It’s happened again. The news has been painful and hard to bear. Someone has died.

Over the past four weeks by word of mouth or by email, I have discovered the news we rarely want to hear, someone we care for has passed away.

On four separate occasions in the last month, four people dear to me have passed away.

Life is incredibly precious and very fragile, a gift from God. When this thin thread of life is broken grief kicks in. It stalks us and disturbs us. It leaves us vulnerable and broken.

Part of me is comforted by the promise that “the Lord is close to the broken hearted” (Psalm34: 18) and the words of Jesus that “Blessed are those who mourn, they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5: 4).

Other parts of me remain sad and with feelings of loss and numbness. Thankfully as a society we are moving beyond the stiff upper lip response of previous generations. In my tears and sadness, I am comforted by the pithy description of Jesus in John’s gospel “Jesus wept”(John 11:5). Here we see a glimpse of the human and divine Jesus, deeply mourning the loss of a friend.

There is no suppression of emotion or empty pontificating on the meaning of life, just tears of sadness and loss.

The carpenter, who claimed equality with God, was grieving deeply because he loved deeply.

The God I cling to in bereavement is not distant or remote, but close, empathetic and tearful.

People of faith are encouraged to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:5).

It is rarely helpful to give advice to those who weep, or to tell them to cheer up. To enable good grief we need people around us who listen well, seek somehow to share our pain and express their concern in practical ways; kind words, cards, flowers, visits and meals can all help.

Doing nothing and saying nothing, just doesn’t help at all. Ignoring the grieving person doubles their pain.

No two people grieve in the same way, but most grieving people need the darkness and despair of their loss to be acknowledged and tangible expressions of love and support.

For me the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love, alongside honesty, venerability and empathy can strengthen us all in the long and inevitable journey of grief.

Rev Steve Francis

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