It is love that makes death so awful. It is the fact that you truly love someone that means you grieve when they have left life behind and left you behind. But it is love that makes death bearable, because genuine love is not diminished by any circumstances and continues after death. Christians believe that it is the love of Jesus that holds these two opposites together.
If you are reading this because you are recently bereaved, these words are written in the sincere hope that you will find them sensitive and sympathetic. The Christian Enquiry Agency is able to offer individual conversations by email to those who would like to discuss their thoughts about God or the Christian faith in these circumstances. To contact the agency confidentially, click ‘Find Out More’ below.
Jesus was himself a mourner following the death of his close friend - a man called Lazarus. Like any one of us, he wept. But it is also through Jesus that Christians hold the hope that death is not the end.
Grieving people often go through phases of shock and denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance and hope. Everyone goes through this process at a different pace, sometimes seeming to make not progress at all. Christians suggest that this is a God-given cycle which enables people to be fully human in the way they respond to death. There are no short cuts, even for people with a profound belief in heaven. The Christian hope is that faith in God can help people to free themselves from being permanently in slavery to the loss they have suffered. It allows people to readjust to the world without the person who has died in it, and to create a context in which new friendships can form.
Grieving people very often seek conversations with Christian leaders or friends. Meeting someone with faith can unlock permission to talk about spiritual concerns. They might include doubt, anger with God, or a search for assurance about what lies beyond death. All these are good things to talk about.
However, bereaved people are extremely vulnerable. This is no time to manipulate someone into a religious response.
Cruse Bereavement Care, through 5,000 volunteers, offers grieving people understanding of the experience they are going through, and a greater ability to cope with their loss. Their websites are www.cruse.org.uk and (for children) www.rd4u.org.uk.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Where to find it:
About these words:
From a song written about a thousand years before Jesus, but still sung frequently in churches. It compares God to a shepherd who, with rod and staff in hand, never leaves his sheep even in distressing times.
And they said...
Dean Inge, clergyman, writer and Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, 1860 - 1954:
Bereavement is the sharpest challenge to our trust in God. If faith can overcome this, there is no mountain which it cannot remove.
David Watson, priest and writer, 1933 - 1984:
The church is the only society on earth that never loses a member through death. As a Christian I believe not just in life after death, but in life through death.
Charles Simeon, clergyman, 1759-1836:
Be not hasty to offer advice to those who are bowed down with a weight of trouble. There is a sacredness in grief which demands our reverence. The very [home] of a mourner must be approached with awe.
Gordon Wilson, who became a peace campaigner and subsequently Irish senator after being seriously injured by a terrorist bomb which killed his daughter Marie in Eniskillen, Northern Ireland, 1927 - 1995:
She held my hand tightly, and gripped me as hard as she could. She said, 'Daddy, I love you very much.' Those were her exact words to me, and those were the last words I ever heard her say ... But I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She was a great wee lassie. She loved her profession. She was a pet. She's dead. She's in heaven and we shall meet again. I will pray for these men tonight and every night.
Robert Capon Farr, North American writer:
Jesus came to raise the dead. The only qualification for the gift of the gospel is to be dead. You don't have to be smart. You don't have to be good. You don't have to be wise. You don't have to be wonderful. You don't have to be anything ... You just have to be dead.