Does your church offer effective support to bereaved people? And do you know where to access bereavement support if needed?
Through my work with Loss and HOPE for the Christian bereavement charity AtaLoss, I have been contacting churches to find out how they are supporting bereaved people, and how we can offer help through providing training and resources. We would love to hear from those churches in the British Asian Christian Association’s network around the UK about how you have been supporting bereaved people. We have much to learn, but we also have much to share. See more here
The UK’s Bereavement Commission reports that ‘Millions of people across the UK faced bereavement in 2020, with hundreds of thousands more bereaved than in previous years as a result of Covid-19. Across England and Wales, 614,000 people died during 2020 and 2021, leaving an estimated three million people facing bereavement. This is 75,000 more deaths than the average across the previous five years – with an estimated additional 375,000 left bereaved.’ The Commission has been established to explore these issues and make recommendations to better support bereaved people. One of its priority areas is to understand how different social groups – including BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities, and those living in poverty – can be affected differently when bereaved. See more here
We know that there are many in our communities who will be experiencing ‘complicated grief’ as a result of bereavement during the pandemic. And we also know that the pandemic is not over for many, and so here are some things that we have learned.
What Churches can do to support the bereaved
Bereavement at any time is hard. Bereavement during a period of isolation with restricted movement and limited contact with family and friends is the hardest thing possible. Whether the death has been from Covid-19 or another cause it is likely to have been traumatic during the pandemic. Family and friends were unlikely to have been with loved ones when they died and they may have been cut off from their usual support networks. Physical comfort in bereavement will have been limited and funerals may not have been attended. There may also be increased trauma and anxiety over not knowing whether loved ones received the best care or over not having been able to have the funeral of choice. There may also be the complication of a loved one dying abroad or in circumstances where the family were not able to travel, adding the trauma.
Bereavement support is important under normal circumstances, but now it is crucial for future well-being and mental health. If you know of someone who has been bereaved please reach out to them to help. Local information about bereavement support can be found here and there are over 100 translatable languages available on the website including Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu. There are over 1400 services to explore and space for you to let us know about others here. Send anyone struggling with their grief to AtaLoss.org whatever their language. See introductory video here
Churches can support bereaved people in their community by:
- Making contact (whether or not they attend the church), acknowledging the loss and offering practical support. See a short film on how to help someone who is bereaved here
- Inform the pastoral team so that support is shared and individuals are prayed for.
- Give them a signposting card for the AtaLoss.org website where they can find suitable bereavement support and resources to help with their grief journey.
- As a church, mark times of the year that can help those bereaved remember lost loved ones with special services, such as All Souls, Remembrance Sunday and Christmas.
Importantly, we encourage churches to consider joining one of our Bereavement Friendly Church training sessions. Bereavement Friendly Church training is recommended for all churches seeking to support bereaved people to enable those they are in contact with to feel at home within the life of the church. This webinar is to help main church leaders/decision makers to consider their church’s accessibility to bereaved people. See more here
Reverend Cassius Francis is the Church Trainer & Resourcer with Loss and HOPE, a coalition project of AtaLoss, equipping churches in bereavement support, and a minister with the Wesleyan Holiness Church.
To find out more about the bereavement support available see www.ataloss.org
Article adapted from ‘Coronavirus Pandemic Bereavement & Churches’ here