Theme: Bereavement Title: Surviving Loss

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1 Theme: Bereavement Title: Surviving Loss Target Group: Mainly Church background Age: Aim: Equipment: Bible Base: To raise awareness of the feelings that bereavement brings. Bibles, Lion King video, VCR and TV, whiteboard with pens, flipchart paper and pens, Bible verse Matt 11:28 printed on card, CD player, reflective background music, Bible verses written on flipchart paper for Going Deeper section John 11:1 44; Matthew 11:28,29; various verses for Going Deeper section We suggest that you plan more than one week for this session, possibly taking two or even three weeks. Opening Activity (2-5 min) A) Depending on your group you could begin by asking students about their experiences of bereavement. To make it less personal you could ask if they know of anyone who has lost someone close to them. Ask how they think the people involved might feel. Possible alternative: B) Show the clip from the film Lion King where Simba s dad has just been killed, and Simba s uncle (Scar) arrives on the scene. Scar puts the blame on Simba, causing Simba to be confused and eventually run off. Talk about how the clip highlights some of the emotions and feelings we have when we experience loss i.e. sadness, confusion, uncertainty, anger, and sometimes guilt. It is important to say from the beginning that bereavement brings up many different feelings and emotions: sadness, anger, and despair, and there is no right or wrong way to feel. What we feel is real. It can hurt, but we can get through it. Bereavement? (10 min) At this stage it might be helpful to ask students if they know what the word bereavement means. A dictionary definition for the word bereavement is loss. With this in mind bereavement can take place wherever there is sadness over loss. One by one write up the following circumstances giving students space to respond to whether they have experienced any of these events. Then ask students, working in small groups, to decide whether these are situations where bereavement can occur.

2 You lose something really valuable A pet dies Moving house Someone loses their job Family members divorce Split from a boy/girl friend Death of someone at school Death of a relative At this point you may want to ask students if they can think of any further situations where someone might experience feelings of loss, e.g. their best friend moves away, an older brother/sister gets married or goes to university. Ask students which of all these would cause them most sadness. The answer is, they can all be. Explain that when we lose something this can be the start of a process called the grief process. In this process we feel some of the feelings and emotions that we identified in the opening activity. The reality is we are all going to experience (if we haven t already) different levels of loss. What we need to remember is that we can get through it. Note for leader: for your information many experts identify the grief process as having five stages. This may be helpful in identifying students responses to this subject. Denial a struggle to come to terms with and to accept what has happened. Anger anger at oneself, others, the world; looking to apportion blame. Bargaining trying to find ways to negotiate, alter, change the situation, but not really facing up to the what has happened / is happening. Depression a sad and heavy down feeling when what has happened sinks in. Acceptance and Hope the feeling that there is / maybe life beyond what the person has been through. Bible Bit (15-20 min) Based on John 11:1 44. It might be helpful for students to have the passage in front of them. Ask students to work in groups of three or four and to write down what they know of the story of Lazarus making note of key incidents. Have a time of feedback where you try to chronologically tell the story. You will probably have to fill in some gaps. Jesus hears that Lazarus (who Jesus loves) is sick (Lazarus is the brother of Mary and Martha).

3 Jesus doesn t rush off, but stays where he is (Jerusalem) for two further days. Jesus and the disciples begin to travel back to Judea (a place where only a short time ago Jews tried to kill Jesus by stoning). When Jesus eventually arrives Lazarus is dead and his body has been in the tomb for four days. A crowd of friends and neighbours have gathered to comfort the bereaved (Mary and Martha). Mary and Martha both question Jesus, if you had been here he would not have died. It s possible that their reaction to Jesus was one of anger and disbelief, as well as grief; why did you take so long coming? In the midst of the tears of grief Jesus weeps. Jesus goes to the tomb. Jesus asks for the stone across the tomb to be taken away. Martha is surprised, and reminds Jesus of the odour from decaying bodies. Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb. In the same groups, ask students to think about the following questions. What emotions do you think the characters in this passage felt? o Mary and Martha (e.g. anger, disbelief, bewilderment, sorrow). o Jesus (e.g. compassion, sorrow). o Disciples (e.g. bewilderment why did Jesus go back to the place where people wanted to kill him, and why did he wait two days? ). o Friends and neighbours (e.g. grief, confusion). Can we draw any comfort from this story when we face loss? The actions of Jesus in resurrecting Lazarus point to a hope. Talk about the Christian hope that death and loss are not the end. Yes we experience pain, sadness, grief, anger, and a range of other feelings and emotions, but the actions of Jesus in this story, and Jesus own claim, I am the resurrection and the life (verse 25), can bring hope for the future, both in this life and the life to come. Bible Response (8 min) Print the following verse on cards and hand one out to each student. (You may want to use some reflective background music.) Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matt 11:28,29 NIV) Note: you may need to unpack or explain the verse with the students to help them understand Jesus words. For example: explain to the students that Jesus is saying he can free us from the burdens, worries, and troubles we carry. The rest he promises is his love,

4 acceptance and inner peace, not the end of physical exertions. He is the person to whom we can give the burdens we carry. Encourage students to do one of two things: i) Think of a situation or person that they are burdened with and to write this on the back of the card. Then to use the words of Jesus that are on the front of the card to ask him to come into their situation and to help carry their load. Remind the students this could be a situation that happened several years ago but is still painful. ii) Think of someone who is facing a loss of some description and to consider passing the card to him or her, or if they would rather not identify themselves, to put the card in a place where the person might find it. Encourage the students to spend a few moments quietly reflecting on the pain that loss can bring people, but also on the hope that Jesus offers in the midst of this pain. The Bible verse in a different version is given below. Come to me, all you who are tired and have heavy loads and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in Spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. Jesus Christ (Matthew11:28, 29) Going Deeper Explore with the students some or all of the following questions. Question: has any one experienced Jesus comfort or presence in the midst of a difficult situation like the loss of something or someone? The reality is many of the students may have heard many times that Jesus can help in the midst of troubles, but it may not be their experience. Sometimes the words we hear don t reach our hearts and don t make a difference in our lives.

5 Encourage students to think whether this is true for them? Question: how can the words of Jesus become a reality in our lives? If we really trust God and spend time with him (read our Bibles, pray, etc) his words become rooted in our hearts and lives, and we are made stronger to face our troubles and losses. Write out the following verses on flipchart paper and place them around the room. (You may want to use coloured pens to emphasise words). Encourage students to move quietly around the room meditating on the verses and on any particular words that stand out. I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you a hope and a good future. Jeremiah 29: 11 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares what happens to you. 1 Peter 5: 7 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord, the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28 31 Father to the fatherless, defender of widows, this is God, who s dwelling is Holy. God places the lonely in families. He sets the prisoner free and gives them joy. Psalm 68:5 6 I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away... God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain... Revelation 21:1 3

6 Prayer Gather students back together and make a list on the whiteboard of the words that stood out for them. Close in prayer by using the words that they have chosen as being significant. Or, encourage students to pray short prayers using the words on the board.

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