The Cost of Living & Loving
Grief and loss is a part of the cost of living and loving, indeed of simply being alive and giving of ourselves to others. It has been said that only the unloving and the unloved escape from the pain of grief. The opposite side of this is that the more deeply we love the more severe also can be the pain of loss. It is helpful to know a little of the process of healing which we go through. This will reassure us that the intense grief which we feel is natural and not a sign that we are falling apart or going mad. Of course much of what is said is helpful not only for those suffering bereavement but any kind of loss. This may include divorce or estrangement from those we love.
What is Grief?
Some aspects of life which are affected by grief
1. Our relationships with other people
We are all affected when somebody else suffers, a grieving person affects those around and some people feel embarrassed. To reduce the discomfort other people may avoid us or try to reduce contact as much as possible. This is sometimes done for sincere and kind motives even if it is very unhelpful. Folk may cross the road when they see somebody coming who has been through bereavement so that they do not have to talk about it. When they do meet, the subjects spoken of may include anything but the bereavement, because they think that you would not want to mention it and it would cause upset! Some people speak of feeling a sense of isolation and loneliness. Grief overshadows all normal relationships as we adjust to the change in condition, being a single parent, widow(er), (divorced). To a certain extent we become different people.
2. Our bodies
Our bodies react to bereavement in many ways. Headaches, stomach pains, arthritis, or many other complaints can suddenly become apparent and make us feel as though we are falling apart. Some people speak of intense tiredness and exhaustion. All of our reserves of energy can be used up simply in order to cope. This is a natural reaction to loss. The body passes through a crucial stage in the first 6-9 months and some folk can die of a broken heart if they 'bottle up' their feelings and are unable to express and come to terms with their grief openly. It is important to look after ourselves, to eat and sleep properly. There is nothing wrong with spoiling ourselves a little either.
3. Our feelings and state of mind
There are emotional stages through which most people pass. These stages
are not neat and tidy and one may feel several of them going on at once. We
are all different people and so we all have unique feelings. It is possible
to swing from one stage to another, or indeed hardly experience one stage at
all. This does not mean that the grief of one person is deeper than another,
simply that we have different ways of experiencing and coping with loss. We
will now look at what these stages are.
Stages of Grief
It is worth understanding the stages of grief. This should not mean that we treat grief lightly as if it were just a phase that somebody was going through. Progress is not automatic and somebody may still be grieving deeply after 20 years if they have not been helped through the process of bereavement. One never 'recovers' from bereavement, and yet there should come a time when we able to live with our loss.
Stage 1 Denial and shock
The bereaved person is in a state of shock and unable to accept what has happened, everything seems so unreal. This is a necessary defence mechanism. Bereaved people often refer to somebody who has died in the present tense as though they are still alive. A common remark may be; 'It's not really sunk in. I can't believe it. I keep thinking that he is going to walk in the door as usual. Maybe after the funeral it will seem as though it has really happened'. We may feel tightness in the throat or emptiness in the stomach. There may be tiredness or inability to breathe. When we are with people in this stage of grief there is no need to say something clever, it is enough simply to be there. The bereaved person may simply want to talk about the one who has died, to reminisce. They need to know that it is alright to be upset and express their grief. Some other faiths and culture are much better at this than 'Christian England'. One day reality hits home and, despite the pain which it brings, this is progress.
Stage 2 Anger
The question which may overshadow everything is 'Why me'? Many expressions come out such as, "It makes you wonder sometimes, she was so young and never did anybody any harm. Then you see all those rapists and murderers and nothing happens to them. I can never believe in God when he lets that sort of thing happen.". There may be anger at God for having allowed this to happen. There may be anger at the doctors or the hospital, indeed anybody who can act as a scapegoat. This is natural outrage, there is no need for anybody to try to make excuses or give rational explanations or theological argument. Neither is there any reason for those who are upset to feel guilty about their anger! This is a natural part of the grief process. All that is required is assurance and the understanding that grief brings a genuine burden which can be very painful. It may be that the person we are most angry with is ourselves as we think of things in the past, missed opportunities or things we wished had never happened.
Stage 3 Bargaining
- Sometimes people will try to look for a way out of the situation. 'I cried all last night and prayed that God would take me too' There can be a movement between fantasy and guilt, 'I think that he may come back'. Some people are sure that they have seen their loved one on a bus or in a crowd, even that they have seen a ghost. Others never touch a room or refuse to throw anything out, in the hope that somehow they may be able to preserve things the way that they once were.
Stage 4 Depression
There can be a deep sense of regret over lost opportunities in life, or there could also be a sense of guilt, 'perhaps if we had tried a different doctor' Guilt in its many different varieties is a normal part of grief and it can cause depression. It may be that it makes us feel that we do not want to go on. It is important to realize that this is something we all feel and sometimes for a considerable length of time. It is important to find people to talk to, grief needs an outlet and we must be able to cry and express our emotion. Of course we also need to be reminded that we can talk to God.
Stage 5 Acceptance / learning to live again
The time comes when we are able to 'let go' of our loved one, leave them
in peace and to experience new life again. It is the time when memories can
be treasured without a terrible sense of pain. Of course this may be a long
time away. Learning to live again means adjusting to being a different
person in one sense. Losing somebody is like having a part of oneself cut
off. It takes time to reaffirm life and invest in new relationships and
responsibilities. It is like learning to live all over again. We are all
different and can experience different things at different times.
Nevertheless one thing that the bereaved nearly always have in common is
that it takes time to recover. We need to be able to give time to express
ourselves and understand a little of how we feel as this will help us not to
get stuck in the bereavement journey. If you have felt the pain of
bereavement then eventually you may be able to help somebody who is going
through the same pain. Often what we need most is simply somebody to listen
- Don't - be rushed into decisions like moving house while you are still grieving
- Don't - listen to people who expect you to bounce back only months after the funeral, it takes years to go through bereavement. Take your time
- Don't - hide your feelings and feel afraid to talk about your grief
- Don't - neglect yourself in any way. Visit the doctor if you feel unwell
- Don't - take drugs, alcohol or smoke to excess
- Do - take care of yourself - eat properly and rest, arrange a holiday
- Do - see friends and get out and begin to enjoy things perhaps come to church!
- Do - talk about the person who has died
- Do - call the minister who conducted the funeral if you would like to talk
- Do - make a will - 7 out of 10 people don't, and the possessions of these people who die intestate may not be distributed as their owner wished
- National Association of Widows, 54-57 Alison Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B5 5TH Tel: 0121 643 8348
- Age Concern, Bernard Sunley House 60 Pitcairn Road Mitcham Surrey CR4 3LL Tel: 0232 245729
- Compassionate Friends - For bereaved parents 6 Denmark Street, Bristol BS1 5DQ Tel: 0272 292778
- Cot Death Helpline Tel: 0171 235 1721 (24hrs)
- Cruse Bereavement Care (N. Beds) For bereaved people Tel: 01234 340321
- SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) 28 Portland Place, London W1N 4DE Tel: 0171 4365881
For those affected by the death of a pet, the following information might be helpful
- Pet Bereavement Support Service: 0800 096 6606 - Open every day 8.30am-8.30pm. Will put you in touch with your nearest telephone befriender. www.bluecross.org.uk
- Ease Pet Bereavement Service: Call Angela on 07870 740 605 and she will call you back, www.ease-animals.org.uk
- Animal Samaritans Pet Bereavement Service: 020 8303 1859
- The Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria: 01252 844478, www.appcc.org.uk
- Support Line Telephone Helpline: 020 8554 9004, email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Emotional support to children, young adults and adults on any issue.
Also keep details of counsellors and support groups throughout the UK.
Some prayers and readings which you may find helpful
You will be welcome to visit the Chapel at St. Mark's which is open every day and a copy of our book of prayers is available in the chapel for your use. However if you are a distant friend these prayers may be helpful. Alternatively visit our prayer page where there are more prayers. You may also leave a prayer there on our prayer board and we will pray for you.
Lord Jesus Christ, I come to you at the beginning of this day, in all my loneliness and uncertainty I come. I thank you for all those who will be sharing the day with me, for the minister, relatives and friends, and all those who have been so helpful. Help me not to worry about the arrangements which have been made, about the visitors who will be coming, about my fear of emotion, about the service, about the weather. I bring this day to you, help me in my weakness to prove your strength.
I lift my heart and mind to you. The living God of never failing love. Give me strength for this day, to weep when I should weep, to accept the comfort that memories bring, to face decisions with courage, to meet people - those love me, those who want to help me, those who want to comfort me but I don't know what to say. Thank you for them all. O God, help me so that having your peace, I may be able to comfort others.
For a loved one
O Lord the giver of all life, I thank you for the love I have known and the joys and sorrows shared. I accept, Lord, that you have taken the life that you once gave. Please bring gentle healing to the hurt that comes with parting. Thank you Lord Jesus, that you care about me.
They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I, and
you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we still are. Call me by
my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put
no difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh
as we always laughed, at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Pray, smile,
think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word it always
was, let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was; there is
unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the
corner. All is well.
Henry Scott Holland 1847-1918 Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
What is dying? I am standing on the sea shore. A ship sails
to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean. She is an object of beauty
and I stand watching her until at last she fades on the horizon, and someone
at my side says, 'She is gone' Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all.
She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her,
and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination. The
diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her. And just at
the moment when someone at my side says, 'she is gone' there are others who
are watching her coming, and other voices take up the glad shout, 'there she
comes' - that is dying. Bishop Brent
The Rt Revd John Richardson, Bishop of Bedford, gave a moving and personal sermon at a service of bereavement, in November 2001. It may help you to cope with your own loss.
The Garden of Remembrance at St Mark's Church is open at all times.
It's Your Funeral. This booklet helps us to think about and prepare for our own death. It is helpful to us and especially helpful to our loved ones who may be asked about our wishes after our death.
Funeral Resources You may find these resources helpful if you are planning a funeral