Some thoughts on bereavement

Our guest blog in this series on death and grief in COVID19 is from John Symons


How do we cope with death, with losing a loved one? I want to share some thoughts on this, and my thoughts will be influenced by the fact that I have lived in Africa (mostly Zambia) for 24 years as well as in Britain. I am also a Christian so some of my reflections will be influenced by that. People in Africa and Britain cope very differently with bereavement. In Africa a funeral lasts several days at the home of the deceased, during which the bereaved wife (for example) constantly receives visitors who weep and wail with her as she recounts, for every group that comes, how her husband died. Many are Christian so the church family will take over running everything for many days; a large fire is burning day and night outside over which cooking for the hundreds of mourners
is done. Food is provided – paid for by the church plus family and friends, In the evening things really get going! Church choirs appear, preachers come with a word from the Bible, various ones take part. Comfort comes, then, from getting it all out there – weeping as she tells group after group her sorrows and pain: it comes from her friends, from the Bible verses shared, from the sense that she is not on her own at this terrible time.


In Britain things are very different. When a person dies the automatic feeling is that the family don’t want visitors to upset or disturb them. So flowers are left outside the house in some cases, cards are sent, emails sent, some close friend/family will telephone. Normally some close relative handles the practicalities – funeral home contacted, arrangements made, bank accounts dealt with, people informed etc. Whilst this is generally true in this culture I do want to say that I have seen wonderful examples of genuine Hope in the face of tragedy, particularly among real Christian believers. I will
never forget Gill, whose 43 year old husband dropped dead on a beach near Cape Town, on the occasion of the funeral service. She was astonishing! I have never seen a radiant face like hers on such an occasion. She was comforting others! I will also not forget the passing of my own father, a devout Christian. My mother and 3 sisters were around his bed. Of course he was ‘at peace’ because he was on morphine, but when he actually passed from his body there was such a look on his face of amazement and wonder as his eyes opened wider than I had ever seen in him before! Three days before I had asked him what he was thinking about, and he told me he was meditating on the events
of Jesus’s resurrection. I believe what he saw was something of the glory of heaven itself. There is an interesting verse in the New Testament (1 Thessalonians 4:13) which says:

Brothers we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.

Surely at this time we need such genuine Hope that those believers had.

John Symmons

I have worked in full-time Christian work for many years – 24 years in Southern Africa, 15 years as a pastor in Southampton and now I help in the church my wife and I attend, Southampton Lighthouse International Church. My wife and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary earlier this year and we have four children, all born in Zambia, and nine grandchildren.  Two of our children live in the UK and two in Africa, South Africa and Zambia. 

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We hope this song sang by Katie Shaw will encourage you as you Christ will hold you fast

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Published by Nay Dawson

Nay works with IFES Europe as their Regional Training Co-ordinator, training staff and students across Europe. She works on the European Regional leadership team for the charity. She was the Revive Extra Plenary Director for one of largest Student Conferences in Europe. Nay is the founder of Passion for Evangelism. PfE is a network of creative, public female speakers. Helping hundereds of women grow in confidence in public communication. Nay set up an initiative called Community in a crisis. CIAC has been helping churches and charities across Europe get online during the pandemic.

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