Dealing with death
Dealing with death is difficult for every human being. Mourning the loss of a loved one is a normal part of being human. This is no different for Christians, although faith offers them a different perspective on death, and can give hope for the future for both the deceased and him/herself.
The Church aims to help people as much as possible at these difficult times. The Funeral service offers an opportunity for the loved ones of the deceased to 'say goodbye' to them; it takes the form of Bible readings about God being our creator and loving us, and reassures us that God's love is eternal both in the earthly life and afterwards.
No-one can say exactly what heaven is like, but Christians believe that heaven is where the soul goes after death. Prayers are said in the funeral service committing the deceased person's soul to God, and also for the support and comfort of those left who mourn.
Before a funeral service takes place, the vicar or priest will visit the bereaved family to talk or listen to them as needed. Sometimes this may take the form of just 'being alongside' those who need it. Later there may be further visits to arrange the practical parts of the funeral.
Friends or family may want to say something personal about the deceased, or may ask the priest or vicar to do so. Sometimes a funeral may be seen as a thanksgiving service for the life of the deceased.
Particular hymns may be requested, or none at all: the church is able to arrange things as necessary. The minister conducting the funeral will ask the deceased family if they have any particular choice of hymns or Bible readings.
Holy Communion may be something that the bereaved would like to have as part of the funeral service.
Funerals may take place in churches, at crematoriums or cemeteries with a vicar or priest present. Some choose to have a service in church followed by cremation.
There is a great range of emotions people feel as a result of grief: sorrow, anger, disbelief, anguish. God knows each person's feelings about the situation and loves him/her, no matter which stage he is going through. Pastoral care - being available for the needs of people - is a very important part of the role of the Church.
Do not be afraid to contact your local Church if you need someone to talk to about grief or funeral arrangements.
The Church of England main website has more information.
National Conversation about Death and Dying
The Church of England has recently launched a new national resource to help churches get people talking about death and dying.
GraveTalk, provides resources for a café space in which churches provide a relaxed environment for people to explore questions about death and dying, funerals and loss. It is run by the Dying Matters coalition, and is made up of more than 30,000 members including the Church of England.
The resources include a pack of 52 questions about life, death, society, funerals and grief to help people start, and has been piloted in more than 100 parishes.