Sometimes in life we can come across a situation that affects us so deeply that we feel challenged to do something about it. This has happened to me several times, but none have been so compelling as when I became aware of the need there is today for bereavement care. I had seen my parents struggle over the deaths of family members and, as an Anglican minister, I had spent many hours on numerous occasions sitting with bereaved people and planning and taking funerals, but it wasn’t until I personally experienced the loss of a loved one that the depth of need fully hit me.
My husband Simon and I had been married for 25 years, had three children and were wonderfully happy, but in May 2008 he died while on business in Spain. That moment was the beginning of challenges I had never imagined having to face. As well as breaking the news to the family, bringing Simon’s body back from Barcelona, and organising the burial and a big memorial service, there were mountains of paperwork to deal with, different situations to unravel and sort out, and months spent in assessing finances and obtaining probate. This was all in addition to supporting my stunned and grieving children and trying to get back to work. I went from being in a state of shock to feeling physically ill. Emotionally I went from numb to crumbling, and spiritually I became increasingly confused.
Like many other bereaved people, at first I was surrounded by lots of family and friends and I coped well, but as the months went by and the reality set in, I sank further and further into despair, just as the support was dwindling. Generally speaking, most people simply didn’t know what to do to help me and, through lack of understanding (just as I’d had myself), many well-meaning people often said and did things which were actually unhelpful. Some people who I’d thought were friends backed away. Thankfully others – especially those who had themselves experienced a significant bereavement and particularly Care for the Family’s Widowed Young Support – stepped in and stayed with me for the long haul. Bit by bit I picked up the pieces, and my life is now completely different in a new but good way.
I’ve realised our society has little understanding these days of grief and the issues of bereavement. Often, rather than receiving the support they need to rebuild their lives, bereaved people can be met with obstacles and difficulties which only increase their problems further.
I am delighted therefore, that Care for the Family has developed a course to equip churches to provide bereavement support because it is such a key role for the church, and I’m pleased to have become a facilitator.