When the funeral finishes, the toughest part of the bereavement journey is often only just starting. Here’s how churches can support those struggling with grief
During the funeral sermon for Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Most Rev Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury said: “‘The grief of this day – felt not only by the late Queen’s family but all round the nation, Commonwealth and the world – arises from her abundant life and loving service, now gone from us… We pray especially for all her family, grieving as every family at a funeral - including so many families around the world who have themselves lost someone recently - but in this family’s case doing so in the brightest spotlight.”
His words were a reminder that the royal family - just like any other - would now need their own private space to grieve. And that, around the world, there were families who would also be grieving.
The silence that settles
For many, the lead up to a funeral can be busy. But afterwards, people often talk about the silence that can come. This is when the reality of loss begins to sink in and the pain begins to be felt. People often describe feeling disorientated and confused. They wonder if they are experiencing mental ill health but, often, these feelings are simply part of the natural grief process. For those who are supporting someone who is bereaved, this is an important time to stay in touch, particularly if they are living on their own.
I pray the royal family would know God’s presence more deeply
During this time, churches may organise practical help - with hot meals, administrative tasks or childcare. But it is important to provide support over the long-term too, until a healthy, new normal is reached.
Space to grieve
None of us can know what it is like to be a part of the royal family, but we do know what is needed, more generally, to grieve healthily.
As Christians, we can pray the royal family is given space to grieve the loss of their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. As a nation, we will also now begin to navigate the void that Her Majesty has left; the royal family - or any other family who has lost a matriarch or patriarch - will need to do the same. Family dynamics will shift. Relationships will be reconfigured. Tensions can rise. I pray the royal family would know God’s presence more deeply. I pray that they would be surrounded by wise friends who can offer counsel without prejudice or agenda; when emotions are raw, this is always much needed. I pray that, after Prince Harry’s well-documented mental health challenges following the death of his mother, important lessons will have been learnt in supporting each other well. And finally, as death so often gives rise to questions about faith, I pray that they will each discover a deeper experience of the personal relationship that Her Majesty had with her Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ.
Support for all
At some point in our lives, all of us will experience the pain of bereavement. As we recover from the impact of Covid-19, as a nation, we have faced wide scale, unprocessed loss. Unsupported grief can lead to depression, especially when there are other pressures, such as the cost of living crisis and the economic uncertainty the country is currently facing. However, properly supported, it can lead to renewed hope.
After the funeral, the reality of loss begins to sink in
The Queen’s death provides a unique opportunity for the Church to help our nation process loss, and find the meaning she herself knew so well.
Here are some suggestions for supporting those in our churches and communities who are going through a bereavement, or struggling now that the Queen’s mourning is officially over:
- Visit the Ataloss.org website for tailored information and support services for bereaved individuals
- Visit the lossandhope.org website for information and resources about how churches can support bereaved people, in particular how to learn to become bereavement friendly’
- Consider running The Bereavement Journey to help bereaved people process their grief in a group setting
- Consider ‘contacting, listening and blessing’ someone who you know is bereaved. There is a helpful 4-minute video here
- If you are concerned about an individual (e.g. you notice that they have talked about not eating or sleeping for an extended period of time) you could suggest that they speak to their GP