Bereavement Group

The parish bereavement support group meets on the 3rd Tueasday of each month between 10:30am and 12 noon in the Fisher Hall.

Bereavement Support Group, session 7 summary

It was lovely to see returning and new guests this month, and to share some of the joys and challenges of this time of year.

As there were some new guests, we briefly went over the group agreement of how we work: starting and finishing on time; always respecting each other; listening; keeping confidentiality; no pressure to share more than each is comfortable with; not to feel there are any ‘oughts’ or ‘shoulds’ with grief work.

We started our session by looking at the Spring garden and thinking about how there is new growth emerging, some joyful colour in flowers, the sense of hope, and yet still days when the wind is biting and the temperatures chill us. This is not unlike grief as good days and bad alternate, and we often feel the chill of a hard day amid some tentative new happiness. New life is growing out of old and present pain.

Next we shared a poem by Jan Richardson. It’s called “Blessing for the Broken-hearted.”

Let us agree
for now
that we will not say
the breaking
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.
Let us promise
we will not
tell ourselves
time will heal
the wound,
when every day
our waking
opens it anew.
Perhaps for now

it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
so broken
can go on beating
as if it were made
for precisely this -
as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it,
as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
for breaking
is to love still,
as if it trusts
that its own
persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
we cannot begin to fathom
but will save us nonetheless.
Jan Richardson The Cure for Sorrow

Does time heal a wound? People say it does, but often, with grief, we hear many saying that the pain sometimes feels worse, and certainly doesn’t seem to reduce. We looked at a representation of grief as explained by psychologist Lois Tonkin. It shows how, rather than our grief reducing over time, our lives grow around it as we learn to gradually adjust.

The grief does not lessen, but it becomes a part of a new life growing around it. We are defined by more than our loss.

We worked with plasticene, making a hard, dark ball that represented our grief. Around this, we added strands of colour, each standing for something we have welcomed into our lives since the death of our loved-one. It could be a new friendship, a hobby, a skill or a positive experience. We saw how the coloured strands enveloped the dark ball, and although it was still there at the core, it was no longer the only thing in our lives. We needn’t expect the pain to reduce, although it will one day feel less raw. Our lives can still have happy times growing around the grief, just like the Spring garden where we see new growth emerging from the spiky branches.

We finished with a prayer:
Thank you, Loving Father, for the life of our loved-one, and for the qualities they shared with us during their lives.
Thank you for the new layers of growth in our lives.
Thank you for the grief in our hearts, that continues to connect us to our departed ones.
Thank you for those who are still present in our lives today.

The next monthly session will be on Tuesday 18th April, at 10.30am - 12pm.

We also have a special healing Mass for the bereaved on Saturday 15th April, at 10am, followed by refreshments in the Fisher Hall.

21st February 2023. Session 6 summary

Welcome to new participants. We acknowledged how brave it is to come to something new like this, and explained a little of how the group is run.

We followed-up from the last session and asked what had been helpful, or not. Were there new dreams or plans that you want to follow, or new steps towards your goals?

The focus for this session was Love and Relationships. We began by looking at the relationship we had with the person who had died. We thought primarily about a spouse and used this poem:

Now, Beloved, we live, by Jan Richardson

Now, beloved, we live
In a country that has
no name.
No ceremony
for the vows
we make now,
No liturgy for
how wedded,
No ritual for
our marriage
Whose only shape
is this:
I hold your heart
In my heart
That you hold.
Never not in
My bones.
Never not in
My blood.
I hold your heart
In my heart
That you hold.
Without measure,
Given back
Without reserve.
I hold your heart

In my heart
That you hold.
Mystery, all,
For which I see
No end but that
I hold your heart
In my heart
That you hold.
Blessed, beloved,
In this country that has
No name.
I hold your heart
In my heart
That you hold.

We explored the variety of feelings we had about that spousal relationship; many were positive ( supportive, caring, gentle, empowering etc), but there were also negative feelings (stressful, exhausting, restricting, burdensome) which were just as real, and needed to be acknowledged.

We looked at how our bereavement had affected the way we felt about our relationship with the deceased, and how it might have affected other relationships too, and the way we view them. Are there relationships, past and present, with friends or family members, which we value, which bring us joy and support us? Are there relationships, past or present, that drain us?

Are there relationships now that you wish to strengthen and nurture? These may be with friends, a brother, sister, child or grandchild. Is there a closeness you would welcome? Is there someone you would feel comfortable to be closer to, open up with more? Connecting with others may be a really positive and enriching part of your future.

We looked at the books, “From You to Me.” These give an opportunity to answer some questions about yourself, your life, your values etc, to be given as a gift to a child or grandchild. The books present an opportunity to deepen a relationship with that person, and maybe start a new dialogue with them.

Are there relationships that you wish to nurture?

And what about our relationship with God? Looking back at the positive attributes of relationships (empowering, caring, gentle, supportive, liberating etc) we could see that a relationship with God is always and only positive for us. On our journey through Lent, can we build this relationship, be more open to closeness with God? Lent is a time for a renewal of this relationship, and will sustain us through the hard times.

We ended with this poem, by Henry van Dyke, which has often been used on sundials:

Time is too short for those who wait,
Too swift for those who fear,
Too long for those who grieve,
Too short for those who rejoice.
But for those who love, time is eternity.


17th January 2023. Session 5 summary

This session, we began by reviewing Christmas, and how our experience of the festive season had been; were there events or rituals that were surprisingly helpful, or any that were unhelpful, or even distressing?

The focus for this session was New Beginnings, looking back on how the past year had been, and making plans for the year ahead. We acknowledged that January can be a hard time, of low mood and gloominess, made worse by short days, cold weather and the jollity and distraction of Christmastime being over.

We wonder if we can turn this around, and see January instead as a time to clear a space, in our homes and in our minds, to declutter, and give ourselves some quiet time for reflection and contemplation?

Introspection can be a bit daunting, even frightening, when we are grieving. The busyness of Christmas can provide a welcome diversion. The quiet times of January open up possibilities to get in touch with our feelings again, which we may have been glad to avoid.

We made a start by looking back at 2022.

How have we coped?
How have you changed?
Are there things we are proud of?
Were there things that you were dreading, that you overcame?
Were there qualities in yourself that surprised you?
Above all, you have survived! That is wonderful.

Looking ahead, we acknowledged that New Year Resolutions can be a bit challenging, and demoralising; they often seem to fill us with fear of failure! Instead, can we see the new year as a time of new dreams, new ideas, new ways, new blessings? We can try to identify ways to make small steps towards a new reality.

We then had a bit of fun with a Blob tree! This is a picture used to help us identify what we are feeling, and how we would like to grow in the future.

Let’s notice more of what is around us...there may be something new around the corner for each of us; something we haven’t noticed before. What might you be able to begin, which would bring you comfort? Is there something new you would like to begin, or join?

Let’s make small plans towards a brighter future.

New Year Resolutions