Reverend Cassius Francis is the Church Trainer & Resourcer with Loss and HOPE, explores how churches can support those who are grieving.
On Saturday 8 January 2022, BBC News reported more than 150,000 people in the UK had died within 28 days of a positive Covid test since the pandemic began.
Under normal circumstances there are around 600,000 deaths every year in the UK, leaving some 6 million people of all ages significantly bereaved.
Bereavement is known to be one of the hardest times in life. Unsupported, it can lead to mental ill-health, relationship breakdown, job loss, debt, addiction, etc.
COVID has exacerbated the problem
Worryingly, the pandemic has exacerbated bereavement problems and complicated the grief journey for almost everyone bereaved in the period.
Families of over a million people who have died have not been able to say goodbye to their loved ones or process grief in their usual ways.
There have been restrictions on numbers attending funerals, hugs, and close physical contact to provide support has been discouraged, and there have been heart-breaking stories about family members unable to see relatives who have died in hospitals around the country.
People are searching for help
Add this to decades of death being taboo, there has never been a more important time to get alongside those in our communities who have been bereaved.
- Death naturally leads to questions about God, the afterlife, and purpose.
- Church of England research last year showed that the vast majority of the bereaved public want the Church to help.
- 60% of UK adults were bereaved during the pandemic. Of those 80% say there is a need for more support. 25% have thought about life after death, and over 90% are open to churches offering help and a place to talk.
Putting churches in the centre
In 2020, we established Loss and HOPE to equip churches to provide bereavement support. We’ve had such a great response.
Judith Brashaw, a Bereavement Team Co-ordinator for Oundle Baptist Church, believes that churches can’t ignore bereavement for a number of reasons.
“Once a funeral is over life does not return to normal for those who are grieving, and we wanted to equip ourselves to be better able to walk alongside people as they navigate their loss.
“Together we are also learning how to be better prepared as we face the end of life for those we love and even for ourselves,” she says.
One of the resources Loss and HOPE promotes is The Bereavement Journey. This is a six-session programme of films and discussion; a place where people can process their loss in groups with others who have experienced bereavement.
It helps people of any faith who have been bereaved in any way and at any time. The first five sessions cover general bereavement implications and the sixth session is optional, offering a Christian perspective to the faith questions often asked in loss.