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Immanuel and St Andrew

The Parish Church of Immanuel and St Andrew, Streatham

452 Streatham High Road · London · SW16 3PY  ·  Tel: (020) 8679 6888

Facing bereavement or death.

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Using this page - and what it is for

Almost all of us will need to face up to the death of family members, friends and other people we know or care about at some time. Each of us has to come to terms with the fact that he or she will one day die. This page has been produced in the hope that it will help at least some of us with that 'facing up', that 'coming to terms'.

Use whatever helps - whether it be all, some, or none. And, if you need more help, do ask the Vicar, or a Reader, or anyone else in the congregation in whom you have confidence. We do not know all the answers, but we may be able to share the pain, or even say how we have coped in similar circumstances - or not coped!

If you are unused to praying you may find the 'Prayer - What?, Why? and How?' page helpful.

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Introduction

God's love and power extend over all creation. Every life, including our own, is precious to God. Christians have always believed that there is hope in death as in life, and that there is new life in Christ beyond death as well as before it.

But even those who share such faith find that there is a real sense of loss at the death of a loved one. We will each have had our own experiences of their life and death, with different memories and different feelings of love, grief and respect. When we think of our loss, whether it is recent or one we recall from some time ago, our emotions will often be mixed.

If we have to contemplate our own death we may also do it with mixed emotions. Despite our resurrection hope we may still have fears and doubts, at very least because what lies before us is unknown. We, too, face separation from those we love, even if not for ever.

Hopefully, what is on this page will help us offer our thoughts, feelings and emotions - mixed or not - in trust to God. Let us pray that he will deepen our faith and trust in the promises he has given us about the life which is - both for us and for those whom we remember - in Christ now and beyond death.

Adapted from Common Worship: Pastoral Services

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Prayers.

All these prayers were written for use in services at which several people are present. If you use them alone, you may find it helps to make them more personal, for example, by changing 'we' and 'us' into 'I' and 'me'.

The sub headings below are only a guide and you may find a prayer suitable for more than one situation.

All the prayers are taken from the funeral service or related material in Common Worship: Pastoral Services.

Prayers at a time of loss.

God of all consolation,
your Son Jesus Christ was moved to tears
at the grave of Lazarus his friend.
Look with compassion on your children in their loss;
give to troubled hearts the light of hope
and strengthen in us the gift of faith,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

(From the introduction to the funeral service)

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Merciful Father,
hear our prayers and comfort us;
renew our trust in your Son,
whom you raised from the dead;
strengthen our faith
that all who have died in the love of Christ
will share in his resurrection;
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

(The funeral service collect)

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Prayers in which we name the one who has died. (See also the next section)

God our creator and redeemer,
by your power Christ conquered death
and entered into glory.
Confident of his victory
and claiming his promises,
we entrust ..... to your mercy
in the name of Jesus our Lord,
who died and is alive
and reigns with you,
now and for ever.
Amen.

(From the funeral service commendation)

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Father, the death of ….. brings an emptiness into our lives.
We are separated from him/her
and feel broken and disturbed.
Give us confidence that he/she is safe
and that his/her life is complete with you,
and bring us together at the last
to the wholeness and fullness of your presence in heaven,
where your saints and angels enjoy you for ever and ever.
Amen.

(From the additional prayers)

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Lord our God,
you give and you take away.
You blessed us through the gift of .....,
who is now taken from us
and whose loss we mourn.
Help us, through our tears and pain,
to glimpse your hand at work
to bring blessing out of grief.
To you be glory for ever.
Amen.

(From the additional prayers)

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Prayers at a time of remembering - perhaps at an anniversary.

If you are remembering a particular person, in the first two prayers below you may like to change plurals into singulars, or replace them with the person's name. For example, in the first prayer, you could say the 5th and 6th lines ' [name] whom we love but see no longer; and pray that in her/him '

Father of all,
by whose mercy and grace
your saints remain in everlasting light and peace
we remember with thanksgiving
those whom we love but see no longer;
and we pray that in them
your perfect will may be fulfilled;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

(From the additional prayers)

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Lord of all, we praise you
for all who have entered into their rest
and reached the promised land where you are seen face to face.
Give us grace to follow in their footsteps
as they followed in the way of your Son.
Thank you for the memory of those you have called to yourself:
by each memory, turn our hearts from things seen
  to things unseen,
and lead us till we come to the eternal rest
  you have prepared for your people,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

(From the additional prayers)

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Father in heaven, we praise your name
for all who have finished this life loving and trusting you,
for the example of their lives,
the life and grace you gave them,
and the peace in which they rest.
We praise you today for your servant ....
and for all that you did through him/her.
Meet us in our sadness
and fill our hearts with praise and thanksgiving,
for the sake of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
Amen.

(From the additional prayers)

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Father in heaven,
we thank you because you made us in your own image
and gave us gifts in mind, body and spirit.
We thank you now for ....
and what he/she meant to each of us.
As we honour his/her memory,
make us more aware that you are the one
from whom comes every perfect gift,
including the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Amen.

(From the additional prayers)

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A prayer as we think about our own mortality - or face our own death.

Support us, O Lord,
all the day long of this troublous life,
until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes,
the busy world is hushed,
the fever of life is over
and our work is done.
Then, Lord, in your mercy grant us a safe lodging,
a holy rest, and peace at the last;
through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

(From the funeral service dismissal)

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Bible passages.

A selection of passages from the Bible which may be helpful. They are often used in funeral services. All are taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

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Some words of Jesus.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Matthew 5:4

The king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'  Matthew 25:34

Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.  Luke 23:43

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  John 3:16

This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.  John 6:40

I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  John 11:25,26

In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.  John 14:2,3

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From the Psalms.

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.  Psalm 16:11

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Psalm 46:1

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!  Psalm 130:1

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Other passages.

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.  Job 19:25-27

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22,23

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 8:38,39

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him - these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.   1 Corinthians 2:9-10a

He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.  1 Corinthians 15:25,26

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction, with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.  2 Corinthians 1:3,4

We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  2 Corinthians 5:1

Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. So we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.  1 Thessalonians 4:14,17b,18

We brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.  1 Timothy 6:7; Job 1:21b

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Poems.

These poems are often requested at funerals and memorial services.

Death is nothing at all.

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we still are

Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the trace of a shadow on it

Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolutely unbroken continuity

Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well


Henry Scott Holland 1847-1918
Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral

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Do not stand at my grave and weep.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumnal rain.

When you waken in the morning's hush
I am the soft uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine in the night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there.
I did not die.


Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004)

It is believed that Mary Frye, a housewife in Baltimore, USA, wrote this poem around 1932 to comfort a Jewish friend who was unable to visit her dying mother in Nazi Germany or visit her grave. It was never published and copyrighted in the normal way, but has been passed from person to person over the years. As a result it exists in many versions; you may like the version below, which has been claimed to be Mary Frye's original.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

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I am standing on the sea shore.

I am standing on the sea shore, a ship sails in the morning breeze and starts for the ocean. She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says: "She is gone." Gone! Where? Gone from my sight - that is all. She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination. The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, "She is gone", there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout: "There she comes" - and that is dying. A horizon is just the limit of our sight. Lift us up, Oh Lord, that we may see further.


Bishop Charles Brent (1862-1929).

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A small selection of hymns

The hymns below will be familiar to many. The first three, 'Abide with me.', 'Amazing grace.' and 'Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah.' remind us of the comfort the promise of eternal life gives at the time of death. The next, 'To God be the glory.' tells us of the work of Jesus in securing that promise for us, and the last, 'What a friend we have in Jesus.' assures us of the help and support Jesus gives through prayer at all times of difficulty, not just at times of death or bereavement.


ABIDE WITH ME, fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens, Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies,
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Henry Francis Lyte 1793-1847

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AMAZING GRACE! how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
’Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this heart and flesh shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.

John Newton 1725-1807

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GUIDE ME, O THOU GREAT JEHOVAH,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty,
Hold me with Thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven,
Feed me now and ever more,
Feed me now and ever more.

Open Thou the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fiery, cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through:
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
Be Thou still my strength and shield,
Be Thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side:
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to Thee,
I will ever give to Thee.

William Williams 1717-1791

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TO GOD BE THE GLORY! great things He hath done!
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life-gate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son;
And give Him the glory, great things He hath done!


O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood!
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Great things He hath taught us, great things He hath done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son:
But purer and higher and greater will be
Our wonder, our worship, when Jesus we see!

Frances van Alstyne (Fanny J Crosby) 1820-1915

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WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit!
O what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Joseph Scriven 1819-1886

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Grief, pain, fear and anger? - a short reflection on death and bereavement.

Death is always tragic, and often also traumatic, bewildering, frightening - and possibly other things as well - whether it is the loss of someone we know or the contemplation of our own death. Even on those occasions when we believe death comes as a 'merciful release' there is tragedy, though it may lie as much in the suffering or circumstances that led up to death as in the death itself. We would that things had been otherwise.

As Christians, we have the promise of eternal life - but we still miss our loved ones when they are gone. We may view our own death with a measure of apprehension as we cannot know exactly what lies ahead. We share with everyone else the sense of tragedy. Despite the eternal dimension, we may still grieve over what might have been, had life continued. Grief, pain and fear are all legitimate reactions to death, as is also the question, 'Why?'

Jesus did not attempt to answer the question, 'Why?' He grieved with others as they faced bereavement (see John 11:33-38) and looked forward to his own death with fear and sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42). He experienced pain and abandonment as he died on the cross (Mark 15:33-39). Yet there were many important things he did say about death - one of which was to assure us that suffering and death were in no way a 'punishment' (John 9:1-3 ; Luke 13:1-5). And perhaps the most important thing he said about death - and said repeatedly - was that his own death was necessary - necessary for the redemption of the world, necessary for our salvation (Mark 10:32-34, 45). We do not fully understand why this was so - but we have Jesus' assurance that it was.

God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life (John 3:16). God knew what he was doing when Jesus died. Perhaps we can trust that, as death comes to each of us, he is still in control and still knows what he is doing. But we can still grieve, as Jesus did, and be frightened, bewildered - or even angry. At the tomb of Lazarus, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus stands beside us all in our loss and our fear - even though both were followed by resurrection.

David Gray

© Copyright David Gray 2006

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The prayers on this page are taken from Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, which is copyright © The Archbishops' Council.

For further information on Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England visit the Common Worship website http://www.cofe.anglican.org/worship/liturgy/commonworship/.

The Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.


Links to the main pages are at the TOP of the page.

Page last updated 05 January 2007.

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Links to related pages...

Prayer - What?, Why? and How?.

Links to the main pages are at the ^TOP^ of the page.

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