Our congregation has been touched by death recently. We remember Wesley Trigg, a retired Uniting Church minister who was deeply loved and who tuned into the live stream each week. Hannah Friebel who spent time at the student house and tragically took her own life and Tom Whelan, father to Shawn and father-in-law to Natalie and grandfather to Dan. Our church is also home to people in the wider Brunswick community and so we will also host the funeral of Samuel Gierke who died on Anzac Day.

Even if we did not know any of these people, their deaths can still touch us. We find we are unexpectedly emotional or it touches another grief in our life or something we thought we’d worked through re-surfaces. Sometimes it is simply seeing the pain of someone else that touches us and reminds us that we too know loss. We are hardwired to respond to each other in this way. It’s part of what will eventually enable us to heal.

As a church community, we want to support each other, but sometimes it’s hard to know how. The role of our pastoral care teams is to coordinate the pastoral needs of our community, but we all have a part to play.  At this time we particularly recognize how valuable everybody’s contribution is. It may be that you can visit, provide a meal, offer a message of love and support, listen, pray.

Everyone grieves differently. Some grief is very private, other people reach out. Sometimes we push our feelings down because they are too much to bear and even harder to have someone witness them. Having said that, one of the greatest gifts we can give each other is our undivided attention. Simply listening or being alongside someone without offering advice, or trying to cheer them up or saying you know how they feel. The simple sharing of human connection and love is often enough.

Talking to children about death often feels fraught, but children are experts in picking up that something is wrong. If they don’t get told what it is, they will draw their own conclusions, which sometimes can more detrimental than any worries we might have about their ability to cope emotionally. You might simply say that the person has died and that it’s ok to be sad. Being able to have the conversation, however clumsy, is important, so children can begin to navigate a world where death is inevitable.

Prayer helps carry the weight of grief. In prayer we offer up to God that which we are not meant to carry on our own. God hears our cries because Jesus has already walked this path. Sometimes, simply holding someone in our hearts or before God is all we can do, because there are no words.

The funeral too helps us process the loss of loved ones. It helps us make sense of someone’s life and what they have meant to us. It enables us to share our grief with others. Sometimes the funeral of someone we’ve never met enables us to grieve in ways that we couldn’t otherwise. In a Christian funeral, we are reminded that while death is the end of mortal life, it marks a new beginning in our relationship with God.

God of gentleness and strength,
comfort us with the great power of your love
as we mourn the deaths of Wes, Hannah Tom and Sam
In our grief and confusion,
help us find peace
in the knowledge of your loving mercy to all your children,
and give us light to guide us
into the assurance of your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(from Uniting in Worship 2)

Cath James, Minister of the Word