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Bereavement support in Rochdale mission community

First published on: 9th January 2024

As our Mission Communities continue to thrive and grow, we are looking to different areas to see how parishes are working together to help their communities.

One of the ideas from Rochdale Deanery Mission Community 3 was to set up a bereavement support group. The Revd Anne Gilbert is a Vicar in Rochdale, in addition to being the diocesan and deanery Funeral Champion. In working with funeral directors, Anne saw that there was a profound need for bereavement support in Rochdale.

In response to this identified need, on 17th May 2023, a bereavement support group called 'Friends Together Bereavement Support' was set up at Rochdale Parish Church. The group's name identifies that this is not a professional service, but a safe space for people grieving to come and share with others.

The Co-operative supports the group by providing refreshments, and a series of books are laid out offering poems and stories that people can borrow and read. As part of the group, an ‘Empty Chair’ was added to the prayer space, displaying the following words by Hannah Currin, an Emmanuel ordinand:

When someone that we love leaves or dies, they leave a gap in our lives. We miss their presence, the warmth of an embrace, their voice.

This prayer station is here for you to acknowledge the weight of your loss. If you want to, you can write the name of the person onto one of the labels and attach it to the chair. You may also wish to write a memory or aspect of your loved one that you remember with fondness.

Take your time. There is space for you to continue your prayer and reflection.

Father, the death of our loved one brings an emptiness into our lives, we are separated from them and feel broken and disturbed. Give us confidence that they are safe and their life complete with you, and bring us together at the last to the wholeness and fullness of your presence in heaven, where your saints and angels enjoy you forever and ever.


In this space, there are also prayer resources available for people to use and take away. This has not only been helpful for the group, but visitors to the church have also found this to be a powerful message and support.

To spread the word about the group, personal invitations were sent out to all the people whom St Chad’s had led funerals for, and to advertise further the group used social media channels, the local press, Action Together, and also sent out information to the funeral directors and social prescribers.

Those who have attended the group have found it to be a real source of support.

One person wrote:

Thank you so much for inviting me to the Bereavement Support group at St Chad's. I have benefited greatly from the group. When first invited I was very apprehensive. I had recently lost my husband and thought I would never get through the days, weeks and months ahead. The minute I walked through the door I was welcomed by the group.

We had all lost someone very dear to us. The group has allowed us all to share our experiences, and how we are dealing with each day. It has helped me to realise I am not alone, and the feelings I am experiencing are all part of the grieving process. It’s good that we can also chat about everyday things. This gives us all some normality.

The books and prayers you have available for all are a great resource, help and comfort. Over the months I have seen the change in other people, and how they are slowly regaining their confidence. Having a quiet area for reflection also helps. I have found this a great help at times. Being in St Chad’s makes me feel closer to my late husband. Thank you so much for your support.

This group has allowed the mission community to reach out to those who need support, giving them a safe space knowing they are with others who are going through similar experiences, and giving people a place to build friendships too. The group is now exploring ways to reach more people, with plans to contact GP surgeries to let them know about the group and the support on offer.

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