“We are facing a tsunami of grief” – being there for bereaved people
Next week, on March 23, the nation will come together for a day of reflection to mark the anniversary of the UK’s first COVID pandemic lockdown. Here Katy Tutt, project manager for Loss & HOPE and administrator for the St Catwg (Crickhowell) Ministry Area, looks at how we can respond to a ‘tsunami of grief’ through bereavement support training.
Loss & HOPE is a pioneering project initiated by the bereavement charity AtaLoss.org and supported by a coalition of Christian organisations with the aim of encouraging and equipping Christian communities to support bereaved people. Importantly, the project offers training for churches wishing to help with the national relief effort now required to support people bereaved during the coronavirus pandemic.
At the time of writing, the number of Covid-related deaths in Wales has passed 5,400, in addition to the usual 33,000 deaths per year, with some communities particularly severely affected. In the UK, it is estimated that more than 1 in 20 adults alone have been bereaved.
Loss & HOPE founder, the Revd Canon Yvonne Richmond Tulloch, says, “National and global tragedies such as pandemics and war don’t end when the enemy is defeated. What follows is a prolonged period of adjustment, recovery and healing.
“During the pandemic, restrictions on hospital visits, numbers attending funerals and severely reduced contact with family and friends mean that almost everyone bereaved this year will have unprocessed grief and there are thousands more for whom the repeated talk of death is causing past pain to surface. There are millions of bereaved people across the UK who urgently need help to process their loss. Without it they could become depressed, or they may suppress their grief, leading, potentially, to longer term mental health problems.
We’re facing a ‘tsunami of grief,’ but I’m convinced that light and hope could come through the Church.”
Yvonne and all the coalition members believe that with the right support and resources, Christian communities across the nation are well-placed to bring comfort and an appropriate space to enable bereaved people to talk, share and move forward in their grief journeys.
She says, “For those who have bereavement support very much on their hearts, perhaps even as a vocational calling, there is much we can offer. One very effective resource is The Bereavement Journey course – it’s very easy to set up and run, both face-to-face and online, as all the training, materials and set-up advice is provided.”
The six-session The Bereavement Journey series is tried and tested at Holy Trinity Brompton, and was created by bereavement counsellor and trustee of AtaLoss.org, Jane Oundjian MBE. It has an optional session at the end with the Christian faith perspective, which is taken up by almost all attendees.
Revd Sally Rees, of the St. Catwg (Crickhowell) Ministry Area, Swansea & Brecon Diocese, has run The Bereavement Journey twice online and says, “During the pandemic, opportunities to comfort and to offer hope in-person have been rare, so it is wonderful to be able to offer The Bereavement Journey online. It is suitable for anyone who is grieving, whether recent or many years past. It recognises that grief is personal and unique to each individual and that the 'journey' can be a long process. The series is very user friendly and offers a place where participants explore loss, adjustment and the hope of eventually finding wholeness again. It's a safe place where they can talk openly and honestly about how they are feeling with others who have some understanding of their loss and discover that they're not alone. Following the course one participant acknowledged that the course 'gives you tools so that you can continue journey for as long as it takes.
“In the UK, Covid 19 has been likened to the crises of the World Wars in the 20th Century. Since then, there has not been a more important time to recognise the magnitude of grief for the thousands of people who have lost loved ones over the past year. Churches are one place that some of those who are grieving will turn to for comfort and solace. This offers us the opportunity as members of 'the church' to provide a safe place where friendship, healing and wholeness can be nurtured. Reaching out to those who may seek this support will not be easy and not everyone is comfortable dealing with others’ grief.
“The Bereavement Friendly Church webinar is an excellent resource providing information and helpful tips about how to prepare the whole church, for the time when those who are sad and hurting might enter the church in need. We may feel ill-equipped but we also need to 'get it right' to meet the needs of many grieving people. The Bereavement Friendly Church charter and the recommendations offered in this webinar are invaluable.”
- Anyone interested in finding out more about The Bereavement Journey, or the other resources and training offered through Loss & HOPE, is encouraged to visit www.lossandhope.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- AtaLoss.org provides the UK’s signposting website for bereaved people and professionals working with them, where you can find a directory of hundreds of services, a library of resources, helplines and a free counselling webchat service. See www.ataloss.org