In this week’s blog post I want to engage in another ‘commercial’ and publicise a ….page booklet I have just had re-published. A Loved One Dies: Help in the first few weeks. First published in 1996, it has been revised and updated. It is a booklet to give to individuals or families who have just lost a loved one.
In the words of the introduction:
There is nothing harder than losing someone you love. If only it were not so. However, when we have loved deeply, we hurt deeply when the object of our love is no longer with us. We ache for the presence of our loved one. Our sense of loss is almost unbearable. Neither kind words from friends nor sleeping pills from the doctor seem to make much difference. Grief is something which we have to work through for ourselves.
Furthermore, it is at this hardest of times, when we have to summon up all our energies just to cope with living, that we find ourselves called upon to make all kinds of decisions relating to the funeral of our loved one. Although we differ from many other countries where the funeral normally takes place within 24 hours of the death, it still feels as if we are given little time to make those decisions. To compound matters, we find ourselves perhaps surrounded by well-meaning relatives and friends offering contradictory advice. It is not easy to deal with all these pressures when we ourselves are feeling so fragile.
At such a time we need help. We need help not just in our decision-making, but also in our coping with the first few weeks of our bereavement. This booklet sets out to supplement the help that will be given by your minister and others. Designed to be a work-book as well as a guide, some pages include space for readers to write down their own reflections.
The booklet is divided into six ‘chapters’:
- The immediate tasks
- Understanding what is happening to me
- God gives strength
- Planning the funeral
- Celebrating a life
- There is hope
Essentially a very practical booklet, the final chapter sets out the Christian hope. I confess that in this context it is a delicate task. Let me quote from the final section of this chapter so that you can judge whether I have been successful:
Will everybody go to heaven? Is there hope for all? What about loved ones who did not go to church, who apparently never put their trust in Jesus as their Saviour and their Lord? For Christians whose relative or friend was not a Christian, this can be a real issue.
The truth is that the Bible speaks as much as about hell as it speaks about heaven. As Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, there are two ways—one which leads to hell and one which leads to life (Matthew 7.13,14). The Bible does not teach that all will be saved. There is an alternative to heaven. Furthermore, the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is the only way to God. Indeed, Jesus himself said: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one goes to the Father except by me’. (John 14.6) ‘Salvation’, said Peter, ‘is to be found through Jesus alone’. (Acts 4.12)
But the Bible also teaches that God does not wish to exclude anybody from his heaven. ‘God our Saviour’, said Paul, ‘wants everybody to be saved and to come to know the truth. (1 Timothy 2.4) Where people consciously choose to reject God’s gift of life in Jesus, then sadly that choice will be respected. However, as Abraham discovered, ‘the judge of all the earth has to act justly’. (Genesis 18.25) The Bible makes clear that where people have never heard of Jesus, or never really understood what Jesus has done for them, or who have rejected Jesus because perhaps of the unloving or hypocritical actions of his followers, then God will judge them according to the light which they have received (Acts 17.27; Romans 2.12–16). So there is hope, even when a loved one was perhaps not a committed Christian. In the words of F. W. Faber’s great hymn
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in his justice
Which is more than liberty.
For the love of God is broader
Than the measures of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
There is hope for all—precisely because of the love of God which we see demonstrated so clearly in his Son Jesus Christ.
Although the first edition sold well, as with Happy Ever After? the original publisher no longer wanted to publish pastoral resources, which meant that another publisher was needed. Fortunately the College of Baptist Ministers (CBM) came to the rescue, with the result that it is now on sale from them – although I need to make clear that there is nothing ‘Baptist’ about the book.
A Loved One Dies will retail at £2.50 for a single copy and £7 for three, including postage and packing. Residents outside the UK will need to pay a little more – enquiries are welcome! There are reductions for CBM members: £2 20 for a single copy – £4.50 for three. Payment may be made by bank transfer: sort-code……. (Barclays Bank, Witham); account number…… (account name: College of Baptist Ministers). At the same time confirm by email to our treasurer (firstname.lastname@example.org) your order together with your name and address. Alternatively cheques may be made out to the College of Baptist Ministers and sent to Peter Thomas, 1 Mimosa Close, Chelmsford CM1 6NW
As with Happy Ever After? I am hoping that ministers will do what they did in the past and buy quantities of what I somewhat immodestly would claim to be a useful pastoral tool. If blog readers were happy to help in the promotion of this venture, I would be delighted.