Grave Talk – What Is It All About?
Over the past year, groups of All Saints Church members have begun gathering together to talk about death. No, we haven’t lost our minds, become depressed or run out of things to say. We are trying out a recent Church of England project, designed as a form of ministry for those of all faiths and none, to encourage people to break down the taboo around death. This project is called Grave Talk.
The idea is to get us talking about our feelings around loss, our own death, grief, what a ‘good’ funeral means to us etc. The hope is that taking part in the discussion will get us thinking and talking to our loved ones about our feelings and our ideas about funerals.
Some people took a bit of cajoling to join the first group and most of us felt some level of trepidation and scepticism. What were we doing there, and why would talking about death be a good idea?
Despite all our doubts within a matter of minutes there was a buzz of conversation and laughter running through the room. In fact, people were so keen, it was difficult to bring the session to a close. Now we get people asking when the next session will be.
Why Would I Want to Talk About Graves?
It isn’t about graves – unless you want it to be. As we found out, it isn’t a grave subject either – we had fun.
Our culture puts a taboo around the subject of death. Lots of us avoid the subject and then struggle when we are bereaved or dying. Lots of us have no idea what sort of funeral our loved one would really like. We then have to deal with these challenges when we are most vulnerable. It doesn’t have to be like this if we are more open and start to break down the taboo.
The session is a guided conversation, in a relaxed, social setting, using prompt cards that cover 5 themes: life, death, society, funerals and grief.
Examples of the prompt questions include:
- What life experience have you valued most?
- What does life after death mean to you?
- Should people talk more about death and dying?
- What are the reasons for a funeral?
- Do we ‘recover’ from grief?
At first people were concerned about knowing the ‘right’ answer, but there isn’t a wrong answer, just what you think. Group members may have very different views and experiences, but all are valid.
Hearing someone else’s view may give you a new outlook, and reflecting on your own experiences may give you insights you hadn’t thought much about before.
How Does Grave Talk Contribute to Community Ministry?
Although we started these sessions within All Saints, we are now encouraging members of other local churches and members of the parish who aren’t regular church attenders, to join us.
For our neighbours who do not currently attend any church, this ministry could reach out to them – encouraging them to have a funeral that embraces God’s love when the time comes, and maybe even to try joining a regular church service well before then.
Even if a person doesn’t ever attend church and only has a church linked funeral, the presiding minister is able to bring God’s love to the family and friends who attend that funeral. 200 000 people attend a Church of England funeral in the UK every week. The figures for your own churches will swell that number further – that’s a lot of people to share God’s love with.
Increasingly people are not choosing a religious funeral for their loved one, just because they don’t know what that person would have preferred. Talking beforehand gives choice. For many that choice can include God.
Can I Take Part?
Yes! Everyone will have the opportunity to take part in a Grave Talk session if they wish.
Sessions are not restricted to All Saints congregation members and is not just a C of E activity; It’s for everyone – of all faiths and none. Please join us and feel free to bring a friend or family member along with you, it’s a fun social activity despite its grave name.
If you like what you see, perhaps you could join with us moving forwards, alternatively you may like to offer your own sessions within your congregations and communities.