Spiritual care for the dying and bereaved

Penelope Wilcock shares her insights on how to comfort those who are faced with dying or the death of the ones they love in her new book, Spiritual Care of Dying and Bereaved People

Published 16 February 2013  |  

When we think about dying, which happens to all of us on many levels (not only the physical), we are not turning our backs on life but daring to be led into the very heart of living.

This updated and substantially expanded edition of a classic pastoral care book explains very practically how to minister to or simply 'stay alongside' the dying and bereaved.

To accompany other people, along with their loved ones, up to the gate of death, is to enter holy ground, to stand in an awesome place where the wind of the Spirit blows, to encounter peace and grief, insight, intimacy and pain on a level not found in ordinary living.

The book is divided into four sections:

Part 1 looks at the practical issues of caring for dying or bereaved people.

How we approach and respond to dying—our own dying, other people's dying, the agony of bereavement—will tell us much about ourselves. The sacred territory of death asks questions of us. Is it hard for me to be honest? Am I frightened to be in a situation of physical, spiritual and emotional intimacy with someone? ... Painfully, those who do not run away learn that our own helplessness is a gift to those who are helpless; our consenting to live at peace with our own mortality and inadequacy permits them also to be at peace.

Penelope explores how to offer effective comfort by finding strength in helplessness—a position that requires an adjustment of the widely held image of God as Almighty to the God who suffers and weeps. She explores the differences in human personality determining people's different approaches, when prayer is appropriate, and the way to gain someone's confidence to allow them to open up their deepest fears. She also considers the importance of body language, dress code and personal hygiene.

Part 2 is a personal account of the author's experience of bereavement, offering insights that bring an understanding of the challenges of life's journey for those who feel frightened or overwhelmed, and how to bring encouraging support and companionship on an otherwise lonely journey.

Part 3 examines loss without death, the sense of bereavement that surrounds separation and divorce, redundancy and the loss of valued material possessions.

Part 4 is a 'how to' section on preparing a funeral service. Penelope also considers the issues raised by funerals where many of the mourners didn't know the deceased well or have had life-scarring encounters with the deceased.

Penelope Wilcock has worked as a chaplain in hospice and hospital settings, taught about spiritual care and palliative care for the NHS, and spent several years as a church pastor. Her books include In Celebration of Simplicity: the joy of living lightly, Learning to Let go: the transition into residential care and The Road of Blessing: finding God's direction for your life. Her blog, Kindred of the Quiet Way, reflects on simple and spiritual Christian lifestyle.

Spiritual Care of Dying and Bereaved People is published on 15 Feb 2013, priced £9.99, ISBN 978 0 85746 115 5, pb, 240 pages

Source: Bible Reading Fellowship

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