I expect some of you might have read an article in last Sunday’s Sunday Times with the headline ‘The grief was hard to bear – and then came the paperwork’. It was written by Rev’d Richard Coles about the recent death of his partner Rev’d David Coles. As a priest Richard is well used to officiating at funerals and offering appropriate pastoral care, but he has found experiencing the death of a loved one himself extremely difficult. In his article he describes trying to cope with the paperwork and decisions associated with a death whilst being traumatised by his loss. This is not an uncommon situation.
As it happens, in the past couple of weeks I have been consulted by a number of people regarding various aspects of death. Questions have concerned how to make a will and include specific funeral requests, how to care for a loved one who is dying, how to find a funeral director, discussion of the logistics of a funeral and/or memorial service and planning an order of service. These are all questions that clergy are very willing to discuss and assist with as far as possible. Some members of our congregation have in fact already chosen to give us a copy of their funeral wishes in advance, which we can store securely until after their death. Early in my ministry I learned that it is not uncommon for people, on the death of – say – a parent, to have no idea of what the deceased liked in terms of hymns, Bible readings or poetry. It can also be an occasion for old sibling rivalries to emerge and arguments around ‘what Mum would have liked’ to become quite heated.
Experience of bereavement can take so many different forms and, whilst most clergy are not trained counsellors, we are available to offer support and can direct people to more specific assistance if required. In particular, when I worked as a hospital chaplain at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital I had the specific role of supporting parents who had suffered miscarriage or stillbirth. This can be a devastating experience and the effects not fully appreciated by others. Do feel free to come and ask questions or discuss specific issues if you would find this helpful.
With every blessing