I sometimes find myself saying that what I miss most about parish ministry is funerals. Which seems strange. But I suspect that most of the things which drew many of us into ministry in the first place are to be found there.
So I was interested to have the opportunity of taking part in the Pathways Through Grief Conference which was hosted yesterday and today by NHS Tayside. It was an impressive event and I said a bit about the role of faith communities. And you’ll find a bit in there about why I miss funerals.
Yes it is. And it is draining – particularly if you are not having the balancing moments of joy shared. I think I used to deal with it by living very intensely in the present. But I also remember being very aware that there were aspects of some of the particularly painful events which I couldn’t remember afterwards – didn’t have a mental snapshot of it to go back to.
I agree that funerals are deeply fulfilling, as can sitting with people while they die. It was a huge surprise to me, being the last thing I thought of when starting out on the Ordination trail. I did several every week in my Curacy, and sometimes two in a day.
But it has also (for me at least) been deeply draining. Shouldering all that grief and sadness with people – especially having done quite a lot of “young” funerals and several suicides – has really taken its toll on me.
Goodness Anne. That sort of pastoral challenge would have me scuttling back under my mitre pretty quickly. Too much reality, methinks.
Yes, I always find people are shocked when I say I prefer funerals to weddings! But I certainly do. They’re more fulfilling and rewarding.
Disenfranchised grief, btw, is a major problem in prison as well as in hospitals. I’m currently wondering how best to help prisoners who have caused the death of one of their own loved ones by dangerous driving. Guilt and bereavement and prison are a very painful combination to bear.
I know exactly what you mean, David. I’ve been spending an hour with each of our our 10 Bucks Michaelmas ordinands, and their experience triangulates exactly with what you say about funerals after only a year in orders… As a lucky lad who spent 10 years as vicar of an urban parish with a crematorium in it (ave. 5 funerals a week), every one was distinctive and special, and fed the rest of my minstry. The visits were sometimes pure joy, but always a bit knackering!
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