I recently came across a podcast of a Radio Four program about bereavement. It has been very useful for ministry and really it is for everyone. It was made by the widow of Nick Clark who was a presenter on Look North, later he became more of a journalist and Radio Four News presenter. He had died eighteen months before the programme aired, with a very rare form of cancer. His wife, Barbara speaking on Radio Four described her experiences of bereavement for her and her family. It was a deafening silence because people did not know what to say.

We have all tossed that mental coin when someone comes into view that has recently lost someone. ‘Do I say anything or should I just keep quiet’ we wonder. It seems most of us choose the latter course of action. Barbara found two mothers from her children’s school for the programme, who were willing to speak on the matter. They revealed they had wanted to talk to Barbara but had been scared of saying the wrong thing and thus breaking her composure. As a result Barbara had marched her young twin boys in and out of the school for months in virtual silence. The programme dealt with many problems that touch those who are vulnerable and in pain yet it managed to be warm and thought provoking.

All of us will face or have faced the grieving process at some point in our life; it’s a defining moment for many people. Indeed, the response of those around us may prove the strength of friendships or cause such hurt that we are hardened forever by what takes place. Dealing with the loss of a loved one does not follow the ‘flat pack’ instruction sheet for a piece of furniture – do this; this; and this to make everything fine. If only it were that simple.

Today, the rituals of death have faded, people do not lay out the body; they do not stop even for a moment if a funeral is taking place; they even push by while a coffin is being taken from the Hearse to the Church door on occasions. So it’s hardly surprising they find it hard or impossible to speak to the bereaved. Now, that is my sweeping statement for the month and I know it’s a more complex matter than mere etiquette. Death is one of the abiding mysteries; most people try not to think about it too much.
And yet one out of one people die, it’s the perfect statistic.

Christianity offers answers and hope to anyone who can bring themselves to think about their own future. Jesus spoke of the choices we are called to make, choices that will lead us into dialogue with our Creator. The Son spoke about his Father’s house having many rooms and there is a place there for any who follow after Jesus in their lives (terms and conditions apply, check with Christian Faith Providers for details). He also said “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted”.

Bereavement is a testing time for anyone who goes through it, it is a test often failed by the supporting cast. Barbara used her moment well to raise a vital matter; will we respond by acknowledging those who mourn. We may even consider how Christ planned for their rough days. Matthew 5.4 “blessed are those who mourn for they
shall be comforted” Isn’t that wonderful. You are in the right place at the right time to comfort someone.

You don’t have to say much, ‘how are you doing’ may be all that is needed. It conveys you will listen if they want to talk’. Reminding them of a flaw or a joke concerning their loved one will often make the day. Yes there may be tears but better that than being frozen out in public. We don’t need to over think it, just have a welcome for them

Best wishes
Brian Hadfield