesus also pours out the Holy Spirit on us. The Holy Spirit is described in many ways including ‘the comforter’, and ‘the counsellor’.
Matthew 5v4: Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted”.
However, God offers us a certain hope of eternal life. God is not impotent in the face of death, but conquers death on the cross and in the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus promises that whoever believes in Him shall never die, but will have eternal life in Him, and with him in heaven. The strength of the Christian message is that because Jesus rose from the dead, we also have assurance that he will raise us from death too – along with all who believe in him. This gives us certain hope in life beyond death.
1 Thessalonians 4v14: “we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”
We believe that as we trust in Jesus, he is with us through life, death, rest in heaven and in rising to new life in him. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. We take comfort in this both for ourselves and for when we mourn for others.
Romans 8v38: Paul writes, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It is also very helpful to learn from the bereavement journeys of others. Many models have been suggested for bereavement from cycles to whirlpools. You may find it helpful to see how others have felt and have coped and you may be able to recognise elements of these things in your own journey through bereavement. Give yourself permission to grieve. It’s ok to grieve. Jesus did. Give yourself time to grieve. Different people grieve for different amounts of time. It’s ok. Give yourself space to grieve. Recognise that certain dates will carry significance for you and schedule your activities accordingly to help yourself and to be able to function well.
If you’d like to speak to me about bereavement or any other matter please don’t hesitate to get in touch. This may be your own bereavement or it may be that you are concerned for someone else. I’d love to speak with you – and I’m happy to pray with you if you would like me to do that too.
Rev John Thompson
Chaplain for Baptist Students
Minister, Penrallt Baptist Church, Bangor
A Catholic perspective on Death
Among the uncertainties which confront us in the death of a loved one are questions of whether there is any existence beyond death and, if so, where our loved ones might be now. ‘Passing through a veil’ is an image that has been used as a euphemism for death. We have hope that we will, on passing through this veil see God and once again see our loved ones. As St Paul puts it ‘for now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Cor 13:12). Death by its very nature is a step into the unknown, such that several different Christian views of death have emerged.
As Catholic Christians we believe that the whole of our lives falls within the plan which God has for the world. We sometimes do not understand why things happen the way that they do, and it is natural to struggle with God when we are hurting. It’s natural to ask why? How can a loving God let this happen? It’s a normal reaction in grief to be angry with God when someone we love is taken away. There are no easy answers, but we believe that God is the source of Love and that all love rests in him. Indeed, we believe that it is God’s love that is at the heart of why we are here in the first place. God gifts us life out of love, he loves us unconditionally and the true purpose of life is that we might grow in returning and sharing his love. God’s loving purposes extend past death and into eternity, we are ultimately called to share in his own divine life of love through Christ.
All Christians hold that people are held in God’s love beyond death and that our life continues in union with him. Ultimately, the Christian hope is that at the end of time as we know it, at the second coming of Christ, bodies and souls will be renewed in perfection and forever. Just as God raised Jesus from the dead, so we believe he will raise all the saints on the last day.
As Catholics we believe that before that, however, there is a spiritual sharing in heaven of his love. That those who through grace have followed Christ’s new law of Love, ‘of loving the Lord our God…and loving our neighbour as ourselves’, even if imperfectly, are ultimately able to enter his divine presence in heaven. We believe that the imperfections are removed through a process of purification that we call purgatory. Which is why we believe strongly in praying for those who have died. We are connected even though they are no longer here and in much the same way that we might pray for the needs of a friend, relative, or those in distress in this life, we also pray for those who have ‘passed through the veil’. We can also ask them to pray for us too – most specifically in asking for the saints to intercede for us.
We will always be connected to our departed friends and relatives: they have changed our lives and shaped who we are. It is important to find ways of honouring this and remembering them. One way in which we believe people on earth echo what we understand the dead are doing in heaven is through worship – through going to Mass. We believe that the Mass is a participation in what the saints do in heaven: praising God and praying to him through Christ’s sacrifice of love. The Church even has two feast days in it’s liturgical year commemorate those who have died, All Saints and All Souls, the first celebrating all who have entered heaven and the second praying for and remembering all who have died. As well as going to Mass, one might also arrange to have a Mass said for a loved one who has passed on - please contact a priest if you wish to do this.
A prayer from the Catholic Tradition
We seem to give them back to you, O God, who gave them to us. Yet as you do not lose them in the giving, so we do not lose them by their return. Not as the world gives, do you give, O lover of souls. What you give, you do not take away, for what is yours is ours if we are yours. And life is eternal and love is immortal, and death is only an horizon, and an horizon is nothing save the limit of our sights. Lift us up, strong Son of God, that we may see further; cleanse our eyes that we may see more clearly: draw us closer to yourself that we may know ourselves to be nearer to our loved ones who are with you. And while you do, prepare a place for us, and prepare us also for that happy place, that where you are, we may also be for evermore. Amen. (Bede Jarrett OP)
Some online links
Bereavement – Methodist Perspective
Christians believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ give them hope and cause for thanksgiving in the face of death. In this faith we entrust those who have died to the infinite mercy and love of God. A Methodist funeral service acknowledges this hope and offers bereaved people the opportunity to remember their loved one's life and offer them into God's care.
The time between a person's death and their funeral is often very busy and full of practical arrangements. Often it is only after the funeral that the full extent of loss affects the bereaved and the grieving process really begins and hurts.
Grieving is a natural and important part of coming to terms with and healing this loss and it may continue for several months. There are patterns and themes to bereavement, but each person is different and it is important for people to be supported in finding their own way through grief. Each local Church Minister and many of the members have a deep personal understanding of what this means in reality and can offer a listening ear or a referral to an appropriately trained organisation to offer practical support.
A Prayer in the Methodist Tradition
you tell us to look forward to a day when
your kingdom shall come and your will be done;
a time when there will be no more sorrow and death and
when every tear will be wiped from our eyes.
Until that time comes, help us to find comfort in your love.
I commend ….[name] to you, grant them your eternal peace.
I pray for ….[name]’s family, friends, neighbours and colleagues and for each person who is so much poorer now ….[name] is no longer with us in the same way.
[You might like to list people who you would like to pray for].
Support us all in the days ahead. Amen
Remembering your loved one at home
Here are some ideas:
- Find a time and place where you can be undisturbed for a while. Turn off the phone.
- Light a candle as a sign of God’s love and light with you.
- Be still. As you breathe, imagine God’s love filling you with every inward breath, and all your worries and fears leaving you with every outward breath.
- Remember your loved one. Maybe a photo album, or particular possessions will help you to remember.
- Offer those memories to God. Talk to God about your loved one. Tell God how much you miss them, what you appreciated most about them, the things you find hardest without them. Ask for God’s help and peace.
- Finish with a prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer, or this prayer:
thank you for all those I love, but see no longer.
Especially I remember …………………[name]
Help me to leave her/him in your care
and make me ready to share with her/him
and all your people
in the life of eternity. Amen.
Death and the Life of Heaven
Through baptism, a person is regenerated: ‘born anew’ – and becomes a member of the Body of Christ – the Christian Church.
Saint Paul speaks of baptism as death and resurrection:
‘Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life’. Romans 6:4
Entering the baptismal water as into a tomb, we ‘die’ to the old, fallen and unregenerate nature which we inherit from Adam, the first man, and are resurrected with Christ as we emerge into the new life of the Kingdom of God.
For a Christian therefore, death consists of this dying to our old nature – whereas the physical death of the body is mere sleep. That is why, during Orthodox Church services for the dead, there is the oft-repeated refrain: ‘Give rest, O lord, to the soul of Thy servant/handmaiden who has fallen asleep’.
The life of the Kingdom into which we enter through baptism begins here on earth, but is experienced in its fullness in heaven in the presence of God, the Holy Trinity. This means that for a Christian, death is not final or absolute, but rather, a transition from one life – the earthly life – to another life. It is no coincidence that in the calendars of the Christian Church, Saints are commemorated on the day of their death which is for them their ‘birthday’, so to speak, in heaven.
Death and Prayer
In the face of death, we naturally feel helpless, but we are not helpless; Christ has defeated death and ‘has become the firstborn of those who have fallen asleep’ (1 Corinthians 15:20), and at Easter throughout the world, Orthodox Christians greet each other with the Resurrection greeting- ‘Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!’
The tradition of the Church teaches us that we can help the dead by praying to God for their rest in ‘a place of light, a place of refreshment, a place of repose where there is no sickness, or sorrow, or sighing but life everlasting’. This is why we hold lighted candles throughout services for the dead.
The fact that earthly death is merely death of the body means that the communion which exists between members of the Body of Christ – the Church – is not broken when our earthly body dies. It also means that we pray for the dead just as we pray for those still on earth. Death does not destroy the communion of prayer. Orthodox Christians, therefore, consider it their sacred duty to take great care to pray regularly for the souls of the departed.
‘For this is the reason the Gospel was proclaimed even to the dead (i.e. those ‘…to whom Christ went to preach after His death on the Cross’ (an observation by the Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria – one of the most beloved and widely-read Scriptural commentators since nine hundred years), so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. 1 Peter 4:6 (New Revised Standard Version)
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and on those in the tombs bestowing life.
The Orthodox Church Funeral Service
Prayers and Biblical Texts
The main content in the Orthodox funeral service is prayer for the soul of the person who has fallen asleep in the Lord.
These prayers surround the many Biblical texts which are chanted in the service – ‘Blessed are the undefiled in the way who walk in the law of the Lord’ (Psalm 118 - enumeration according to the Septuagint, ‘The LXX’ = ‘The Translation of the Seventy’, otherwise enumerated 119) and also Psalms 90  and 50 , the Beatitudes (St. Matthew 5:3-10), a reading from the Gospel according to St. John (5:24-30), as well as a reading from one of St. Paul’s Epistles (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
It is appropriate that Christians pray that the departed will be remembered always – not only on earth, but by God Himself for eternity, and this is expressed in the words ‘Eternal memory’!
The Mortality of the Body
At times of bereavement, Christians also meditate on the mortality of the body, and accordingly, another component of the Orthodox funeral service is found in the verses that meditate on the mortality of the body.
The body of a Christian is a consecrated vessel through the sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation (confirmation) and is therefore treated with great respect during life and after death.
In Genesis (1:26) God says: ‘Let us make man in our image after our likeness’. Each person is therefore an image - an icon - of God the Holy Trinity, and the body is part of this tripartite Trinitarian image.
Through Baptism and Chrismation, the body is a location of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and so is treated with great care after death, and returned to the earth after we say ‘farewell’.
The Last ‘Farewell’ (not during the Corona Pandemic)
The body will be resurrected on the last day and - as St Paul says - in a form suitable for the life of heaven. Towards the end of the funeral service there is an opportunity for those who choose to come and say an earthly ‘farewell’ so to speak, to the person who has fallen asleep.
The last prayers of the funeral service are that the departed servant/handmaiden of God will be remembered for eternity by God Himself.
Then, after the chanting of ‘Eternal memory’, the priest recites the prayer of absolution, the text of which is then placed in the coffin with the person who has fallen asleep.
Prayer for one who has fallen asleep
O God of spirits and of all flesh, who hast trampled down death and overthrown the devil, and given life to Thy world; do Thou, O Lord, give rest to the soul of Thy servant/handmaiden (Name) who hath fallen asleep, in a place of light, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, whence pain, sorrow and sighing have fled away. Pardon, O God, as Thou art good and lovest mankind, every sin committed by him/her in word or deed or thought, because there is no one who lives and does not sin, for Thou alone art without sin; Thy righteousness is everlasting righteousness, and Thy word is truth.
For Thou art the Resurrection, and the Life, and the Repose of Thy servant/handmaiden, (Name) who hath fallen asleep, O Christ our God, and to Thee do we send up glory and to Thy Father, Who is without beginning, and to Thine All‑holy, and Good, and Life‑creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Hymns for one who has fallen asleep
With the Saints, give rest, O Christ, to the soul of your servant/handmaiden where there is no pain nor sickness nor sighing but life everlasting.
You only are immortal who created and fashioned man, for out of the earth were we mortals made; and unto the earth shall we return again as you commanded when you made me saying ‘Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return’; whither we mortals also wend our way, making our funeral dirge this song Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia
Eternal be the memory of (Name)
the departed servant / handmaiden of God.