Coping with Bereavement

Inspirational Readings

Bereavement |  Inspirational Readings

Revised Readings


Author is given where known but please remember to acknowledge the copyright of the author where applicable.

A Butterfly
A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam. And for a brief moment its glory and beauty belong to our world. But then it flies on again, and though we wish it could have stayed, we feel so lucky to have seen it...

Tessa Wilkinson

My anchor has lost its hold
I am adrift
My boat is going where it will
The sails are tattered and torn
The sea seems enormous and uncharted
It throws me hither and thither
Into the deepest, darkest trough of despair
Then up into the sunlight and for a while there is hope
Then back again into the darkness
Will my little craft be overwhelmed?
As the huge waves of grief engulf it, will it come up again?
And again and again?
They say 'time heals…'
Can my little boat be trimmed out with new sails?
Can it sail again into a calm harbour and put down its anchor?
Can the navigation system be mended, so I know where I am going?
In time, in time…
but not yet.
This storm has to be passed through, and then a time will come to re-enter the harbour and return to still waters.

A Flower Bud
Tessa Wilkinson

A flower bud, holding so much beauty and expectation
Perfect in shape and colour and size
But sometimes it never opens.
So like a young child who dies
So beautiful in shape and form
Holding so many expectations for a future journey shared together
But it is a journey never to be taken
Never known
A journey which is cut off short and unfinished
A bud which never opened

After Glow

I'd like the memory of me
to be a happy one.
I'd like to leave an after glow
of smiles when life is done.
I'd like to leave an echo
whispering softly down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing times
and bright and sunny days.
I'd like the tears of those who grieve,
to dry before the sun
of happy memories
that I leave when life is done.

A Mother's Lament
Tessa Wilkinson

I knew you every day as you grew
I felt your first movements as you stretched your growing limbs
You were cocooned in that safe warm world within me
protected and sheltered from the outside world
I met you on the scans and marvelled at your creation
I watched your life-giving heart beat
synchronised with mine

Now you are gone
No cries at birth, no phone calls of joy
Just stillness and silence
Your beautiful eyes never to open to look into mine
Your limbs still and lifeless as you enter this outside world
Your heart never to beat again
Your tiny fingers never to cling on
How I yearn to hold you in my arms
To fill the void, the emptiness

You are our child and we love you
Nothing can ever take that from us
We shall always remember you
Our first/second … precious child

A Navaho Prayer

Grieve for me, for I would grieve for you
Then brush away the sorrow and the tears
life is not over, but begins anew
With courage you must greet the coming years
To live forever in the past is wrong
can only cause you misery and pain
Dwell not on memories overlong
with others you must share and care again
Reach out and comfort those who comfort you
recall the years, but only for a while
Nurse not your loneliness; but live again
Forget not. Remember with a smile

An Old Gaelic Blessing

May the road rise to meet you:
May the sun shine always on your face:
May the wind be always at your back:
May the rains fall gently on your fields:
And, until we meet again, may God keep you
In the hollow of his hand.

Birth is a beginning

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
But life is a journey
A going -- a growing
From stage to stage
From childhood to maturity
And youth to age
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing
From foolishness to discretion
And then perhaps, to wisdom
From weakness to strength
Or strength to weakness
And, often, back again
From health to sickness
And back, we pray, to health again
From offence to forgiveness
From loneliness to love
From joy to gratitude
From pain to compassion
And grief to understanding --
From fear to faith.
From defeat to defeat to defeat --
Until, looking backward or ahead,
We see that victory lies
Not as some high place along the way
But in having made the journey, stage by stage
A sacred pilgrimage
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
But life is a journey
A sacred pilgrimage --
Made stage by stage --
To life everlasting

Rabindranath Tagore

Death is not the extinguishing of the light, but the putting out of the lamp because dawn has come.

Death of a Partner
from The Enduring Melody Page 124 Michael Mayne (Darton, Longman and Todd) Published 2006

'Until death us do part'. If, within that closest of friendships, one should die, there is no greater anguish, no more lonely experience, than that of the one flesh being wrenched in two, with no one now to share the intimacies of your life, the private jokes and references. It's the heavy price we pay for loving, and our reason tells us that we would not have it otherwise, so that perhaps in time we may come to see that the grief we have to live with is the final, and most costly, gift we have to offer to the other who has died. But reason is not uppermost in periods of grief.

Tessa Wilkinson

The journey of grief is one of 'firsts'
The first Birthday
The first Christmas
The first anniversary
The list is of endless firsts…
Each 'first' can loom ahead, huge, like a mountain to climb
A block on the way
But remember, once that 'first' is over it will never be a 'first' again
Next time we meet it, we will have met it before
We will know that that mountain can be climbed and we will start to believe that we will be able to climb the next,
and the next, and the next…

From Water Bug to Dragonfly
Tessa Wilkinson

The bottom of the pond is muddy and dark
There is fear of the unknown
There is loneliness as things change
There is the desperation of being left behind
Not knowing, not understand
Watching and waiting
Then the journey comes
Up the stem
What waits beyond?
Dancing together in joy with those who went before
And who will come after

God give them rest

'God give them rest in that delightful garden
where pain and grief are no more and sighing unknown'.


Grief is not for ever, but love is

Tessa Wilkinson

Grief is like standing with your back to the sea
We never know when the big wave will come and knock us over

He did not say
Julian of Norwich

He did not say, 'You shall not be tempest-tossed, you shall not be work-weary, you shall not be discomforted.' But he said 'You shall not be overcome.' God wants us to heed these words so that we shall always be strong in trust, both in sorrow and in joy.

He whom we love
St John Chrysostom

He whom we love and lose is no longer where he was before;
he is now wherever we are.

Henry's Funeral
Tessa Wilkinson

When I saw the tiny coffin arrive it took my breath away. Coffins should be large and hold adults, and be carried by six strong men on their shoulders. Seeing that tiny shoebox-sized coffin being carried by one person was one of the most heart breaking things I have ever seen.

I believe in the sun
Words found written on a cellar wall in Cologne after World War 11

I believe in the sun even when it is not shining
I believe in love even when I feel it not
I believe in God even when he is silent

I bind myself today

I bind myself today
The power of God to hold and lead
His eye to watch, His might to stay
His ear to hearken to my need
The wisdom of my God to teach
His hand to guide
His shield to ward
The word of God to give me speech
His heavenly Host to be my guide

Tessa Wilkinson

The ice on the pond looks solid and sound
A tentative step onto the edge proves safe
Further out cracking noises beneath my feet
Deep threatening darkness below the ice
Fear, fast beating heart, run
Run back, back to the bank
To safety
To the place I know of solid rock.
So like visiting grief
Tiptoe to the edge of sadness and sorrow
Test the emotions, will they hold?
Will cracks appear, and the threat of breaking be too much to bear?
Will the place they might lead to be too dark and dangerous?
Will I trust I can make it back to my solid rock again?
Can I trust that all shall be well?

I dreamt that the time had come
Fernand de Vinck

I dreamt that the time had come to carry back to my Father the treasures I was sent to gather on earth.
So I held out my chalice to my brother angel to be filled with the values of my life.
I thought of bright achievement, renown and success,
but they vanished in the emptiness of glamour.
When it was handed back to me,
I found my cup filled to the brim with what I thought were tiny things,
hardly noticed and long forgotten,
but now, sparkling with the inner light of the love they contained.
Then I walked holding high the grail of my soul
and there was joy in heaven.

Corrie Ten Boom

If God sends us on stony paths he provides strong shoes

If God brings you to it
If God brings you to it, he will bring you through it.
Happy moments, praise God.
Difficult moments, seek God.
Quiet moments, worship God.
Painful moments, trust God.
Every moment, thank God.

I have often wondered
Jan Brind

I have often wondered at this great mystery - that I, so small and insignificant, should have caught the attention of God? Strange that, just when I was feeling so empty and alone, God should beckon and say, 'Come to me - I will be with you. We will face this together.' I know now that God was always there, watching. But I was too busy with the humdrum things of life to notice. Oh, the joy of feeling that presence! And to know that God is always there - not just in sadness, but in the laughter and colour and busyness of life. Yes, God is always there - in life, and in death. And in the great adventure that is still to come.

I have seen death too often

I have seen death too often to believe in death.
It is not an ending, but a withdrawal.
As one who finishes a long journey,
Stills the motor,
Turns off the lights,
Steps from the car,
And walks up the path
To the home that awaits him

In so much
St Augustine

In so much as love grows in you so in you beauty grows.
For love is the beauty of the soul.

Journey for a Soul

Death is part of the future for everyone. It is the last post of this life and the reveille of the next. Death is the end of our present life, it is the parting from loved ones, it is the setting out into the unknown. We overcome death by accepting it as the will of a loving God, by finding him in it. Death, like birth, is only a transformation, another birth. When we die we shall change our state - that is all. And in faith in God, it is as easy and natural as going to sleep here and waking up there.

Lost Love
© Anne M R Chiles 2000

A kiss never kissed
A dream never wished
An embrace never felt
A beauty never beheld
A tear never cried
A life never tried
A love never shown
A child never known

Tessa Wilkinson

You were conceived in love
Grew surrounded by our love
Died enfolded by love
Love never dies

Love is this

Love is this
That you lived among us these few years
And taught us love.

Love in this
That you died amongst us and helped us
To the source of life

With all our love
We wish you 'bon voyage'

Love lives

May the Warm Winds of Heaven

May the Warm Winds of Heaven
Blow softly upon your house
May the Great Spirit
Bless all who enter there
May your Moccasins
Make happy tracks
In many snows
And may the Rainbow
Always touch your shoulder

People Travel
St Augustine

People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.

Preparation for a Journey
Tessa Wilkinson

When we know we are going on a journey
we pack our bag and get prepared:
A guide book to tell us where to visit
A map to show us the way
A torch to light the path
Food to sustain us
Water to refresh us
Clothes to keep us warm.
But for this journey there is no time to prepare:
Just get up and go, no time to think
No guide book to tell us where we should visit
No map to show the way though grief
The light seems to fade very fast
Food seems unpalatable
Water brings no refreshment.
Wrapped in sadness we feel we walk alone

Tessa Wilkinson

The snow arrived unannounced
It overwhelmed everything
Changed the landscape so it was unrecognisable
No one was prepared
My grief feels like that snowstorm
I feel changed, weighed down by the burden
Trying to negotiate the new environment around me
Not knowing where I am going
Looking for familiar landmarks
I feel cold and miserable and ill equipped in this new place unvisited before
But I know in time the snow will melt and return the landscape to some semblance of normality
And I know in time my grief will diminish and I will find my way forward again, back to a world that I recognise, changed, but familiar
Spring does always come after winter and hope will return

So dead and yet so alive
Tessa Wilkinson

It looked dead, hanging upside down on the underside of the leaf
Motionless, a small sealed up grey tomb
Seemingly doing nothing but just being there
Being there, doing nothing
Gradually, gradually, something stirred
Was it movement?
How could it be when it looked so still and dead?
Then the grey tomb started to split
Little by little something began to emerge
Movement, struggle
Transforming death to life
To freedom, to beauty
To a butterfly

Support from Others

Don't tell me that you understand.
Don't tell me that you know.
Don't tell me that I will survive,
How I will surely grow.
Don't come at me with answers
That can only come from me.
Don't tell me how my grief will pass,
That I will soon be free.
Accept me in my ups and downs.
I need someone to share.
Just hold my hand and let me cry
And say, "My friend, I care."

The Calling
Jan Brind

Though we do not always walk in your Way
Or speak your Truth, or live your risen Life
And though we deny you over and over again
Still, Lord, you call us to be with you

When we think selfishly only of ourselves
And fail to see the needs of our neighbour
Or when we ignore the pain of your world around us
Still, Lord, you call us to be with you

Lord, you know us and call us by our name
And we are precious in your sight
You love us today, tomorrow and for all time
Knowing this - how can we hesitate?

Lord, we come to you with joy in our hearts

The End
Tessa Wilkinson

When an adult dies, it feels like the end of our past
But when a child dies it feels like the end of our future

The Mountains of Grief
Tessa Wilkinson

How can I possibly find a way over the mountains?
I have no map, I am weak and exhausted
The path is steep and stony, and very dark
I am afraid
I don't want to go on

The Only Way
Tessa Wilkinson

The only way we can be protected from the pain of loss and the grief we feel, is by having never loved. How empty our lives would be, and what a lot of wonderful shared moments we would have missed, if we had not known N. So, although what we feel at the moment is terrible, we must try to remember that it is because we have all been privileged to have known and loved N, that we now feel the pain and sadness.

The Sea
Tessa Wilkinson

The sea is such a fickle thing
One minute smooth and calm
Blue and tranquil
The next rough and raging
Tossing anything in its path up in the air
Throwing it where it will.
So like grief
One minute we feel calm
'Today I am all right'
'Today I will not be battered and tossed about not knowing where or who I am'
Then we see something
Or hear something
Or smell something
Quite out of the blue
And the wall of grief that we thought we had turned from
Picks us up and tosses us here and there
Until we land exhausted back on the shore

The Sea and the Beach
Tessa Wilkinson

The sea seems to illustrate pain and sorrow so well
It comes in and goes out
For a while it is there, overwhelming, covering everything
Then slowly the tide turns and it withdraws
For a while we can see the beauty of the shells, the seaweed
We can rejoice in the patterns in the sand
We can feel the corrugated ripples under our feet
Alive to what is around, and beyond
But then the tide turns and again it is all washed away, all overwhelmed
We feel like the crashing of the waves on rocks
Raw and out of control
Full of anger and rage
Battered and bruised
Tossed about like flotsam floating wherever we are thrown
There are so many questions. Why now? Why her?
But no answers
Then the sea calms and gently the waves lap the rocks
We are soothed and the inner turmoil is calmed
In time we can learn to move up the beach as the tide comes in
Out of its reach
Not to be overwhelmed
The pain is still there, but in control
We can recognise the pain
Revisiting the sadness
Acknowledging how much the person is missed
We learn to turn away and look to the future
Knowing the person will always be part of us
Always loved and always remembered

We Can
Tessa Wilkinson

We can climb the highest mountains
We can visit the darkest valleys
Along the way we may feel lost, hopeless and afraid
But with friends walking beside us
We will find the way through grief
And arrive at last feeling joy in our hearts again

We can shed tears that they have gone

We can shed tears that they have gone,
or we can smile that they have lived
We can close our eyes and pray that they will come back
or we can open our eyes and see all the good that they have left us
Our hearts can be empty because we cannot see them
or our hearts can be full with the love that we've shared
We can turn our backs on tomorrow and live yesterday
or we can be happy for tomorrow, because of yesterday
We can remember them and only that they have gone
or we can cherish their memory and let it live on
We can cry and close our minds,
be empty and turn our backs
or we can do what they would have wanted:
smile, open our eyes, love and go on.

We grieve your heart, O God
Jan Brind

We grieve your heart, O God
When we disrespect the world you have given us
So freely
We grieve your heart, O God,
When we cover your earth with concrete
Trapping seeds that bring new growth
We grieve your heart, O God
When we tear down your forests
Which anchor the land and shade us
We grieve your heart, O God
When we pollute the water
That should revive and refresh
We grieve your heart, O God
When we fill the air with poisonous fumes
So that your living things suffocate
We grieve your heart, O God
When we dump our unwanted rubbish in your oceans
So that the fish and creatures of the sea are harmed
We grieve your heart, O God
When we see injustice and poverty
And do nothing
We grieve your heart, O God
When we fail to love our brothers and sisters
As you have commanded
We grieve your heart, O God
Oh, how we grieve your heart

Forgive your people, O God, and change us
Soften our hearts
And breathe new life into us
Lead us in your ways of love and truth
That we may care for your creation
And renew the face of the earth

Revised 2

We must live through the dreary winter

We must live through the dreary winter
If we would value the spring;
And the woods must be cold and silent
Before the robins sing.
The flowers must be buried in darkness
Before they can bud and bloom,
And the sweetest, warmest sunshine
Comes after the storm and gloom.

We Trust

We trust that beyond absence there is a presence.
That beyond the pain there can be healing.
That beyond the brokenness there can be wholeness.
That beyond the anger there may be peace.
That beyond the hurting there may be forgiveness.
That beyond the silence there may be the word.
That beyond the word there may be understanding.
That through understanding there is love.

When I die and leave behind

When I die and leave behind
This earth I love
These trees, this sky
The pounding sea
The yearly hope of spring
Cry not for me
My soul has wings
And in its freedom sings

When loving someone is not enough
Jan Brind

The phone rings… the voice at the other end sounds nervous. There
is dreadful news. Shocking news that no one should ever have to
give, or receive. He is dead. He has taken his own life. He was
found this afternoon. In that moment the world is
changed and time is suspended. A dreadful silent scream 'No! No!
No!' explodes inside me and yet, and yet, with a terrible realisation
and certainty, I know it is true. Why didn't he 'phone? He promised
he would. Last conversations are remembered and replayed over and over,
word for word. What did we miss? But, sadly, loving someone is not always
enough. His pain was such that, for him, dying was an easier option
than living. And now we are left, in this place where he is no longer. With the 'if
onlys', and the 'what ifs', and a huge sadness and regret that
someone we loved and cherished chose not to stay with us, but
to go. Such truth is hard to accept. But this we do believe. He is at peace now
and his pain is no more. He is with God in a place where all things are made well
and where all darkness is overcome. Slowly our pain, too, will be healed, and we
will remember him as he was before, embracing life to the full and
laughing with the joy of it. And we will smile again at the memory and
hold it in our hearts.

Patience Strong

I thought that snow had fallen overnight
When I saw the willow ringed with white
Like a necklace looped around the tree
Mystified, I crossed the lawn to see
Yes, the snow drops back again
Bright with beaded drops of frozen rain
Every year it happens
Every year
And yet when I first look and see them here
They always seem to take me by surprise
When winter's fall hangs heavily from the skies
Too soon, I say, but as I stoop to stare
At the little white flowers swinging there
I catch the whispered message that they bring
And hail them as the harbingers of spring

Winter and Spring

When winter comes, spring will not be far behind

Bereavement |  Inspirational Readings