Death has a strange impact
You cannot quite conceive of a future without your beloved.
You struggle to think.
Feelings overwhelm you
You slip in and out of past memories,
Trying to process that final moment
Which will not leave your mind
Yet keeps you caught in the greatest grief.
Nothing has changed,
Except for the loss,
Yet everything is different.
The energy has an odd feel.
Time seems to slow.
And all you can see is your love,
Everywhere, yet nowhere,
Trying to cling on to them
Yet needing to move on,
For you are still alive
And they have gone to a lighter place
Yet lost from view.
Having lived in a state of severe intractable illness for decades, often feeling like death was near, having known too many friends and family members taken from the world and having suffered grievously, we have always sought solace and strength in prayer.
We have never found anything, though, that had the right words for the situations that we found ourselves in, for death is a very difficult and sometimes too painful topic for many to deal with and each person’s experience and context is different and unique to them.
Finding words that might help people face death, whether it is our own or someone else’s death, can mean so much.
When death comes to the ones we love
Lord comfort us in our loss,
Console us in our grief
Give us the strength to carry on.
We ask in faith.
As each person, who we have known has died Linda has written a prayer or a poem either to help support them on this last journey or to honour their precious life.
This is a time where the right words, tenderly offered, can give much needed love and support to someone dying or to family and friends left behind.
Out of our love for others and our commitment to prayer we have developed the Holy Way website and more recently have shared our knowledge and learning of the grief process, wrapped in God’s love, in three free to read booklets.
Comfort us in our grief
Console us in our loss
Help us to hold on to our memories.
Remain close in our suffering.
Remind us of Your loving presence with us,
Especially when we are overwhelmed with sadness.
Strengthen our knowledge
That You are holding the one we love,
close to You
Unite us in a new way
Connected always by love
For ever after.
In this way,
May we always feel them near
And give thanks for their life.
We have had to work through our own issues as carer and sufferer and the different stages of bereavement many times.
It is a great sadness to us how the hidden, secret suffering and learning of people is not adequately revealed or recognised, even on their death, particularly those with long term severe chronic illness.
The funeral service is a particularly important event to get right. We would like to share some ideas on how to be more inclusive of the person’s experience, especially when they could not live an ordinary life in the world, but were forced to be house or bed bound for a long time due to necessity of their illness experience.
You are gone
Yet not gone
I do not feel you as gone
I feel your strength
I see your light
I am comforted
By your love
Therefore to me
Than not here.
It is so important, we feel, that a funeral fully honour the whole of the person’s experience and who they became. It might feel much easier, however, to focus on the person’s activities and engagements before illness struck and their achievements from a worldly point of view before they became ill or disabled, rather than include how they coped, dealt and lived with their suffering, pain and incapacity.
The focus of the service may be on family, rather than the wider circle of friendships and relationships the person had with others, those they had touched and those who had touched their life in a special way too. When grief is raw it may be hard to think of other’s pain and loss too, yet how wonderful is the service that represents the full person.
Family dynamics may also be quite complex, particularly around disability and long term illness and it may not always be family, sadly, who best know the inner grounding, the strength and personal courage it takes to endure illness, disability and suffering and more than this, to grow in awareness and somehow, despite the odds, to remain oneself, even if in a hidden way.
They may not understand the shared experience that illness brings to people facing the same issues, or recognise the importance that other people outside the family, to the person. This can lead to a loss of recognition of the richness of the persons life and other’s contribution to that life.
Sadly, if for any reason, people have not been able to face the person’s situation in life they are not likely to be able to do so in death. A funeral is an opportunity to celebrate the person as well as bring comfort and healing to all. There is a danger of leaving a friend feeling left out or perhaps not accurately reflecting who the person fully was.
The moment of death is perhaps the most important moment of our lives and how we proceed from that point resonates throughout the universe, where we can either bless that life as fully as possible or leave an empty echo in our hearts and minds, instead. Surely the priesthood should be focussing their hearts and souls on this moment, including everyone, if at all possible?
To us there is nothing sadder than a priest who talks in bland general terms about a precious person’s life, saying that they did not know the person personally. Why not? How has it come about that they did not know their parishioner? Could this be because of a failure on the part of the church to reach out inclusively to those most hidden and struggling in intense suffering, or could it be a lack of awareness of the need? Not every parish family is as inclusive perhaps as it thinks it is or should be.
Mentioning or including friends could make a world of difference to their grieving process. Often house and bed bound people care passionately about online friends with whom they have intimately shared their suffering and with whom they have found solace, based on a shared mutual experience.
The loss of the life of a dear friend or relative is no less for those who cannot attend a funeral in person. Their inclusion in that ceremony, we suggest, is of the greatest importance, in terms of community integration.
Although my wife, for example, leads an almost completely isolated life, unable to engage with others physically, we are still sustained by fellow sufferers, all around the world, who we have never met and probably never will, yet who have great compassion and respect for her and who know more about us, our struggles, our life, than anyone we know who lives an ordinary life in the outside world.
We bless the people we have loved
No longer in the world
We hold each treasured memory up
For grace to bless and bind with love
We remember them with heart-felt sorrow
That they are no longer here
We bless each precious moment that they lived
And rejoice for all they were
The good, the bad, the sad, the hopeful
May their song sing out a blessing here
May they find peace beyond this life
May they comfort us, ever near
In thought and word
And heart-filled treasures
Of kindnesses along the way
Or special moments of inspiration:
A blessing for that day.
Sadly it is sometimes possible to attend a funeral and not feel any sense of involvement or recognition of the person who has died. There is a fine balance to be struck between comforting the living and honouring the dead.
Having stressed the importance of honouring as fully as possible the long-term ill person, at their funeral, we have the following insights and suggestions:
Including other’s perceptions and experiences, poems, drawings even, art, can be a wonderful acknowledgement and a blessing, for it is not just the family who are hurting. Be open to include offerings from other people, prayers, anecdotes that give a fuller picture of the person, that represent other relationships in the person’s life outside of family.
Keep in mind when choosing a photograph of the person that a younger photo, however lovely and special, may not reflect the fullness of the person’s life or reflect the inner spiritual path or journey the person has undertaken or the fact they have been in bed or housebound for years. It is so important not to ignore that part of their life, as if it didn’t exist or is somehow not relevant or representative of the person. It may be an idea to consider using several pictures.
There may be unresolved issues. For the grieving person who not only has to deal with the practicalities of death but also the emotional whirlwind of feelings unleashed by that death, the funeral can be a complicated time. There may not have been a perfect ending. There may be all sorts of undealt with issues, unintentional hurts, disagreements, incomplete actions, unfulfilled intentions, guilt or shame even, on top of the grief, sadness, loss. It is a complex time. Some prayer for healing or words of general acknowledgment of the complexity of bereavement could bring the greatest healing at this time, planting a seed of hope and comfort, for the future if not the present.
The funeral is an acknowledgment of the ending of the physical life and the beginning of a new spiritual life with God. Although it is about the person who has died, it should also bring a sense of comfort, healing and God’s light to those left behind. This is where prayers for the healing of hurt and comfort for losses can bring solace to the heart, touching any hurt or pain through God’s love blessing all.
The funeral, we feel, needs to reach out to where people are in their stage of bereavement and their relationship with the person generally. Surprisingly some people may feel anger or hurt or just have what may feel like inappropriate feelings because they are in a process that needs God’s blessing and healing too and a recognition that this is normal. Prayers for healing, where the past is blessed and healed can be an important inclusion, particularly for unresolved issues or deep past hurts or injustices.
At the moment of death one hopes that there is a fulfilment of God’s love and mercy in the person’s life, which we have been personally greatly honoured to witness, which can be a tremendous comfort and blessing to hear about.
If there is a personal spiritual lesson to be gained from that persons life or death, the funeral can be an important opportunity to share the wonder and meaning of a life held in God. This can be a beautiful truth about God’s revelation, something uplifting or inspiring about how God has blessed the whole of the person’s life and their journey which has come to fruition, or fulfilment of God’s promise, for example for someone committed to praying the Divine Mercy finding His peace, spiritual healing and comfort in the hour of their death. Enormous graces can flow from such as this and bring immeasurable peace to a terrible loss.
For those who have experienced a traumatic death, there is the hope that a well-planned funeral can at least bring some shred of comfort, even spiritual healing through sensitive wording and prayers.
For those who are very severely disabled or extremely ill or in great, untreatable pain, they may be perceived as having been unable to do anything in the world for a long time. The fullness of their life, however, may be an inner experience. Maybe the person was not able to do anything, except be still yet could pray or focus on God in silent wonder. That presence and peace still has great meaning and impact on the world. In order then to represent the person, a gift of contemplative silence, in the funeral may be a way to honour and recognise the person’s own silent life. A person’s life is so much more than words or big actions. It is also a time to reach out to those who are housebound and recognise they are there with you too, despite the physical barrier.
A funeral is an opportunity to bring God’s blessing and grace to any circumstance where the pain of loss is very raw for everyone. Lighting a candle and praying at a distance can hold great meaning for those who cannot be there in person or cannot participate in and watch a Zoom assisted funeral. If they could be acknowledged at the funeral as being there in that way, that can help assuage their sense of isolation and separation, which would be a special blessing in such sad circumstances. We hope that everyone who knew the person has an opportunity to feel they were part of the service.
When there are no words to give comfort
To ourselves or each other,
Bring us fully into awareness
Of the greatness of Your gift of Love to us.
May we understand both the Sacrifice
You made upon the cross
And the power of Mercy
That flows ever from Your Heart,
Restoring all to life.
Our own personal motto has always been that you do not have to do anything to be of beauty in the world. Your presence matters, whether you can move or speak or not.
If you can celebrate the person, recognise who they were in their wholeness, honour them in a loving way and do not ignore those parts of their life that might be more difficult or painful to deal with, then this, we feel, is a vital aspect of the grieving process.
Ask yourself is this a true representation? Would the person have been happy with it? Does it fully honour them? Can you all find a sense of peace?
At the end of the day it is important to remember that life is so much more than what we did or what we do. It is who we are, in our soul, that counts.
Lord, we give thanks for.........
We thank you for their goodness.
We thank you for their kindness.
We thank you for their inspiration.
We thank you for their Love.
We give thanks and praise for their faith in You.
Help us to know with absolute certainty
That they are safely with you now,
surrounded by angels,
Reunited and comforted
by all the family and friends
who have gone before.
May we find blessings from knowing them
May we be comforted in our loss.
May we still feel them near
And thus be able to carry on,
Feeling their light still guiding us
Throughout our lives,
Praying for us all the while.