However much we might expect it, death always comes as a shock. But Christians have reason to hope because by his sacrifice, Jesus made sure death didn’t have the last word. Instead, he invites us to share eternal life with him. Christian funerals reflect this fact: they are means by which we can commend our loved ones to the care of God, that he might make them fit to enjoy the resurrected life.
If you are looking after someone who is dying, firstly call the Vicar. As a Priest, he will be able to help prepare those who are dying for their deaths, offer the sacraments of Confession, Anointing, and Holy Communion (known in this context as the viaticum) and can offer prayers to commend the soul to God.
If your loved one has already died, a Priest can still help by guiding you through all the difficult decisions you might have to make about what to do next, particularly concerning arrangements for the funeral. So once you have (or your chosen funeral director has) made contact with the Priest, then he will make arrangements to come visit you to discuss what you would like at the funeral. It is traditional for Christians to be buried, but common now for them to be cremated, and ashes interred in a cemetery or churchyard.
Death can often be more painful for those who are left behind than for those who are dying. The Church, however, offers us consolation in our grief by helping us to understand what happens to us when we die. She teaches that in death, our body and our soul are separated, and whilst the body remains in the ground, the soul goes to meet God. It rests with him, waiting to be reunited with its body at the end of time. Whilst it waits, it is purified so that it may see God face to face in heaven. Those who mourn can help the soul of the person who has died by their fasting, prayer, good works and the celebration of the Eucharist, since all those who are baptised into Christ form one communion and are united with one another. This is why we remember those who have died in our prayers each Sunday in Church and why the Church remembers the faithful departed on All Souls’ Day (2nd November).
Although the funeral service is a beautiful way of commending our departed loved ones to the care of God and helps us to pray for their souls, bereavement is a complicated process which can last a lot longer. The clergy and members of the Pastoral Group are here to help anyone who is affected by grief, and who wishes to talk or pray about their situation. Prayer can be a real source of strength in difficult times, and you are always welcome to come along to one of our churches, which are open every day of the year, to light a candle or sit in silence.