Churches can equip themselves to support the bereaved during pandemic

As the United Kingdom tragically passes 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, the Bishop of Southwark’s Officer for Clergy Bereavement, Revd Canon Yvonne Richmond Tulloch, is encouraging churches to equip themselves with the knowledge of how to support the bereaved.

“The country is heading for a tsunami of grief and the church is needed to help,”

said Yvonne, who runs the UK’s bereavement signposting website AtaLoss.org.

“One of the things that hasn’t been recognised is the importance of community support in helping the bereaved. If people in their bereavement can find understanding local support, for most people that is all they need to grieve healthily. But the problem has been that over the last few decades we have lacked understanding of bereavement so people steer clear and everybody only thinks of the specialists.”

With churches in every community, they are best placed to support the bereaved. There is much that they can do to support the masses of people who are grieving now. Telling people about the AtaLoss.org, signposting website, in church services, notices, at funerals and on church websites is a good place to start.  The Bereavement Journey is a six-session self-help course of films and discussion groups hosted by volunteers. It has been made available online with all the resources and support needed to make it easy for any church to run, with accompanying training for volunteers and leaders.  See the Loss and Hope website for this and more: https://www.lossandhope.org/.

Today, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Most Revd Justin Welby and the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, wrote an open letter to the nation calling on all people, with a faith or not, to pause, pray and reflect on “the enormity of this pandemic”. The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, said,

“I echo what the Archbishops have said. This is not about numbers it is about people.  It is about each and every person who has died and all those left behind. Every life lost through COVID-19 affects many, many other people as they come to terms with loss and grief. I fully endorse the Bereavement Journey. It is a tried and tested way to help and reach out to those who are bereaved, and a most helpful way for Christians to respond to the needs arising from the pandemic.”

Yvonne, who is working with partners in the Loss and HOPE coalition, to equip churches to support the bereaved, adds,

“Whether people have died of Coronavirus or another cause in the last year, bereavement has been a lonely experience. We encourage everyone to look out for people who are grieving and simply get in touch. Even in lockdown we can listen and show kindness. And if you are grieving, please do talk to people about what you’re going through and ask for help, including from a local faith community.”

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